Thursday, December 14, 2006

How not to write a press release

Let's play a game. The following is the first paragraph of a press release submitted to our section. It's supposed to be selling something. Never mind the brand, but guess what it's about. Clothes? Bags? Shoes? Watches? Hats? Belts? A music CD? Eyewear? Bling?

Get ready to set your best foot forward for the season's brightest and most happening parties are here. This holiday, (blank) brings the house down with stunning visuals that are sure to enthrall party belles to groove like never before. The current ad campaign is feverish enough to raise temperatures and cause some seismic shocks on the dance floor, taking cue from Madonna's latest dance hit album. Swing into the beat with the looks that define the moment: (blank's) version of glitter, metallic and lots of sex appeal.

This is an example of a crappy press release--something that's all puff and air, with nothing useful to say. Our policy at work is to rewrite or edit every single PR sent to us. That's because PR agencies typically send the same release to the 9 or so broadsheets, and we don't want to come out with something that's worded exactly the same as in the other papers.

However, that's a minor problem compared to the mindless typing of words that passes for writing in most press releases. Take a look at the above example. The grammar is okay enough. It's the style, the hype, the crude hard sell, the roundabout, frothing-in-the-mouth giddiness that turns you off.

The first one who can guess right what the PR is trying to shill gets a gift from me this Christmas. Promise!--if only to underline what we've been trying to tell PR people over and over and anybody else who wish to send us releases. WRITE SIMPLY. Go straight to the point. Just give the basic information about the product--what it is for, why people should buy it, where and how they can get it. Forget the words and turns of phrase that you imagine will send readers to orgasms. Haller, you're in PR, not creative writing. (Apologies to creative writing folks.)

Ordinarily, the moment we see something like this we snicker, aim for the first few paragraphs and hit Delete. Yep, lop off that much and you'd get to the usable parts faster. But some PR agencies, walang kadala-dala! All they have to do is look at the published version and compare it with their original text, and if they have their craniums screwed on right, they'd have an aha! moment. But trust them to submit the same wordy, convoluted, nonsensical release the next time around. And many of them have been around for years!

That's right, we plow through mounds of garbage like this every day. I love my job, but it's far from dandy.

Take a guess! Sirit na?


aryo said...

My guess? Shoes.

migs, the manila gay guy said...

Ellen's eyelash extensions?

Ricky Reyes' metallic-colored highlights?

Mystika's new line of blings?


Carver said...

Sounds like shoes to me. :)

Gigi said...

I'd say shoes, but it seems like this press release is trying to promote the company's 70's/disco inspired ad campaign.

Now you promise to tell us all what this was really supposed to be about, right?

gibbs cadiz said...

hi ARYO, CARVER (hey, lapit na 'zsazsa' a!) and GIGI, you got that right--shoes. it does refer to an ad campaign for footwear, but the gushing, overwrought and cliched hyperboles have the effect instead of blowing dust into your eyes. i'll still leave out the brand name here because it's not important; what raises my hackles is the lazy, lazy way press releases like this are put together. PR agencies actually expect us to do their job, which is to write decent, publishable copy. as marketing people, they should be the first to realize the perils of overkill, and the fact that OA releases like this are approved for dissemination baffles me. you'd hesitate to buy anything from a slick, hyper-practiced salesman, right? that's how pieces like this sound--one smooth lie on top of the other, the triumph of 'writing to impress' over 'writing to inform.' oh, sorry to unload on you guys. sensya na po. :)

hey MIGS, nahahalata ang mga gamit mo a. haha! :)

VegasFilAmGuy said...

Yes, it's called overkill!!! Too many adjectives. Too many awkward phrases. Too many advertising phrases. Analogies galore. All in one little ad? Whoa!!!

Cliches: Get ready,
best foot forward,
most happening,
bring the house down,
groove like never before,
raise temperatures,
taking cue,
swing into the beat,
define the moment,
lots of sex appeal...

WHOA!!! overkill

Oliver Oliveros said...

Hope the release didn't come from my office. Hehehe.

=) Oliver

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