On my desk this morning is the latest issue of a building industry trade magazine that I receive regularly. As usual, it is mostly filled with 100-word reports on ‘new’ products – and, again as usual, they are so boring!
The biggest failing, I find, is that concise descriptions of products and their chief benefits are hidden by irrelevant verbiage. And that in pieces supposedly encouraging me to buy?
Companies pay people to write and distribute these boring news releases – often either the in-house ‘I can write’ bod or an external PR person with more charm than talent. Then the companies pay the magazine (and hundreds more like it) to publish the releases. Value for money in times of austerity? I think not.
Doing the job properly does not have to be expensive. What’s more important is finding a writer who can present all the key information in 100 words (or less) and maintain reader interest throughout. If you are reading or writing a draft for approval, ask yourself: Will this really encourage people to buy the product? And: Does this copy enhance our corporate image?
I’ve had a long association with ‘product’ news releases both as an editor and as a writer. Quite frankly, I’d go mad if I had to churn out some of the rubbish that gets into the trade press. But I do enjoy the challenge of concise writing. So when I’m asked to write a product release, I try to hit the reader with the USP and then distil the other important angles into the remaining words.
Even I can’t guarantee that readers will read and buy – but I’m confident we can give them a good start towards making informed choices. That’s value.
David Goddin was born in the UK and educated in South Africa. He began his career on daily newspapers and trade journals, before moving into public relations consulting. He produced award-winning writing and became an Accredited PR Practitioner, the highest qualification of the Public Relations Institute of South Africa. Since his return to the UK 16 years ago he has also contributed to a number of highly successful PR and marketing communications campaigns for major national and multinational clients. He is currently also President of the Haslemere & District Chamber of Trade & Commerce.