I've been reading Lost In Showbiz after finding the link on Holy Moly! and wanted to stand up for the poor souls that have to write some of the stuff you've posted.
There's no excuse for a lot of it, but the real problem is that PR agencies are run by psychotic nutters that insist on the poor peons they employ, who sadly are under the impression it'll be a glamourous and interesting career, writing press releases about utterly inane events and then giving them ludicrous deadlines in which to complete them.
In the trade we call these the 'tick-box' press releases, as in 'get the bloody thing done, then tick the box on the jobs-for-today list to say it's been done'. More than half the time we really don't give a toss about the crap we're being bullied into writing, which is why it's so poorly written. You'll probably notice a correlation between how interesting a press release is and how well it's written. I've done some stuff I'm quite proud of, about things which are actually interesting, and achieved pretty good coverage as a result. I've also known instinctively when I'm doing something that's just going to get binned unread, so it's not like I'm going to put the effort in.
As for the psychotic people running PR agencies, half the time they think they're geniuses but far too often come up with an utterly unusable concept or title that their poor minions have to work with. For example, last year I was working for a client that sold a range of fairly creepy small dolls. A lorry load of the dolls' houses that went with the line got stolen. So my boss wants me to write a press release about rising house prices meaning that thieves are resorting to stealing dolls' houses as they know they'll make a huge profit on them because of the state of the housing market, but to drop the brand name into it as often as possible... No, really. And then she doesn't just want me to send this out to the usual toy trade journalists, but also to the main newswires and major newsrooms. Because in their own minds they're geniuses, doing the 'that's a great idea, but how about...' just doesn't even get listened to.
I still feel the shame of that release and wish there was some kind of secret code or phrase that PR people could include that tipped the nod to journalists that they were ashamed of what they were sending, and please not to post it online with their name included, to be exposed to the widespread ridicule. Any suggestions for how to go about this? A sort of 'you might think this is a shit press release I've just sent you, but I couldn't possibly comment' type thing. But maybe involving dots at the bottom of the copy, or something.
Anyway, cheers for Lost in Showbiz, it's a good read and I hope it will help to raise standards, but don't be too hard on us poor fools at the bottom end of the business...
Tuesday, 29 April 2008
PR Howlers: A Message From The Inside
We have received a letter. Not with a snarky comment and a rubbish press release attached, although those are always welcome, but with a plea for understanding. We're all for understanding, so here it is, in full. What do you think?