Press release rules: a prestigious post…

Ah, the humble press release.

From nine years as a journo receiving them to another seven as a comms officer writing them, I’ve rarely been far from those carefully-crafted, re-crafted, re-re-crafted and tortuously-approved bits of purple prose.

In my newspaper days, I’ll admit, they could occasionally be a god-send when a space needed filling at 7pm on a Sunday.

But a significant majority were annoying, many did the senders’ clients more harm than good and I reckon a good 83% included pointless statistics from a survey that never really took place.

And that was before the “Hi, it’s Crystal from Poncey PR – just checking you got our release about the unique new radiator launch” follow-up call.

Nowadays, of course, I’m doing less and less (I don’t think I’ve broken my press release duck for 2013) – a trend that will continue as the year progresses.

But as we move away from the time-honoured tradition of shovelling stuff out to influential hacks and hoping for the best, it’s worth recalling a few, tongue-firmly-in-cheek, golden press release rules*:

• All awards ceremonies are to be described as “the Oscars of the (insert relevant industry) world”. They should also be referred to as “prestigious” at least once.

• All new products/projects/schemes are “unique”. Nothing like it has ever been seen or done before, d’you hear me?

• Notes to Editors should always be longer than the release itself and are an ideal dumping ground for the mind-numbing crap that has to be mentioned, but you can’t bring yourself to include in the main body of the release.

• When being quoted, everyone – and I mean everyone – must be said to be “absolutely delighted”. Particularly when announcing a prestigious award win or unique product launch.

• If pushing the boat out and attaching a picture, a line-up of suits is preferable – ideally clutching a big cheque.

There are many more press release sins, I’m sure. And yes, *I have been guilty of every single one…


The challenges of 2013

Amid warnings of financial meltdown, deep civil unrest and essential services going by the wayside, 2013 should be an interesting year for local government, to say the least.

For those of us whose role it is to communicate during these turbulent times of change, the challenges will be many and varied.

From my point of view, here’s a few things that will be required in 2013:

Efficiency: The workload’s going to be enormous, no point pretending otherwise, but you are still entitled to swing for anyone who utters the phrase “do more with less”. It can’t be done. Sorry. What we can do is work smartly and efficiently with less, ensuring that work is carefully focused and aligned to corporate priorities.

Resilience: When the budget axe is being swung, comms is in the firing line at the best of times. Proving our worth as corporate storytellers, listeners, creatives and innovators will be a daily challenge, but the smart powers-that-be should realise how essential good comms is to issues such as welfare reform and the public health transition.

Carpe Diem: Ah, the public health transfer. So on top of everything else, we’re now helping people quit smoking, boozing and drugs, upping breastfeeding rates and the rest? Yup – and unless you’re extremely lucky, there’ll be no extra resource to do it. But it must be seen as an opportunity to make a positive impact in an area where effective comms will be of paramount importance in bringing about behavioural change. It’s a big chance to get to the heart of the conversation and make a genuine difference to people’s lives.

Time to think: Inevitable reductions in comms teams may, in turn, see innovation diminish. But keeping tabs on an ever-changing social/digital landscape, spotting fresh opportunities and emerging platforms to engage with a demanding and constantly-connected audience will be vital. Take time out from the daily grind for a spot of creativity, planning and the eating of cake.

And to everyone – have a happy and peaceful New Year.