A ‘how not to’ masterclass: media releases

Too much positivity around this week in a fit of ‘it’s a new year’ enthusiasm? Here’s an antidote to bring us all forward to some measured date in mid-March. Plus some media release language advice as a useful side serving.

1. Make it all about YOU. Pop your company’s name in the intro. Hell, no write it twice and in bold just so people know it’s all about you.

Alternatively stop and consider what’s in it for the audience and why on earth what you do matters to them. Put that first.

2. Chuck in some acronyms asap and as much technical language as you can find in the nearby trade dictionary. You spent your time and money learning your craft, why shouldn’t everyone else do the same before they can understand the purpose of your news? Five years study and ten years in the profession and it will all become clear to them.

Or you could KISS, ironically.

3. Think War and Peace. Add a word intro with 40 words for size. That should keep everyone reading over the next four pages.

On the other hand try brevity. Imagine telling the news to someone in a loud, crowded room. Now perhaps imagine that loud, crowded room is a pub and that the said someone has had a few already. And that you’re competing for their attention against an attractive person, the football and a realisation they’ve missed an entire round of the pub quiz. If your explanation makes them turn their head for a second, then you’re onto something.

As a more practical quick test to get your brain in the right space, try writing the nativity story in 20 words or less (or something else complex, which you know very well). The word count means you need to leave out detail and absolutely focus on what matters most. If you can do it with that, an announcement about your latest recruit should be simple.

4. Add adjectives. Add amazing adjectives. Add amazingly agile adjectives with unparalleled usage. Otherwise people might not understand just how unique your news is. You wouldn’t want that would you?

As another option, stop. If it’s that boring you’re adding words in an attempt to make it sound exciting (ditto exclamation marks) then not sending it might be a better plan.

5. Use the words brand and new right next to each other. Insert ‘latest’, ‘innovative’ and ‘solution’ as you see fit. And 12 noon. Got to love that one.

Instead check every line to see if one word will do. Do you know any noon that doesn’t take place at 12? And if something is new, is it not always brand new? Don’t get me started on car parking solutions and the like. It’s not a car parking solution, it’s a car park.

A solution is a means of solving a problem or dealing with a difficult situation.

Parking a car on a piece of land designated precisely for people to do this is not a solution. (I have been known to use a marker pen to cross this word out on signs.)

Say what you see (thanks Mr Walker).

And the worst thing you can do? Not give it a go. Whether it’s by your own fair hand or via an agency, the only failure is not to try (thanks Mr Clooney).

If what you’re doing has purpose, the little details will matter less. And we all make mistakes. Like the time I wrote ‘fatal fire’ in a news story as I liked the drama and alliteration and hadn’t considered the requirement of a death for that word to be accurate. Small details…and blog on top ten fails of all time by me to come. #hugasub

Good luck. And Happy New Year!

Happy New Year but “I wished her a happy new year”, etc. (Guardian style guide)

Michelle Hallmark

About Michelle Hallmark

Leads our new business and client development strategy. Formerly our head of communications and a NCTJ and CIPR qualified news reporter with local, regional and national experience.
Michelle’s passion: snazzy shoes.