I am attempting to write the world’s worst ever press release.
It’s for an event I’m currently working on where I’ll be teaching business owners how to communicate effectively with the media.
I thought an example demonstrating all of the things not to do would be an amusing way to get started.
So then I thought that a little crowdsourcing might help me. After all, if I’m going to create a true monstrosity – the sort of thing that will leave my fellow journalists writhing in agony, literally convulsing at their desks – some input from my colleagues seemed like a sensible idea.
I belong to a Facebook group where journalists offer help and advice to one another, and also complain about all the people who’ve upset them recently – may their ears burn.
I posted the following:
Within 48 hours, my post had gained over 200 responses. Fueled by a mixture of fury and glee, journalists offered a seemingly endless number of ways to really screw up a press release.
The group is closed, so I won’t be publishing the posts directly. Also, the bilious hatred expressed by some members of the group towards certain practices of the PR industry could, all too easily, be taken out of context.
However, here are five of the best ways to really antagonise a journalist, in case you ever need to.
Journalists take a dim view of emails where their names are spelt incorrectly, are addressed ‘dear sir’ (especially women) or messages that begin with [insert name here]. Cheery chit chat about the weather and signing off with xx also grates.
The tendency for some in the PR industry to capitalise words that neither start sentences or are proper nouns draws much criticism. They don’t much like exclamation marks, either.
Press releases sent as attachments draw much ire. However, none more than the dreaded PDF which, for many journalists, has come to stand for: ‘Please Do F***-off.
Burying the story
It would seem journalists like to be able to discern a tale early on, rather than several paragraphs in.
Telling a journalist about your “bespoke, highly tailored, innovative solution” can lead to twitchiness.
He’ll then send it as a PDF under embargo to his colleagues (please check your spam folders).