My name isn’t Simon

Collaborative Creations’ new Content Manager Stuart Wood introduces himself, and runs through some of the most common mistakes made in public relations.

My name isn’t Simon. In fact - my name is Stuart Wood, and I’m Collaborative Creations’ new Content Manager. Hello!

You might be surprised, though, how many times I’ve been called Simon inside press releases, or at the top of emails from PR people. I spent a bit more than three years working with event industry publisher Mash Media, where I was Deputy Editor (and briefly Acting Editor) across multiple publications.

In that time, I’ve seen plenty of examples of both good and bad PR. Having crossed over from the world of journalism, I have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t work. And so, by means of introduction, I’d like to talk about some of the most common mistakes made in the world of PR, and how they can be avoided.

Let’s start with ‘Simon’. If you’ve gotten a journalist’s name wrong, one of two things have happened. Either you haven’t done any research into who you’re sending your story to, or you’ve used some kind of mass-send software to try and speed up the process, and it’s gone wrong. Journalists are extremely time poor and their inboxes are extremely full, so they’re always looking for reasons to cut your press release. Getting their name wrong is an instant drop. Was the time saved really worth the risk?

Besides that, I can say from experience that receiving mass-send press releases in Mailchimp or in PDF format is just annoying - they often have unusual formatting, and it can be awkward to copy and paste text. Put it in the email, and attach at least one good, big picture. Job done.

Another bugbear of mine is the word ‘leading’. It’s probably the most common word you’ll find in the first sentence of any press release, and was always the first one I cut out. X company, a leading provider of Y, has done Z. Leading according to who? I’ve always found rankings (leading, first, biggest) to be cheap ways of telling a positive story. Don’t tell me you’re the best: show me something that convinces me.

While we’re on the topic of concise language: all ‘about us’ sections at the bottom of press releases are uniformly terrible. Their purpose, I suppose, is to provide a flashy, one-paragraph blurb that describes what a company does. Usually, they have the opposite effect. You’re a “multi-conglomerate provider of experiential services and bespoke networking solutions”. Hang on, what do you actually do? Give me a one sentence description that I can easily drop into any piece of writing.

The final mistake I think too many PRs make is pestering - that is, constantly checking in with calls or emails to see if you can run the story they sent three weeks ago. One follow-up call or email is fine, but any more than that and you really should be taking the hint. It might help you get a story published in the short term, but if they groan and roll their eyes when they see you on caller ID, you’ll be damaging that relationship in the long term.

It can sometimes feel like journalists hold all the cards but, in truth, journalists and PR people both rely on each other. The key is building trust. The PRs whose stories I usually published were the ones who respected my time and always pitched something relevant. They knew what topics I had covered recently, and they certainly knew that my name wasn’t Simon.

If you’ve got a story that you’d like to tell professionally, in a relevant manner, and to the right people, then I hope myself and the team here at Collaborative Creations can help you do that. Get in touch!