Are you passionate about developing analytical processes to identify minority markets in biro consumption, thus promoting industry revenue? Great, me neither. In fact, no one is. Strategic business stories, dear reader, are often a bit like quinoa salads. You definitely wouldn’t go near one if you don’t know it was (probably) good for you. So why do PR companies put out godawful press releases for incredibly boring, drab things that they wouldn’t read, even if it was the last thing in the dentist’s waiting room? In fact, why is so much PR so badly thought through?

During my perilous descent into the depths of reputation management, I have learned three very important things: firstly, never send a press release en masse if you can do literally anything else, secondly, never pitch anything that isn’t genuinely a story, and thirdly, smile through the storm, whatever nonsense the world throws at you.

If you are mass sending a press release — which I have never done, thank you — I’m going to need to know why. Why didn’t you target specific journalists with an actual story? Why didn’t you pitch it in a short form and send on information once you had a hook? The only time this is acceptable is if you need to mass release information immediately to a wide list of press targets: but that’s going to be super rare. Simply writing a press release on your latest magnolia colour chart is lazy, outdated and often massively counter productive.

I’d say this was a PR sin, but it’s not the worst. The worst — and this might be something I get a lot of fraction over — is far, far worse: slimy, over-edited PR. The kind of PR that makes you die a bit inside when you read it. The beige public apology. The grinning celebrity who you suspect doesn’t really care at all about the children she’s posing for photos with at the charity event. The latest must-have, “cult” product that changed their lives. You know that whatever is coming out of their mouths has been signed off by seven people in the comms department.

PR should never, ever be about selling a lie. Lies are only ever going to result in secrets, downfalls and further problems. PR should be about accentuating the good and mitigating the bad. Over-packaging Mrs Jones as a saint who only cares about kittens and orphans in her run up to the general elections is really going to backfire if she’s already widely known as a cat-kicking pedant with a hatred of children. Honesty sells. Authenticity sells. Sometimes, and this is definitely true in PR, less is more.

Discreet, informed and thoughtful should be the words you apply to everything you do. So whether that’s cutting down your 10-page information pack, the number of journalists you are spamming about biro updates, or the excessive photo opportunities you are posting to your client with homeless kittens, I’d say slow down, really think about it, and stop being precious. One big win on an actual story is far better than a one-line of comment in 20 trade mags, so say goodbye to that press release — and hello to more wins. Your clients will thank you for it!

Madelaine Hanson

By Madelaine Hanson - Former Consultant

24 July 2019

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