I just finished reading a press release on an industry website. Well, it wasn’t really a press release, but rather a news story that in reality is a type of press release. It’s what I call a “make news” item. Often, companies have no news to announce but they still want to be in the news so they report on a survey, current event, or something similar in order to create a make news item, which is all fine and good…and highly recommended.
However, this make news item failed on a number of fronts. First of all, it was based on the premise that a survey was taken of floors around the world—“that’s right, the floors were interviewed,” stated the release. We all know that floors cannot be interviewed and while I assume the strategy could be considered “cute” and even catchy, a more honest, credible approach is invariably better. For example, using this release, the fantasy of floors being interviewed makes the reader wonder if the rest of the news item is fantasy as well.
But, here is where the real problem begins. The news story mentioned and quoted the president of the company. However, instead of quoting him throughout the story, as would normally be done, only the company name was repeated after first reference.
For instance, instead of writing, “the floors wanted to be cleaned more thoroughly,” according to Mr. Xxxx, company president, it is, “the floors wanted to be cleaned more thoroughly,” according to Company.
And then it went a step further. It noted some of these imaginary floors—you know, the ones being surveyed—were complaining the cleaning products currently being used to clean them were just not working. In response to this problem, Company—not its president—suggested that one of the tools manufactured by Company be used to clean the floor. That way the cleaning will get done more effectively, faster, and costs will come down, according to the Company, speaking for itself.
The problem with this make news story can be summed up in one word: credibility. It’s not believable that the floors could be interviewed in the first place and by the company being the spokesperson and then recommending its own products as solutions to the floor’s problem, it becomes an advertisement.
This is not good. The power of public relations is credibility. So how could we have made this make news item more powerful?
Simple. Discuss some of the key problems caring for floors. Bring in a quote or two from a study or a recognized expert. And then quote the president of the company, responding on how these problems can be addressed WITHOUT mentioning the company’s products directly.
As soon as the reader reads what he or she thought was something they might learn from is really just an advertisement, they are out the door. In my book, if this company could not have put together a worthwhile, credible, educational news item, it should not have released anything at all.