Is vague the new grey in PR?

Is it the hot weather or is there another reason for a plague of vague press releases?

Lately, as part of my journalist role, I’ve been receiving a lot of press releases that not only miss the occasional detail but sometimes the entire story: awards to companies for something or other, presentations to an individual who worked for a couple of organisations, a financial services provider supplying . . . financial services.

Now, every journalist has specific interests and what’s interesting about the role is discovering a nugget about the topic or area you cover. I enjoy picking up the phone to find out more about a story, but not to dig out the basic details so I can figure out whether it’s interesting or not.

These press releases have come from press offices of UK government agencies and business organisations as well as from private companies. Does it matter?

Well, clients are paying fees to PR agencies and employers paying staff to produce and distribute these press releases when a lot businesses now promote themselves very effectively. Last week, I suggested an idea for a photo to accompany a company’s press release and the next morning I received a high quality image from them by email. There was no PR agency involved and I didn’t receive a tiny 72dpi, badly posed image, like the government agency sent.

If that’s the case, why use a PR agency or corporate marketing professional? Why not do it yourself?

I see it as a warning to anyone in PR, marketing and communications to sharpen up and provide the value that clients and employers expect . . . or perhaps they won’t want to pay for us any more.

Posted via web from z2zine

Choosing communications providers

Whatever supermarkets say, each one has different strengths and weaknesses and not one of them ever offers precisely what we want. It’s the same with communications and marketing providers.

When you want a specific communications job done, it’s best to select someone who either has existing expertise in that field or can demonstrate the capability to do that type of work. Just like the supermarkets, some providers are better at some things than they are at others.

When you’re selecting a copywriter, look at what type of work they specialise in: advertising, online content, print magazines, public relations, corporate communications or consumer material. Each one requires a specific approach and not all copywriters will be capable of handling them all, although some will.

It’s useful to see samples of the work that a copywriter has produced to help decide whether you want them to write your copy. It’s not the most important thing, as you also need to develop a good working relationship with a writer. Also, just because they have no experience of a particular type of work, doesn’t mean that they won’t be good at it. If you want a versatile writer who can write for different media, the relationship and overall ability could be more important.

On the other hand, if a writer feels out of their depth or is not confident about a certain type of work, they shouldn’t take it on.

All this applies to other providers, including graphic designers and web site developers.

The best result is to find communications providers you can trust to come up with effective material that will meet your objectives.

After our last blog, have you checked your communications to see if everything is up to date?

z2zine tomorrow: Understanding the numbers game

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Use a style guide for consistency when writing for print or web sites

We’ve been doing a lot of proofreading lately, which brings to mind just how useful a corporate style guide for writers can be.

It’s quite common for businesses and other organisations to have visual style guides, but the actual content is often forgotten until a proofreader points out all the inconsistencies.

A style guide can be as simple or as complex as you want: covering basics from always writing brand names in capitals – or not – to whether specific words are hyphenated.

Once simple rules are written down, it’s much easier to remember them when you come to write a word and think “company policy is to hyphenate this word” or “we write that with a capital”.

The result is greater consistency, more effective communication and less time spent ironing out inconsistencies every time you want to publish a brochure or web site content.

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