Talk Like We Do

heiroglyphsI got a pitch via email today that was actually for something pretty cool, and something I might actually pass along to folks. It included a short informational press release, which was fine.

But I nearly choked on the quote that was in the release. I’ve changed identifying details so as not to embarrass anyone outright, but it was essentially this:

“Consumers are increasingly looking to enjoy their entertainment while mobile and our new Very Cool Video Thing offers the ultimate on-the-go fan experience,” said Big Wig, important title with Big Recognizable Company. “We are excited to bring viewers another compelling option with which to experience our high-quality content and satisfy their curiosity in way that fits their lifestyle.”

Who talks like that??

Yes, yes. I know we were all taught the “protocols” of “proper” corporate communication. But here’s the thing.

The people you want to spread your message – bloggers, community members, “influencers” (whatever that means), regular people – don’t speak this way. We don’t use those words when we’re talking, so we’re going to feel really stupid reiterating things that way if we’re passing along the word to our friends or audience.

We don’t think of themselves as “consumers” or “viewers”. This doesn’t feel like you’re talking to us. It feels like you just want us to do your marketing for you, in your words. Not ours.

I’m actually not sure where we ever got the idea that writing “formally” was so much better than writing conversationally. But I’d really like to undo it. Clear trumps fancy any day of the week.

I know I’m not going to convert the corporate world away from marketing speak anytime soon – heaven knows many of us keep trying – but here are a few tips for and from the rest of us that might help people spread your message and information faster.

The Informational Release

If you want me to pay attention to you, I need to know right out of the gate:

  • What you’re telling me about (be brief)
  • What you want from me, specifically (hint: “FYI” means “For You to Ignore”)
  • Why should I care? **
  • Who you are
  • How I can contact you for additional information, or where I can find more

Stop there. You’re busy. So am I. Do yourself a favor and give me a few facts to make a yea/nay decision on regarding my interest. Let me ask for more information if I need it, and tell me clearly how and where to get it. More flowery language does not make me more interested in what you’re offering.

Quotes

If you want to provide “approved” quotes for something, fine. But provide ones that sound, well, as if a human actually said them.

Lousy: “Increasingly, our viewership needs Whizbangs in order to achieve their strategic imperatives for content sharing online. We are delighted to be able to provide forward-thinking professionals with the tools they need, in mobile and portable format, to reach a new paradigm and bring value to their community.”

Good: “We’re super excited about the launch of our new Whizbang iPhone app. Our customers told us that they love our programs, but that they wanted to be able to share them with people. So, we built a Whizbang app for the iPhone that stores video clips and makes them easy to send to friends via email, text, or Twitter.”

Seriously. Which one sounds like someone – you?- would actually say it aloud? And as a result, which one do you actually believe?

Tone

I’m saying this on the record. Formal, stilted business-speak is dead or dying. If it’s still alive in your industry, quit making excuses for “the way we’ve always done it” and learn how to communicate like a human (or lead by example). Why? Corporate speak has a thousand limitations. Just a few:

  • Most people don’t speak in your jargon.
  • People share thoughts that are easy to remember. Your five-dollar words aren’t in that category.
  • Big vocabulary does not indicate that you are smart. In fact, we tend to think you’re hiding something behind those big words.
  • Your shareholders don’t talk that way, either.
  • Clarity and brevity means a much lower risk that you’ll be misquoted or misinterpreted.
  • Humans skim. If I have to reread your sentence to understand it, I’m moving on.
  • We want to connect with people we can relate to. If you don’t talk like we do, we’re not likely to invite you in for tea.

I can’t stress this enough. You can be professional and clear without being shackled to buzzword bingo. You don’t have to use slang or cuss or be silly. But write like you’d speak to someone out loud and in a conversation. I can nearly guarantee that you’ll get a better response to your stuff.

Don’t Take My Word For It

For the love of all things sacred, read Copyblogger.  Read Bad Pitch Blog. Listen to Jason Falls and Beth Harte and Todd Defren and Brian Solis and Shannon Paul and people who GET what it means to communicate today (and how it should have always been).

Buy and read David Meerman Scott or Geoff Livingston and Brian Solis or Tamar Weinberg or the Brogan/Smith Super Duo.

There are so many resources out there that will guide you about what makes up a good pitch, how communication is changing, and why you can’t keep saying the same old crap you’ve always said.

Talk like us, and we’re much more likely to pay attention. So, sound off, troops, what would you add?

**Note: this isn’t elitist crap. It’s not that your stuff isn’t important. I know it is, to you. But remember, I don’t live in your world, and I have lots of other things I pay attention to, also. So I need to understand why this is relevant to me. Otherwise, it just feels like you’re using me as a bullhorn.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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  • http://michaelnewmanconsulting.com/blog/ Michael Newman

    Nice post Amber. I completely agree with you. We are dealing with a SOCIAL environment, not a scientific white paper crowd. Make it fun but talk like you speak. Another author I found very good for communication techniques is Lois Kelly and her book “Beyond Buzz”. You hit on many of the same points in her book. Good job.

  • http://jamiefavreau.wordpress.com Jamie Favreau

    You make a lot of valid points and I think this is why PR professionals and bloggers need to have more chats. I am a huge fan of Sarah Evans and what she is trying to do for the communications industry by having #journchat every Monday night and I wish more journalists, PR and bloggers would attend the events.

    I think there could be great education involved. If people communicated to each other and eliminated the gobbledygook then they wouldn’t have these bad pitches.

    Relationships are what make and break a business. It is time to go back to these ideas and realize there is technology and a person on the other side who maybe would like what you have to say if they didn’t speak in corporate language.

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  • http://blogs.sas.com/socialmedia David B. Thomas

    We actually just talked about this in a staff meeting. When we, the communicators, try to take out the jargon and business cliches, the marketing folks put them back in because they think we need them to sound like we understand the industry. I hope social media will help everyone understand that it’s okay to talk to people like people.

  • http://anitalobo.posterous.com/ Anita Lobo

    Hi Amber,

    When the PR partner doesn’t come up with an interesting quote that conveys ‘the’ message, I’m not surprised that clients force fit buzzwords just to get the ‘right sounding’ quote, a process that quickly goes awry. I think the PR industry is equally to blame, as the marketing folks who put in buzzwords.

    Clients also need to be reassured with evidence that straight-talking works better than stuffing jargon into every bit of communication.

    Good post Amber, particularly the headline.

    Cheers

    @Anita_Lobo
    aka: an image-maker for people who want to be brands and brands that want to be more human!

  • http://www.realmendriveminivans.com PJ Mullen

    Thank you for this, it has been years since I’ve had to write anything other than for my personal blog and my business partner and I are getting ready to launch a design solution for the tshirt printing industry. I’ve been laboring over releases because they sound stupid in today’s environment. I used to write press releases for a public company and am trying to break from the rules that were ingrained in my head.

  • Bill Free

    There’s a point embedded in this post that’s worth raising. Press releases are now serving double, triple and even quadruple duty over their original purpose, which was to get reporters to cover your company and/or your product. “Informational” releases can be useful if appended to e-mails or included in sales kits. They don’t work as well for a journalist looking for a news hook.

    I have to wonder why the standard elements of a news release, including the “for immediate release” header, media contact information, and deathless quote from the ceo are even used if the primary intention is to provide information on a product. Conventional wisdom is that earned media provides third party credibility, but that wisdom is strained if your prospects get the release directly from you. Why not create something that allows your audience to engage with what you’re promoting, instead of through some imaginary journalist?

    A press release needs audience focus just like any other kind of communication. I write press releases for a specific purpose: to generate coverage in specific publications or get the attention of individual journalists. In most, if not all, cases it is with the assumption that what I write is not for end-user consumption at all.

  • http://venmarkmedia.com claudio alegre

    “…for the love of all things sacred…” I was on the floor by this time.

    But it’s all true! …and I’m afraid the corporate robot-like blue chip business mentality as archaic as we know it is, will continue to prevail for a while. If you don’t believe me read or listen to politicians talk, news anchor ppl, sports casters, commercial writers, even personal interviews are structured this way…it’s embedded in our cellular structure in our genetic code.

    We must educate and be educated, and I hope your sample person does not take this as a form of negative feedback or social bashing, but embraces it, learns from it and resubmits his/her press release back to you with what you’d hope will be a new beginning.

    Thanks for sharing Amber :)

  • http://www.socialmissfit.com Nicole Hamilton

    Amber, I couldn’t agree more. It’s tougher than it sounds. Even if you are the one rallying for “human speak” there are always those who are fighting it (those are the companies I believe will eventually die out). Working in a couple of nonprofits I fought this battle time after time. Many people in the organization were still in the mindset, “our reputation is the only thing we have that will keep us afloat.” How that translated into speaking in a language no one could understand, beats the hell out of me. What they weren’t thinking about was their audience and how they would receive the message. I guess we have to keep reminding ourselves, as you mention, to write in a tone humans can relate to. Nice post.

  • http://www.thesocialorganization.com Rachel Happe

    Great post Amber. I would add one more limitation to formal tone – which you say implicitly: it creates an barrier and distance between two people. People use formal language when they *don’t* want to be open and transparent. It’s used to protect the speaker so that s/he can be measured, controlled, extremely accurate, and a bit remote. It does not appeal to empathy in others and it suggests that the speaker and the listener are on different levels of hierarchy. All of that prohibits the ability to develop relationships.

    So, it is the speaker’s choice how they approach their communication tone but if you are trying to appeal to the reader’s interest and passion… well, the choice should be obvious.

  • http://www.prostylus.com/blog Dan McCarthy

    Amber, you provide a good example of what I refer to as “writing” (with finger quotes).

    “Writing” is similar to “dancing,” which looks like self-conscious spasms on the dance floor. Dancing (sans quotes) is just grooving to the music.

    So yeah, a good reminder that writing should be transparent. At the very least, it shouldn’t get in the way of the message. At best, it can even amplify the message without drawing attention to itself.

    This only sounds hard. All it requires to dance/write better is to stop forcing things and let the music/message take over.

  • http://wordswillsaveme.wordpress.com Teresa Basich

    When I worked as a journalist, getting people to offer quotes, no matter who they were, was like pulling teeth. And once they did give me a quote or two they wanted to see it in writing, edit it with a fine-tooth comb, and review the final draft of whatever story I was writing for approval before publication.

    This is to say, corporate speak came up because people want to sound smart. They want to use words like “synergy” and confuse the hell out of their readers, especially if their product isn’t all that fantastic. Instead of using real information about why the product was created in the first place, why people asked for it, they cut corners and couch their products’ inadequacies by making their pitches or press releases totally incomprehensible.

    The problem is no one’s ever understood that kind of language and now that we’ve broken barriers down to make communication real and trustworthy, there’s no room for it anymore. Sometimes I think this is also about going to the right people for quotes — why talk to the CEO when the guy heading up product development for the Whizbang might have a better idea of how the project came together, what customers were looking for, etc.? All things to consider.

    I’m not sure we’ll ever get rid of the remnants of corporate speak, but the more clarity out there, the more companies and PR pros will see people wanting to spread the word about a particular product or service. Can’t talk about what you don’t understand, right?

    I wrote a novel. Again. Apologies.

  • Stephanie Mrus (@smrus)

    Amber-

    Traditional, formal comment: I’d like to leverage your post to better position my world-class, market-leading, cutting-edge Clients in their respective industries. I am elated that you’ve had the courage to identify the problem and propose a much need paradigm shift, fitting for every market…

    Ugh. Gawd. I can’t keep doing it. I can’t come up with another hyphenated modifier or buzzword and still look at myself in the mirror…

    Simplified comment: I loved your post. I’m going to pass it along to all my PR and marketing colleagues that continue to hold on to traditional press release formats and formal speak. Baby steps, right?

    Thanks again.

  • http://thelostjacket.com Stuart Foster

    Want to have a pitch work? Put in the person’s language. Seems incredibly easy to those not programmed by the PR world to turn out Reporter/PR person copy. However, a lot of these practices are so ingrained into their system…they actually talk like their releases.

    • http://www.sametz.com/roundthesquare Tamsen McMahon

      Stuart’s got it right: great communicators are actually great translators. You have to be able to take the language of one person/place/thing and translate it for another. But that takes work–a lot of it.

      Sometimes the stilted language of PR IS the right language–for certain people, for certain organizations. So it’s important to know how to speak it, or your pitch may not be taken seriously.

      Is it a dying language? Likely so. But you still have to know enough to get around. And you need to know when to speak something else.

  • http://www.design-outloud.com Phillip Hunter

    I agree with the vast majority of this and encourage you to check out the various plain language organizations and movements. Not only is clear important, but so is being plain and ordinary, which can be different to various people.

    It also pays to think about what Bill Free commented, though. PR has traditionally served to generate advertising interest and also shareholder enthusiasm. So many times the focus includes very specialized groups of people: journalists, marketers, bankers, etc. And then of course, the lawyers often have to filter and approve, and sometimes re-write. All that, plus the class-type issues that have been involved in writing for hundreds of years, have conspired to make things difficult.

    And it shows up not just in release, but web copy, automated phone systems, etc. We just have to keep fighting it.

  • http://levite.wordpress.com jon

    I work in a different industry (church) but deal with the same issue. When people write promotional pieces, brochures, announcements, and letters, they go for stuffy styles that match what they have read from press releases and church stuff forever. My challenge has been to add tone and simplicity and English (rather than churchy) to what we do. And it is working.

    However, it also creates a challenge: how do I make sure that everything doesn’t sound like ME. I’m working on that part next.

  • Gary Wells

    What makes a good pitch? A story. You have to tell a story if you want to sell your story. What makes a good quote? Something from the mind and the heart. And you’re right, Amber. Too few people tell a real story and even fewer actually speak like real people. How many times have we read a comment in a release about “enhancing the customer experience.” Customers do not want their experience enhanced unless they are getting their hair done. (Well, my wife owns a salon, first example that came to mind …)One of the best quotes I ever heard was from an airline executive whose company was having problems. A reporter asked him how passengers were responding to this situation. And he said,”Passengers are voting with their feet. They are getting on our planes and going about their lives. And we’re delighted that we can be of service.” That is how people talk. It was also a smashing breakout quote. But if we do not see such quotes in a release, the reason is that communications is not important enough to that particular company and its leadership, to do it right and well.

  • http://www.lindsaymallen.com Lindsay M. Allen

    It’s probably not a coincidence that my most successful pitches have almost always been the ones that were PITCHES — not news releases — and didn’t include any quotes (other than, perhaps, one or two that were strictly informational and/or were culled from an e-mail or other candid conversation)

    In my last job, these successful pitches (described above) also were communications over which I had complete control; they didn’t go through the same editing wringer as news releases and such did, which made it much easier to avoid canned quotes, corporate-speak, etc.

    Like I said … probably not a coincidence.

    Yet again, a great post from you, Amber!

  • http://www.visualrhetor.com Kyle McCabe

    Very well said. This is why I despise the word “consumer” used in the marketing context (wrote about it on my blog).

    I’m all about formal speech and writing in their proper place. But I see no reason, and have yet to hear a solid argument for writing anything in the marketing space with hyper-formal corporatespeak.

  • http://twitter.com/kyleroussel Kyle Roussel

    Brilliant stuff as always Amber. Your posts continue to dominate my Google reader ‘starred’ items. Keep it up (please)!

    Where I work, we’d love to remove this crap from our communications, but we know for certain that our initial drafts of brochures, press releases, etc would be edited to death and the stilted marketing speak would be right back in there.

    I would be very interested to know if the people who are still perpetuating this silly form of communicating, steadfastly sticking to their buzzwords and other assorted forms of gobbledygook are those who refer to themselves as ‘web 1.0′ people? Those who look at facebook, twitter, etc as just places for people to air their dirty laundry…

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  • http://kevinfenton.com Kevin Fenton

    Amber, your post synergistically aligns with my varied needs as a communications professional. Thank you for proactively addressing this mission-critical issue.

    OK.

    As a practical matter, you need to really establish trust long before tackling this and even then i think it is a matter of trying hard to get clients to think more about what the audience is getting out of it than what they are putting into it. You can tell when something is a problem by the conjunctions and prepositions: they are hinges people use to cantilever way too much stuff into a single statement.

    I’ve also found that as a practical matter it is better to get the client to list the points they want to make rather than to try to craft the quote. If they craft the quote originally and i edit, i always edit too mincingly.

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  • Mariela Castro

    Amber, great point. A post to think about (which is always good! we are not sheep!). Pitches and news releases haven´t evolved in their role of teasing the audience (journalists, bloggers, whoever) in an interesting and straight-to-the-point way. They keep their concerns in pleasing more the corporation than the audience.

    However, remember that written language will NEVER be equal to oral language, especially in corporate/institutional communications. So, despite agreeing with using a less formal language in pitches, in fact we have to find something in the middle… we never reproduce, in an article on a newspaper, for example, the exact way one speaks, do we? We rarely write the way we talk, even here in an absolutely informal comment. Or in a post.

    Think less formally, improve your pitches, target your audiences — if this is the message behind the post, I totally agree.

    Again, I like when a post makes me think and revaluate what I do as a professional. Keep provoking! :-)

  • http://jslima.wordpress.com Joe Lima

    The obvious points you state are unfortunately not obvious to many professionals. Thanks for helping others see what so many regular folks already do on their own.

  • http://www.mvdm.net Maikel van de Mortel

    Amber,

    Thanks for writing this post. As you clearly point out, it’s obvious communications jargon is changing rapidly and being yourself in a business environment is becoming more accepted. I love the points you make and advice you share as to how to best get to the point, keep your interest, albeit brief, and where you can go to dig deeper, if you’re interested. Taht said, with all the different type of professional and non-professional media types out there, bloggers, writers, corporate, journalists, etc., I would be interested to hearing your insights as to new and acceptable ways to pitch media stories. I understand that each person requires a different approach, but this is not always possible for companies to do. Do you think there are better ways to provide information that trump the old press release? Love to to hear your thoughts. Great post, and as always, some great food for thought. Keep telling it like it is, one of the many things that keeps me coming back to your blog.

    Cheers!
    Maikel

  • http://socialbutterflyguy.com/ DJ Waldow

    As an email marketing dude, I often advice clients on the same thing. If your email looks/sounds/feels all corporate, nobody will read it. It will get lost in the sea of other crappy emails. Be different. Be human.

    That being said, I believe strongly in the balance between “be yourself” and “be professional.” I’ve been editing a lot of blog posts these days in my new gig (gig = job in corporate-speak). We have some younger bloggers who write very similar to how they talk. I’m cool with that … but it still *must* be professional – not corporate and stiff, but professional.

    Does that make sense?

    Finally, I’d like to also go on record that I hate corporate-speak too. Words like synergy give me the heebeejeebees (sp?). That’s why I use words like “dude” and phrases like “holy balls.” I try not to offend anyone, but hey…that’s what I’m thinking, right?

    Peace out. Dude.

    dj, The Inquisitive One


    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory
    @djwaldow

  • http://www.momblebee.com/blog Cheryl Andonian (aka Momblebee)

    Hi Amber,
    Great post. The tone of the language used totally depends on to whom you are pitching. I have a pet peeve when a one size fits all approach to pitching is used. Pitches should be written and rewritten to appeal to each individual that is being approached. Bloggers are different than consumer magazine editors. Consumer mag editors are different than trad mag editors, etc, etc. I got an email pitch the other day that, although I was addressed personally, the pitcher clearly had no idea of what I do. He referenced that he enjoyed reading my blog, with it’s “great giveaways and contests”, but guess what? I don’t do giveaways or contests. Just cutting and pasting the same pitch and changing the name of the recipient doesn’t work. A key to a great pitch is not only in the writing and tone, but it’s in knowing a bit about the person that is being pitched.

  • http://www.stevewoodruff.com Steve Woodruff

    In a recent post, I talked about my positive experience with Charlotte Airport ( http://bit.ly/zqRRK ). The one negative, which I didn’t mention, was the one discordant note, the standard “warning” message on the overhead speakers (about strange people and strange luggage, etc.). It was all in lawyer-speak – English, yes, but not the way normal people would talk. Clearly composed by a legal dept. I was tempted to try to record it just so I could share the stilted language, because it was a great illustration of trying too hard to communicate, and thereby failing.

  • http://kevinfenton.com Kevin Fenton

    The two comments above raise some interesting points by Momblebee and Steve Woodruff raise interesting questions about what we might consider jargon can, in some instances, be appropriate.

    1. Effectiveness really comes down to “knowing a bit about the person being pitched.” In the related area of grant writing, which i’ve only recently encountered, certain buzzwords are effective because they are what the grantmakers (or venture capitalists) are looking for.

    2. Legal language also highlights why something other than plain speech might sometimes be needed. Legal language has consequences that regular conversation does not. When the Supreme Court issued Brown v. the Board of Education, it mandated that the changes had to happen “with all deliberate speed.” Justice Black argued that the common people of the south would not know what that meant. The court kept the language in because “with all deliberate speed” referenced a vast, practical set of case law which lawyers could use to give the phrase specific meaning. Other language wouldn’t reference that conversation. the problem is, attorneys can also use the technical demands of legal language to justify all sorts of laziness. Language broadcast in an airport needs to be legally impeccable but it also needs to communicate as clearly as possible to as many people as possible. Good legal language is really the final frontier for effective communication. Good luck!

    • http://kevinfenton.com Kevin Fenton

      Speaking of clarity: my first sentence should begin “The two comments by Momblebee and Steve Woodruff.”

  • http://socialbutterflyguy.com/ DJ Waldow

    Steve’s comment and Kevin’s follow up (both of them) got me thinking again. For those that fly all the time, we’ve become somewhat numb to the flight attendants review of the safety features of the aircraft, right? It’s pretty much the same 3-5 minute speech no matter what airline you are on. Seat belts, exits, no smoking, cell phones off, blah blah blah. If prompted, I bet many of us could probably stand up on the plane and give the talk.

    Southwest Airlines does it differently. They talk like humans. They rap. They joke. They talk about crackberries, blueberries, raspberries. They make an otherwise boring topic somehow interesting and fun. I can’t remember where I heard this, but I read that, in a true emergency, you are X times more likely to recall what SWA flight attendants said. Why? Because your brain actually processes what they are saying. It stands out. It’s different. It’s a human talking.

    And…I’m out.

    dj


    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory
    @djwaldow

    • http://www.lindsaymallen.com Lindsay M. Allen

      You know what’s even worse than how monotonous the messages have become on most airplanes? The monotonous manner in which they often are delivered. On at least one recent flight, the flight attendant recited the directions from memory in a bored, I-could-do-this-in-my-sleep singsong. HORRIBLE. Who pays attention to THAT?!

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  • http://www.edjusten.com Ed

    I agree with everything you said here, however, there are times when it is advantageous to use the voice of your intended audience. I worked for a newsletter publishing company that excelled in explaining complicated jargon in a simple, easy-to-read voice and tone. My market however was physical security managers; former police officers, retired military, and the like. Writing to them in simple tone and voice simply did not work, and they responded with bad conversion rates and by unsubscribing in droves. (There is more to this story if you are interested.)

    I can certainly see your point here. Reading corporate press releases, tech press releases, white papers and such, leaves one’s head in a spin of “branding-option-vertical-output” verbiage mishmash. But if you have a core audience that speaks a specific language, its best to speak to them in that tone and voice.

    @edjusten

  • http://ParkHowell.com Park Howell

    Too funny. This morning I received one of the greatest pitch emails ever, and I just wanted to share it:

    Dear Park & Stan

    Forgive my intrusion on your morning: I come to you as Englishman who is currently living in the Land Down Under. It’s winter here, though you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise, it’s a relief to be back in sub 110 degree temperature after spending my honeymoon in Sedona mid summer. I am actually relocating to Arizona from Sydney in the next 3 months to be with my wife who is working at St Joe’s Hospital in Phoenix.

    Given that I must be a proponent of my own J.B.D.I philosophy, I thought I needed to start looking for a brilliantly progressive, established, environmentally responsible and erudite advertising or marketing organization based in or around Phoenix who may be thinking about adding converged media to their portfolio – a simple search lead me to your friendly and green website, and from the notes, staff and experience there, the more I read, the more I started to think that the name ‘Angus’ would add some more flavor, and look pretty decent alongside the other stellar names listed down the side of the Talent page page of Park&Co.com………;)

    I will be in Phoenix from Sydney for a fact finding mission on the 5th September for 2 weeks househunting (Joe Dirt.)- I would love to catch up with you for a coffee / beer to have a quick chat to discuss your company and the local market if you had time.

    A substantial liberty has been taken by me attaching my resume to this e-mail – I will be new to the market and up for a challenge – I seriously think that I can bring some great international new media experience to your company. My potted summary is below.

    I hope you don’t mind me e-mailing out of the blue, and look forward to hearing from you soon,

    Kind regards,

    Angus

    Now that’s writing with winning personality.

  • http://www.kevinfentonbiz.wordpress.com Kevin Fenton

    I love the specific, practical, example-fueled the discussion just took: DJ I esp love the SW Airlines example of recognizing and overcoming message fatigue.

  • http://www.tongen.com Ward Tongen

    I agree completely. Takes me back to the Cluetrain Manifesto 1st 4 Theses:

    #1) Markets are conversations.

    #2) Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.

    #3) Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.

    #4) Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.

    Speak in a human voice in the vernacular of your audience. Be relevant. Also, this approach just naturally happens to result in better exposure in search engines to people searching for relevant topics.

  • http://veryofficialblog.com Shannon Paul

    This is my favorite post I’ve read on this subject. It’s funny, but I had a lot of practice writing press releases. In my second internship, that’s ALL I DID aside from the occasional interview with a staff member (to obtain a quote) or taking photos of a campus event since this was at a community college. As boring as that might seem it was amazing practice and I can crank out a press release pretty quickly (I wish I could say the same about blog posts…)

    Truth be told, most PR pros I have met or worked with *hate* writing quotes in press releases, but it’s my favorite part. I try really hard to write a press release like a news article – make it as factual as possible. But the quote – the quote is where you actually get to break down what the release is about in a conversational manner and say what the release is really about! How cool is that?

    My theory has always been that people write press releases backwards. If they thought like a journalist and wrote quotes that actually injected a real statement, opinion, etc., they might actually get used in someone else’s publication. Isn’t that what they’re there for? Instead, they focus on what the company wants to push and create an unreadable document that might as well never exist. Compromise on stupid content in a press release and render your work irrelevant before the first pitch is made. That’s my take.

    Thanks also for the mention, lady. You’re tops in my book, too. :-)

  • http://www.jeremymeyers.com/ Jeremy Meyers

    Fine. You’re right, of course. But how do we get writers/PR people/Marketing people out of this habit?

    Obviously “this isn’t working anymore” doesn’t seem to be a compelling enough argument to change.

    At my last gig, we encouraged the press department to write two press releases every time. One was aimed at journalists and included press lingo and bullet points and such, and one was consumer-facing with “Friendlier” language.

    Whether this happened or not is another story, but the bridge may be a required step.

    • http://socialbutterflyguy.com/ DJ Waldow

      Jeremey –

      To answer your question:

      “…how do we get writers/PR people/Marketing people out of this habit?”

      I think we test test test. Like you said, 2 versions. How about 3 or 4? See which one “performs” better (based on your own, predetermined criteria). We do this in the world of email marketing all of the time – with subject lines, creative, etc. The data can be quite compelling.

      That being said, I think we also tirelessly educate those around us.

      My 3 cents.

      dj


      DJ Waldow
      Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory
      @djwaldow

  • http://fiwk.blogspot.com Royce

    This is a great post which I’m bookmarking because I know it’s going to come up in future discussions.

    You also have to know your audience when it comes to branding. Communicating product info via the press release format in your example definitely sounds better when put into more colloquial terms. But when I write a summary letter to investors for our company, for instance, that audience tends to be oldier and stuffier and expects the stilted, formal-sounding corporate language (I am also in the real estate industry, so it’s more traditional in general). That audience would probably be put off by casual language in a presentation like that.

    I also like DJ’s comment right above me that testing is a good way to know for sure. Why remain in doubt when you could get some real data?

    Keep up the interesting writing,

    -Royce

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  • Anonymous

    Nobody says “excited to announce”.

  • http://twitter.com/maidinaustralia bronnie marquardt

    So well said. Love that you pointed out that while their stuff is important to them, you need to talk to your market in the language they are interested in/can understand. I would never read an article/post with the info they’ve sent you above … my instant thought would be ‘jargon’ and I’d turn the page, or click off.