February 1, 2012
During a media relations summit several years ago in New York City, a panel of editors from The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and other publications noted that many news releases had a sad sameness to the language.
The editors joked that they could take many of the releases that they received and conduct a global search-and-replace of one company’s name with that of a competitor — and that no one would know the difference. Whew.
How to avoid sounding alike? Think solid differentiation, positioning, compelling ideas, supporting evidence, data and outside validation.
Crime sprees against clear writing often start with a minor assault — automatically dropping words such as solutions and leading into news releases. Lazy writers sprinkle their releases with additional jargon rather than striving to develop well-crafted stories that capture the personality of the company, its points of differentiation and defining factors. This can cause damage to the reputation of the individual, the firm and even the profession.
This leads to words to shun in advancing your writing skills — the Lazy Writer’s Lexicon. The sources: Gable PR media research going back to 1999 and ongoing studies by Inc., David Meerman Scott, Ragan, Lake Superior State University and others.
The top (or bottom) lexicon choices: best-of-breed, customer-centric, cutting edge, end-to-end, epic, excited, first mover, flexible, innovate, leader, leading edge, leading provider, leverage, market leading, mission critical, new and improved, new paradigm, next generation, outside the box, robust, scalable, seamless, solutions, state-of-the-art, synergy, thrilled, turnkey, unique, value-add, well-positioned and, of course, world class.
For a quick example of how this might work for the lazy writer:
XYZ Corp., the leading provider of best-of-breed, seamless solutions in the lug nut industry, announced the introduction of a new and improved version of its next generation hexagonal wrench today.
“We are excited to be the first mover in the introduction of this unique, cutting edge, customer centric tool in this robust global market,” said Alonzo McSchwartz, CEO. “We are thrilled about our epic achievement and the out-of-the box thinking from our world class engineering team that led to this new paradigm in high-tech closure management solutions.”
If one worked from a fact-based, creative and strategic approach, then the release might look something like this:
XYZ Corp., with more than 100 years experience in lug nut research, development and manufacturing, introduced a new hexagonal wrench for the automotive industry today, with the highest tensile strength yet recorded for any similar product.
“Our engineers interviewed line workers in four different U.S. automobile plants to determine needs, then launched the design and development process,” said Alonzo McSchwartz, CEO. “The result is a customized alloy of high carbon steel, nickel, molybdenum, and neodymium, which Wikipedia notes is the second-strongest metal ever developed. Workers reported improved productivity using the new wrench in beta testing. Financial analysts believe the wrench will significantly reduce replacement costs for the current lines of wrenches, which have low tensile strength and high failure rates. We are looking forward to ongoing tracking of results to ensure the new XYZ High-Tensile Wrench meets our customers’ expectations.”
These examples show how you can turn even a somewhat dull topic into a more interesting story with strategic thinking in mind. It sets the stage for follow-up stories highlighting results, submitting the wrench for industrial design awards and pitching technical and manufacturing publications.
The creative, strategic PR approach requires a constant flow of supporting evidence to earn media coverage and build social media and other metrics. Our profession should own content development for building brands and reputations from initial creative concepts to news releases, website copy and communications tools of all shapes, sizes and importance — digital or otherwise. We drive reputation and image as part of corporate strategy by telling real stories throughout the years, with compelling insights, intriguing facts and differentiating details — not with vague words.
Here are some of the benefits:
Tom Gable, APR, Fellow PRSA, is founder and CEO of Gable PR. A former financial journalist and Pulitzer Prize nominee, he is author of “The PR Client Service Manual” and a frequent speaker on jargon-free public relations, creativity, strategic reputation management and crisis communications. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Broaden your skill set with access to an extensive library of live and on-demand professional development webinars — one of PRSA's premier member benefits.