BRW’s Leo D’Angelo Fisher – “9 out of 10 media releases induce me to rush for the ‘delete’ button”

Hands up any PR professional who read BRW’s ‘Broken English’ by Leo D’Angelo Fisher (6 August 2010) and cringed?

If you haven’t read it, I won’t ruin it for you. Read it yourself. I can promise you by the end you will be re thinking that media release before clicking send!

“The media release is often the first point of introduction to an individual or organisation wanting to attract my attention and favour. Nine times out of 10 the contrived drivel placed before me only induces me to rush for the ‘delete’ button.

Media releases are usually written to impress the client, not journalists. Clients who love reading about themselves in the PR flack’s growing prose as business titans readily approved the release for distribution. They look at the media release and see a celebratory feature story in the pages of BRW; I look at the release and wonder about the quality of advice they are receiving.

The mark of a media release with nothing to say – and equally the mark of PR consultants who either don’t understand their client or simply don’t want to question their client – is that they say nothing at great length. Jargon is the ready refuge of the media release writer who has no idea how to sell his client; or alternatively he lacks the courage to tell clients who are devotees of meaningless management babble that they are not doing themselves any favours by insisting on such gibberish.

… Story angles don’t come easily when trying to turn nothing into something – particularly if the contract between the PR company and the client calls for a regular flow of media releases.

…I have read media releases that, despite running into several pages, leave me none the wiser as to what the principal is talking about.

… Other media releases offer no clue what the business actually does. … The media release writers literally have no idea what they are talking about. When the fancy strikes me, I will call the hapless PR listed at the end of the release and ask, “What does your client actually do?” In reply, I get the very same babble that’s in the release. “Yes,” I will persist, “but in layman’s terms, if you had to explain it to my mother, what do they do?” An uncomfortable silence follows before the usual response is meekly offered: “But that’s the only way I can describe it” or “That’s how the client explained it to me”.

The “boilerplate”, the information that appears at the end of the media release as an objective summary or aide-memoire for the journalist’s benefit, illustrates the absurdity to which media releases have descended.”

This rather passionate prose from Leo D’Angelo Fisher is proof that badly written and researched media releases continue to pollute media inboxes en mass every day. It’s quite easy to see how this constant inbox pollution would be damn right annoying. Unfortunately as Leo D’Angelo Fisher’s experience makes clear, it only takes a couple of awful media releases and incompetent PR peeps to tarnish a journo’s perception of the industry as a whole – sad but true.

So here are a few points we can take away and questions we can ask ourselves from Leo D’Angelo Fisher’s recent comments on the PR industry –

  • If the media release is a journalist’s first point of introduction to yourself and / or your client, what is it saying about you as a professional? About your client as an organisation? Make a great first impression from the get go!
  • Are you writing the media release for to flatter your client or appeal to the journalist and their readers?
  • What does the release say about your consulting expertise? Are you proud to put your name to the release?
  • Have you just written a media release full of rambling jargon which will most likely make the journalist squirm? E.g. “strategically proactive”, “IT integration and collaboration”, “multisourcing services integrator” etc. If you’ve heard the phrase a hundred times before, find an alternative!
  • When reading your release, would your mother understand what your client does and what you’re talking about? If not, rewrite it. Make sure the release is written in layman terms so to avoid Leo D’Angelo Fisher calling you asking “So what does your client actually do?”
  • Is what you’re writing about really all that newsworthy? If not, don’t send it. Whether a client is asking for 2-3 releases per month or not, if there’s nothing to say, there’s nothing to say. Sending out a poor media release just to adhere to the months quota will only discredit your chances when it comes to sending out a media release which actually is full of exciting, relevant news!
  • Are you consulting and providing advice, or simply executing client demands when it comes to the media?
  • Know what your client does and the topic you’re writing about inside and out!

Personally working in PR, I love to read articles such as Leo D’Angelo Fisher’s recent piece, as unpleasant as they are to read. If overall, media releases aren’t cutting it from the journalist’s perspective, then PR professionals need to pull up our socks. We can all do with a media release kick in the pants at times as it’s an art which forever requires refining! Hopefully Leo’s words stick in your mind next time you’re writing your next media release as I sure know they have stuck in mine!

Gemma Crowley


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