Tom Foremski’s diatribe against Silicon Valley press releases comes on the day I helped critique some briefing material on a major government announcement. Many of his points struck a timely chord.
Press releases are nearly useless. They typically start with a tremendous amount of top-spin, they contain pat-on-the-back phrases and meaningless quotes… Press releases are created by committees, edited by lawyers, and then sent out at great expense through Businesswire or PRnewswire to reach the digital and physical trash bins of tens of thousands of journalists. This madness has to end. It is wasted time and effort by hundreds of thousands of professionals.
Press officers need to change their view of their role. It’s no longer about pushing out what the boardroom wants to say; quite the opposite. These days, it has to be about bringing the media perspective into the organisation. And that starts with taking press releases back to first principles – giving journalists what they need.
Newspapers will never reprint verbatim a lump of woolly, meaningless management-speak. What reporters need are hard facts rather than vague concepts, real statistics rather than unqualified assertions, (decent) quotes – anything that can support them in writing their story. Note, by the way: not your story. Their story… which, as Tom notes, they were always going to write anyway. (I’m not sure the world is ready for Tom’s full-disclosure ‘tagging’ concept, but he has the right ideas.)
Why? Because these days, it’s so much easier and quicker to get to the truth. A quick keyword search across an inch-thick document will yield, in seconds, the statement you were trying to bury on page 142. And the stressed journalist is hardly going to be nice about your woolly press release after they spend hours chasing the facts you chose not to include.