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By Jennigay Coetzer

If you browse through the press releases published on 10 websites you will see most of them have something in common. They are filled with the same marketing hype, jargon and industry gobbledygook. The same thing happens with the press releases that are distributed on to the media.

Here are some of the reasons for this:

No clear strategy behind the press release.
Lack of rich content.

  • No real story to tell.
  • The spokesperson had little of interest to say.
  • Too much focus on marketing messages and too little on what would interest readers.
  • The writer has become indoctrinated in marketing speak.
  • The press release was “enhanced” by the client after it was written.

Companies produce press releases to get their messages across and promote their brand to a target audience. But if the audience has to wade through screeds of marketing speak before they find any useful information, they will give up and move on. Plus, if every press release contains the same jargon, so where is the differentiation?

This is one of the topics covered in my book, A Perfect Press Release – or Not? and during the writing skills workshops and media workshops I run. Often those attending my workshops will admit that they had not realised how indoctrinated they have become with their industry jargon.

Press releases often speak as though the companies sending them out have assumed they already have the full attention of the potential readers, who are waiting eagerly for all the jargon and clichés they are dishing up. But even if a company pays for space and publishes their press release as advertorial, it is doubtful if anyone will read it if it reads like an advertisement.

As a journalist, when I receive press releases, it always amazes me that companies and PR consultants continue to include so much repetitive marketing hype, even when they know it will be edited out if it is published.

When reading some press releases it would seem those writing them were torn between marketing jargon and being useful to the reader. This results in a disjointed article that will frustrate readers and leave questions in their minds, such a: So what? How will this benefit me? How does the concept work? When is this event happening? Where can I get this product?

To avoid falling into this trap, try writing the press release first, focusing on the reader perspective, and add the marketing frills later. At least then you will be able to see if the story has any merit before defacing it. Unexplained terminology should also be avoided because it makes those who are not familiar with them feel like non-members of some exclusive club.

The above article is an exerpt from my book A Perfect Press Release – or Not? a guide to writing press releases, which is available from my website at: www.jennigay.co.za. Other article writing tips and media spokesperson tips are also available on my website.

Jennigay Coetzer is a business and technology journalist and author, who also runs article writing skills workshops, and media training workshops and coaching sessions.

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