That’s what I said last time and the time before

Do you ever stop to think about what you’ve said or written?

That's what I said | Thinking outside the box

Or do you stop to think about what other people think about what you’ve said or written?

Did they find it interesting or did their eyes glaze over?

Most people use popular phrases or clichés and I know I sometimes catch myself using them.

I try not to use clichés such as ‘thinking outside of the box’, but do find myself thinking about them.

Putting clichés into practice

I am often amused by the thought of applying clichés in everyday life.

Why do I need to think ‘outside the box’? How do I think ‘inside the box’?

I could pretend the photo opposite depicts me experimenting to find out what thinking ‘inside the box’ is like, but it doesn’t. It was a box I couldn’t resist climbing into.

Keeping it fresh

Does it matter that we use clichés or industry jargon? It’s easy to plant a ready-made phrase in a sentence in a press release or other text.

I find the difficulty is in having to read them. If we’re not careful, recycling what we speak or write can become a habit. If lots of other people also develop this habit, press releases written by businesses in our sector could all read the same.

This does happen and it’s tedious to read them as a journalist. It’s a joy when a press release arrives that is fresh, lively and imaginative. I want to will the writer’s words on to the printed page of the newspaper. They deserve it.

Sounding original

If you look back over your text and cut any clichés you spot, think about expressing thoughts differently, make it more interesting, you’re more likely to attract interest.

You could give a new twist to an issue, different to what everyone else is saying. You might even develop a new view of the issue by thinking of it differently.

I could ask if that is ‘thinking outside of the box’, but to me that expression is stale and unoriginal.

Perhaps I’ll stay in my box and think it through.

What do you think?

What is the best file format for sending a press release?

I’ve just received a press release embedded in a PDF. It’s deadline day and to get the news in for the next issue I have to edit the text fast. I’ve got to open up the PDF and export the text or copy it.

Sometimes it works well and sometimes it picks up formatting, line breaks and other odd characters that need deleting or sorting out. It takes time and takes my attention away from the story. I could be phoning the sender to ask more questions instead of fiddling about on my laptop.

As a newspaper journalist how do I prefer to receive press releases?

In my experience, the best format for sending a press release is as the body text of an email. I can copy this and paste it straight into a text editor or word processing package.

The first thing I do is get rid of any text formatting, so don’t use fancy typefaces: often they simply make a press release more difficult to read.

How do I like to receive photos?

Just as text in PDFs can be awkward to extract so photos can be difficult to export. Generally, if someone embeds a photo in a PDF or a Word document, I ask them to send a separate file, preferably a high resolution JPEG.

Isn’t this being fussy?

Perhaps it doesn’t sound much, but when dealing with 10 or 20 press releases, this extra work adds a lot of extra time.

And it is a pure joy to receive a press release that can be used quickly and a high quality photo that jumps out of the screen.

It excites me and makes me take far more interest in the story.

Eliminate anything getting in the way

In my view, it’s best to eliminate any barrier that can hold back the excitement that a good story can create. Also, if you help journalists do their job and make it more enjoyable, they are far more likely to call you when they want comment or material.

That can only be good for your PR.

These are my experiences, but what are yours? What do you think works best?

• Robert Zarywacz is co-founder of pressme, business writer for the North Devon Journal and editor of #ndevon magazine.


More words are not any easier to understand

One of the disadvantages of being a copywriter is having to wade through so much material to produce a piece of writing that means something and which people will want to read. I’m doing some research at the moment and whatever I read seems to take far too long to get to the point. It’s not as if I’m reading a novel where the scene has to be set or a play where the atmosphere has to be created: this is business.

There is a temptation, especially when an argument is a bit shaky and there is not sufficient evidence to back a point, to write more words in the hope that repeating it will convince the reader. It’s a bit like repeatedly shouting the same words at someone who does not speak your language in the futile hope that repetition and volume will force them to understand.

For busy people who are looking for information fast, clear and simple is best.

Of course, this can be complicated by the needs of internet search engine optimisation which can require keywords to be included in online content for the sake of technology, not the reader. There are also techniques to increase recognition of a brand or an argument through using repetition.

Such writing techniques require balance. Text written purely in keywords will sound like someone who’s swallowed a product catalogue, while aimless repetition of a point will sound like the cries of a market trader. Crude use of these techniques will turn readers away as the text won’t sound natural.

However clever a writer wants to be, if there are too many unnecessary words, the reader will tire and stop reading.

After yesterday’s blog, what have you done to progress your marketing and communications today?

z2zine tomorrow: public sector dehumanising language

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