Saturday, August 31, 2013

There are no PR genies

There are no magic lanterns. No PR genies. No write-it-for-you software or apps. Nothing is going to create a readable news release or public relations pitch for you -- except someone whose skill set includes newswriting, storytelling, editing, and interviewing.

I often teach university-level public relations courses. And, when I'm looking for examples of unedited, clumsily crafted news releases published online, my first stop, inevitably, is 

Smokey the Genie (right) with Bugs Bunny
MyPRGenie bills itself as a one-stop resource for PR support, including blogs, search engine optimization, and hosting online newsrooms. All are useful in today's PR universe. They may be better at some services than others.

But I tremble whenever I find news releases -- often written by someone with, ah, less-developed writing skills -- that find their way online with virtually no editing or attention to what an editor will read. One recent verbatim example:

"Seriously, if you are interested in visiting Japan and wish to make sure that your trip is all fun and that you get to interact with the local people of Japan without any hurdles, then it is highly recommended for you to learn to speak Japanese. The best means for you to do so is to take on Japanese classes Tokyo. This way, you would be able to learn Japanese from experts who are native Japanese and hold the qualifications required to be able to teach others."

What's this message promoting? Travel? Learning a new language? The inability to use articles and nouns? It's doing a terrifyingly poor job at all three.

What would it take for MyPRGenie to provide a copy editor to fix this editorial train wreck? Or for the writer (possibly a small business owner in Tokyo) to ask a freelance copy editor to clean it up?

Not much.

(Hint: do not turn to this "first class paraphrasing service" to solve the problem, either.)

You'll find a number of high-quality online PR wire services that can ensure your verbiage doesn't read like a brochure explosion. Or independent PR professionals (myself included). Prices vary widely. Buy what you can afford.

But spend enough so that your message is clear, understandable, and compelling. Spend enough so that your reputation is burnished, not tarnished, by your news releases.

And skip the search for a PR genie in a magic lamp.