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All Those Bad Press Releases (Killing Us Softly)

We all deserve better (and fewer) press releases.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

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I hate bad press releases just as much as anyone.

The press release is dead,” you say. Well, calm down, killer.

Today and tomor­row, busi­nesses will still have to issue offi­cial state­ments to the gen­er­al pub­lic. The prac­tice of send­ing out press releases isn’t going away any­time soon.

However, I agree that quite a few bad pub­lic rela­tions prac­tices for press releases exist — and they drive me crazy, too.

Here we go:

Bad Press Release Practices

Public rela­tions prac­ti­tion­ers should assess their impact on soci­ety and strive for coöper­at­ive rela­tion­ships with journ­al­ists to enhance a free and open exchange of ideas.”
Source: Public Relations Review 1Cutlip, S. (1980). Foundation lec­ture: Public rela­tions in American Society. Public Relations Review, 6, 3 – 17. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​1​6​/​S​0​3​6​3​-​8​1​1​1​(​8​0​)​8​0​032 – 4

Bad Practice: Spray-and-Pray

There’s noth­ing wrong with cre­at­ing a not-so-inter­est­ing press release and adding it to your online news­room. Even though it might not be attract­ive to any­one out­side the organ­iz­a­tion, these press releases add to your brand’s timeline and pro­gress, like mile­stone markers.

However, if this is the type of press release you’ve cre­ated, why not just upload it to your online news­room and be done with it? Do you have to send it to every journ­al­ist on your list even though you know before­hand that they won’t be inter­ested in pick­ing it up?

Promoting these types of press releases costs real time and money, and they also tend to irrit­ate the recip­i­ents. The spray-and-pray tac­tic is poten­tially caus­ing more harm than any­thing else. 2Publicly traded com­pan­ies in most coun­tries are obliged by the law to dis­trib­ute any new inform­a­tion via press releases to vari­ous news out­lets.

Bad Practice: The Platitude Sickness

A black and white clip art illustration of a sad kitten
Save the kitten.
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Platitude Sickness: The Symptoms

I hate cor­por­ate plat­it­udes every­where I see them. I swear, a kit­ten dies every time. 

A plat­it­ude is a trite, mean­ing­less, or pro­sa­ic state­ment, gen­er­ally dir­ec­ted at quelling social, emo­tion­al, or cog­nit­ive unease. The word derives from plat, the French word for “flat.” Platitudes are geared towards present­ing a shal­low, uni­fy­ing wis­dom over a dif­fi­cult top­ic. However, they are too over­used and gen­er­al to be any­thing more than undir­ec­ted state­ments with an ulti­mately little mean­ing­ful con­tri­bu­tion towards a solu­tion.”
Source: Wikipedia 3Platitude. (2023, December 9). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​P​l​a​t​i​t​ude

Here’s my “trig­ger list” of platitudes:

  • Synergy” = Overused to the point of becom­ing mean­ing­less, it refers to the coöper­a­tion of two entit­ies to pro­duce a com­bined effect more sig­ni­fic­ant than the sum of their sep­ar­ate effects.
  • Leverage” = In a busi­ness con­text, this is often used to mean using some­thing, such as a resource or an advantage.
  • Disruptive” = Refers to tech­no­lo­gies or innov­a­tions that dis­turb estab­lished mar­kets or processes.
  • Pivot” = A fun­da­ment­al shift in strategy or approach is often used for minor changes.
  • Value-add” = A term that refers to an ele­ment some­thing gives that some­how enhances it, but it’s often unclear what value is being added.
  • Bleeding-edge” = Refers to the abso­lute latest or most advanced tech­no­logy or innovation.
  • Actionable” = Generally refers to strategies or insights that can be acted upon, but are often used loosely.
  • Holistic approach” = An approach that con­siders the whole situ­ation or sys­tem rather than focus­ing on indi­vidu­al parts.
  • Scalability” The abil­ity of a sys­tem or a mod­el to handle growth is often overused.
  • Game changer” = An event, idea, or pro­ced­ure that affects a sig­ni­fic­ant shift in the cur­rent way of doing or think­ing about something.
  • Paradigm shift” = A fun­da­ment­al change in approach or under­ly­ing assumptions.
  • Cutting-edge” = Like bleed­ing-edge, it refers to the latest or most advanced tech­no­logy or innovation.
  • Thought lead­er.” = An indi­vidu­al or firm recog­nized as an author­ity in a spe­cial­ized field.
  • Empower” = To give power or author­ity, but is often over­used without con­crete meaning.
  • Innovate” = A buzzword for mak­ing changes in some­thing estab­lished, espe­cially by intro­du­cing new meth­ods, ideas, or products.
  • Low-hanging fruit” = The easy tasks or prob­lems to tackle first, but can be seen as a cliché in busi­ness language.
  • Outside the box” = Used to refer to cre­at­ive think­ing, but has become a cliché.
  • Streamline” = Simplify or make some­thing more efficient.
  • Strategic align­ment” = Ensuring that the plans or activ­it­ies of a com­pany are coördin­ated and con­sist­ent with its objectives.
  • Customer-cent­ric” = Placing the cus­tom­er at the centre of a com­pany’s philo­sophy, oper­a­tions or ideas.
  • Robust” = The over­used term implies that a product, ser­vice, or strategy is strong, dur­able, and able to with­stand demands or difficulties.
  • End-to-end solu­tion” = A ser­vice or product that solves a prob­lem from begin­ning to end, but is often seen as a buzzword due to vague definitions.
  • Unprecedented” = Overused to describe any­thing that’s nev­er happened before, often loses its impact due to fre­quency of use.
  • Breakthrough” = A sud­den, dra­mat­ic, and import­ant dis­cov­ery or devel­op­ment, but is often over­used to describe minor advancements.
  • Optimise” = To make the best or most effect­ive use of a situ­ation or resource, but it is often over­used and can lead to ambiguity.
  • Bandwidth” = Originally a tech­nic­al term, it’s now used meta­phor­ic­ally to refer to someone’s capa­city to handle tasks or issues.
  • Ecosystem” = Refers to a com­plex net­work or inter­con­nec­ted sys­tem, espe­cially in the con­text of busi­ness envir­on­ments or technologies.
  • Alignment” = Frequently used to describe the pro­cess of bring­ing dif­fer­ent aspects or depart­ments of a busi­ness into har­mony or agreement.
  • Agile” = Originating in soft­ware devel­op­ment, it’s broadly applied to describe flex­ib­il­ity and adapt­ab­il­ity in vari­ous busi­ness processes.
  • Deep Dive” = Used to describe a thor­ough ana­lys­is or exam­in­a­tion, but often over­used to mean any detailed look.
  • Touch Base” = A cas­u­al way to refer to check­ing in or fol­low­ing up with someone, but it can be seen as a cliché.
  • Granular” = Describes look­ing at some­thing with a high level of detail, but it is often used unne­ces­sar­ily instead of simply say­ing “in detail.”

Getting rid of cor­por­ate plat­it­udes is an uphill battle. They are such a waste of edit­or­i­al space and only lead straight to mediocrity.

Join the resistance!

Learn more: The Platitude Sickness: The Trash of Corporate Writing

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Bad Practice: Corporate Cringe

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Corporate Cringe (Examples)

Many cor­por­ate texts are writ­ten in poor taste. Unlike many oth­er cre­at­ive pro­fes­sions, cor­por­ate com­mu­nic­a­tions have some­how for­got­ten that hav­ing great taste is an actu­al skill.

Here are some typ­ic­al examples of cor­por­ate cringe:

  • Over-exag­ger­a­tion. Corporate mes­sages are often tone-deaf due to excess­ive emphas­is or embel­lish­ment. “No, people aren’t that excited on account of your new piece of news.
  • Implausible claims. Communications that present dubi­ous asser­tions can erode cred­ib­il­ity and gen­er­ate unne­ces­sary scep­ti­cism. “No, you’re not a leading‑, revolutionary‑, innovative‑, or game-chan­ging company.”
  • Unintended awk­ward­ness. Corporate com­mu­nic­a­tion will often inad­vert­ently appear clumsy or out of touch, cre­at­ing a dis­con­nect with the inten­ded audi­ence. “No, it’s not cool — and nev­er will be — to say you’re cool. That’s not the way that works.”
  • Excessive self-glor­i­fic­a­tion. Communications that overly focus on an organ­iz­a­tion’s achieve­ments or vir­tues can be per­ceived as insin­cere or self-con­grat­u­lat­ory. “No, you didn’t just save the plan­et, so please stop pat­ting your­self on the back so furiously.”
  • Prescriptive mes­saging. Corporate com­mu­nic­a­tion that dic­tates opin­ions or beliefs can be per­ceived as overly con­trolling and may ali­en­ate audi­ences. “No, everyone’s not lov­ing your new products or services.”
  • Overzealous efforts. Striving too hard to impress or engage can res­ult in com­mu­nic­a­tion that feels inau­thent­ic or con­trived. “No, scream­ing louder and mak­ing stronger and stronger claims won’t make any­one care more about what you’re saying.”
  • Monotonous ton­al­ity. Corporate mes­sages that lack dis­tinct­ive­ness or per­son­al­ity can fail to res­on­ate with audi­ences, lim­it­ing their over­all impact. “No, your con­tent reads as if it was writ­ten by unin­spired middle man­agers who lost their pas­sion some­where along the way.”

By being cog­niz­ant of these poten­tial pit­falls, organ­isa­tions can refine com­mu­nic­a­tion strategies to ensure more authen­t­ic and effect­ive engage­ment with their stake­hold­ers, influ­en­cers, and pub­lics.

More examples: https://​www​.red​dit​.com/​r​/​c​o​r​p​o​r​a​t​e​c​r​i​n​ge/

Learn more: Corporate Cringe

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Bad Practice: Weak Call-to-Actions

Imagine someone see­ing a link to your press release on LinkedIn — it could hap­pen. Then, ima­gine how that per­son decides to read your press releases through to the end. Such an indi­vidu­al is act­ively inter­ested in what you have to say, which makes this per­son highly valuable.

But here’s what’s driv­ing me crazy: People who read your press releases from begin­ning to end are essen­tial. So, what call-to-action (CTA) are you offer­ing these VIPs?

For more inform­a­tion, please contact …”

I swear a kit­ten dies every time here, too.

Include a clear call to action at the end of your press releases. Tell your read­ers why they should get in touch and explain what’s in it for them if they do. 

Anyone who reads your press releases all through deserves it!

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Thanks for read­ing. Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing art­icles with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tions and mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als. You might also con­sider my PR ser­vices or speak­ing engage­ments.

ANNOTATIONS
ANNOTATIONS
1 Cutlip, S. (1980). Foundation lec­ture: Public rela­tions in American Society. Public Relations Review, 6, 3 – 17. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​1​6​/​S​0​3​6​3​-​8​1​1​1​(​8​0​)​8​0​032 – 4
2 Publicly traded com­pan­ies in most coun­tries are obliged by the law to dis­trib­ute any new inform­a­tion via press releases to vari­ous news outlets.
3 Platitude. (2023, December 9). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​P​l​a​t​i​t​ude
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.
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The Cover Photo

The cover photo isn't related to public relations obviously; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that it's good to have hobbies outside work.

The cover photo has

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