How bad news releases are born…

One of my journalist friends posted today about the absurdity of a news release that contained the phrase “an advanced copolymer elastomeric layer that employs superior adhesion properties…” to describe TAPE!  While I feel his pain, I also believe it is a public service to explain how these news releases are born…and before anyone on the client or agency side gets their feathers ruffled, you should know I’ve filled every role in this story at one time or another in my career (except scientist)…but, I’ve learned from my mistakes and it’s made me a better PR pro…

So, here goes.  It’s kind of like how a Bill Becomes a Law…but for news releases:

Somewhere in lab “A” at some large company in America an engineer or scientist is looking for an adhesive product that can make his product better. Of course, you think “tape is tape,” but this guy has to bet his entire professional career on what tape he picks. There must be a tape out there that has properties that are superior to other tapes.

There also is some raging a-hole in purchasing who also thinks “tape is tape.” And he will sell his soul to buy mass quantities of tape at a penny per pound less. So internally at this behemouth company, we have a conflict between good tape vs. cheap tape.

Somewhere else across America in lab “B” a scientist who has spent the last 20 years dreaming up better ways to combine chemicals to make things stick together has a breakthrough. Stickier (but more expensive) tape!

Lab “B” also has a sales person who gets paid a healthy commission for selling the more expensive tape, and he has to come up with a way to justify the additional cost for his product.

There is likely a trade show looming…we’ll call it “AdhesiveCon” in Las Vegas…it is the one chance for Lab B to prove to the scientist and his purchasing goon at Lab A that Lab B tape has superior properties.

So, the Lab B sales guy says “We need a press release!”

So, the corporate PR folks, who are too busy communicating about “shareholder value” and trying to justify the gynormous salary of their egomaniacal CEO, call the agency.

The agency CEO, who is busy trying to win new clients, is at lunch at the DAC, so he assigns the task to one of his trusty VPs, who then assigns it to a 25-year-old two years removed from (insert name of partying MAC school here).

The 25-year-old, who got into this business dreaming of pitching Hollywood Insider on Paris Hilton’s next celeb appearance, grudingly rolls their eyes, mutters “I can’t believe I’m writing about Tape” and whips out a news release.

Back at Lab B, the sales guy and the scientist edit the sh** out of the release, injecting endless jargon and just plain bad grammar. They send the release back to the VP who really has no clue about the chemical properties of tape, so is in no position to stand up to the client.

The release goes back to the 25-year-old who puts together a media list and emails the release to anyone who ever heard of tape, has possibly used tape or can spell tape.

And, that, my friends, is how crappy news releases are made!


  1. You best leave Kent State out of this! 🙂

    This is funny, sad and true all at once. Never mind the endless (and fruitless) arguments over the diminishing value of press releases. Bad writing is just bad writing. I see all too many failing-grade releases hit the wire and it makes me just cringe. No wonder our journo peeps hate us whenever some fruit-loop flack fires off some P-poor release like that. The gobbledygook’s gotta go, man.

    Lesson learned for all you managers and veeps: “Not on your watch!”

    Great post, Mike.

  2. I’d venture that most PR pros can relate to this post. Nice work Mike.

    Recently I read a book that deals with this exact subject – “Why Businesspeople Speak Like Idiots” – that helps provide some clarity to our sometimes nonsensical world. It’s a quick read and provides a bit of levity too.

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