By Kristin Cockerham, Account Executive at LCI
Innovative, esteemed, celebrated, up-and-coming, first ever, premier… these are among the many words my fingers have typed into dozens of press releases over the past several years. As PR professionals, we’re regularly challenged with providing hard facts and building hype for our clients’ news in releases, pitches and other distributed content. Our goal is to balance the need for promoting key information to reporters while piquing their interest in order to rake in media hits.
Although some product releases, events and announcements lead journalists to fill our in-boxes, in most cases it’s our strategic outreach that earns those profiles, advances and reviews that clients care about most. At the end of the day, it’s vital for our messages to stand out without sounding disingenuous.
Of course, this is all easier said than done. There are only so many adjectives in our word bank and, frankly, innovative, esteemed or celebrated items are typically newsworthy. Personally, I live in fear of being called out by one of my favorite Bay Area arts bloggers, Lisa Hirsch. Her blog, Iron Tongue of Midnight, occasionally highlights Amazing Examples of PR Stupidity and pokes fun at arts publicity buzzwords. She even has a link above the blog roll on her site that outlines Publicity Basics.
With that said, here’s my own list of tried and true advice for PR writing:
- Get to the point. Leave the catchy lead writing to the journalists. In the first paragraph of a press release, summarize exactly what you’re about to announce and why it’s news. In pitching, include your call to action within the first two sentences.
- Stick to the facts. I have never pitched a story and had a journalist ask me, “Well, what do you think about it?” Journalists do not want to be told what to write. Provide the details of the event or whom they can speak with to get more information.
- Keep it clean. You’re a professional communicator so it’s your job to know the difference between homonyms, where to include a comma and how to spell words like “questionnaire” and “mathematics.”
- Be genuine. In pitching, it’s fine to mention that you enjoyed reading one of the journalist’s recent articles, but don’t bother asking how his or her weekend went unless you already have a strong relationship.
- Avoid using empty adjectives. Ask, does the adjective add value? Leave it to the marketing and advertising folks to jazz up the message. It’s their job to provide the controlled content; we offer key messaging and the news angle and should always let the writers do what they do.
- Don’t use vague language. If you’re not sure what a word means, you probably shouldn’t use it. Media Bistro recently posted a list of PR ‘Jargon’ to Avoid When Pitching Journalists (With Helpful Suggestions!) One of my favorites is “end-user.”
- Be human. Remember, you’re writing to a person on the other side of the screen who will assess whether or not to open your email in about 10 seconds. Tailor each pitch to describe why you thought the outlet is an appropriate target for your news.
What are your favorite PR buzzwords? We can start a list. Email me at [email protected].