Avoiding tech press release own goals!

How would great moments in recent history, such as England’s 1966 World Cup win, have been covered if they’d been written up in the style of today’s technology PR press releases. What a bizarre idea.  But this is just the notion that Martin Veitch, managing editor of technology news site, CIO UK, has ‘kicked around’ in his very funny blog post

Martin, a much respected tech journo who estimates that he’s sifted through around a million press releases in his career (poor guy),  has dreamed up how the 1966 World Cup win and the story of The Beatles releasing their first LP would have been written if prepared in the syle used in technology press releases. 

It makes for a very witty post. And an entertaining way of highlighting how tech press releases, as Martin explains, often have an odd style that’s used ‘by almost nobody’ in the real world. They tend to discuss ‘very small things in incredible detail’  he says and use ‘inappropriate or misappropriated words’.  He also laughs at technology partnership announcemnets which involve spokespeople who ‘congratulate each other on alliances that are never followed up on’.

The PR industry is used to laughing at itself when journalists ‘take the mickey’ out of our silly shenanigans.  But this post should also make anyone involved in technology marcomms stop and think about their copy. 

It can sometimes be difficult to avoid straying into tech press release gobbledygook territory.  When it does happen, I think it’s often because junior PR agency staff feel unable to push back on lofty client senior executives who have insisted on a story being written their way.  Or because a draft release has been massaged out of shape by numerous different parties during the  approval chain – and the PR feels it’s just too much effort to go back and get it changed without upsetting some political sensitivities.

But sometime’s it’s just because the PRs haven’t been rigorous enough.  So here’s a reminder of some tips to help avoid scoring an ‘own goal’ when drafting technology press releases:

Keep sentences short (and try your best to use language that you would use in everyday conversation)

Make quotes sound like they would actually have been spoken by real people and try to use them to add new information (rather than back-slapping stock phrases such as – ‘we are delighted’!)

Use short simple words instead of long ones eg ‘use’ not ‘utilise’ or ‘leverage’!

If you’ve been working on a release for a long time, take a break and come back to it – or get someone else to look at it (it’s easy to lose your perspective on a story if you get too close to it)   

If you find yourself getting into ‘nitty gritty’ about the minor features or functionality of a product or service, consider putting this info in a separate notes section (or better still just leave it out) 

If a press release has been through a lengthy approval chain with lots of minor amends, you should really give it a thorough sanity check to make sure it has not been been ‘spun’ out of shape by everyone’s comments

Uday

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