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From the chair: July 2017

publication date: Jul 3, 2017
 | 
author/source: Robin Roberts

 

The awards’ season is in full flow but there is one very important potential category which is overlooked, yet it’s the staple of both PR and motoring journalists.

 

Depending on the sponsoring business or media, a vehicle manufacturer can be virtually guaranteed a gong if they stump up for a table at a swish location, and shall we say indulge some writers and publications. That’s another story, so to speak. 

The press release is still the preferred way of getting information out there. Ok, it’s rarely a paper release these days but most likely found ‘on-line’, sometimes just a URL in a short note inviting you to look, but it’s still a press release, hopefully with a good set of images in assorted quality with a video as well. 

A few departments have resorted to a soft-launch on social media only with a URL to their own company website, but at some point there needs to be an engaging press release on the subject.

After all it’s the content that matters, with how it’s delivered becoming less important, and it’s interesting to look at the differences.

For a pr industry which prides itself on communication some departments are truly awful and hide their inefficiencies, lack of knowledge and abilities behind a “corporate” release obviously written for the global market and not specific market regions.  

How many times have you seen some disclaimer written into the last few lines saying something to the effect “specification my vary for certain markets” or even worse “not available in the UK”? So why publish the release in the UK?

That’s the write-off for a weak UK PR office and signpost of an autocratic and dangerously remote corporate press office which you know is going to fail its employers when the chips are down on a major issue. Over 40 years in the automotive industry I have seen this attitude many times and I have yet to be surprised when things go spectacularly wrong.

 

Content

 

Content is king for PR officers and motoring journalists and goodness knows there are enough media courses in the UK and internationally, so you’d think the press release would be a relatively simple thing to get right. Some in-house departments have good technically competent PRs, others out-source the writing while they concentrate on their social media time lines.

Whoever is writing a release must capture the journalist and reader interest in a few lines of words and then keep them reading as the full story is unfolded, but not turn the release into a engineering thesis or pack it with irrelevant items. 

I recently had an emailed release from an company and the first sentence ran to 77 words of mind-numbing pseudo-babble and marketing terminology which was off-putting not engaging, probably the same as the committee which had obviously written and approved it in the first, or more likely, eighth instance. It was so bad its only good purpose was to stand out as an example of how not to write a press release. 

The following day I received a very brief but effective release of a few paragraphs about a new model and a URL to find out more detail. What a contrast. 

Personally I like something in between without having to go on-line, say about 400 words max with a few well chosen appropriate images attached of medium size, not embedded, and a person’s name, telephone number and email at the end for further information. That person must then be on call for 24hrs. or so, not stuck out of touch in an aircraft or on a break.

Time-poor journalists or sub-editors with a hole on a page to fill in a few minutes are more likely to use my suggested type of release than any other. Unfortunately, very few PRs have seen the inside of a busy newsroom to appreciate how hectic it can be and the reason brevity is not just for the brave but the good PR.

The closest we have come to acknowledging good PR are the Newspress awards and that might be the platform to put forward my suggestion of “the best press release”, but maybe for even greater impartiality the adjudicators should be one or more of the universities and colleges that derive substantial income from PR courses. After all, they should know what is best, shouldn’t they?

I await a press release on this. 




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