Working with PR agencies: hold the fluff!
Working with a professional public relations agency can offer significant benefits for both large and small companies alike. So much so, in fact, that USC’s Annenberg Strategic Communication and Public Relations Center reports that 95 percent of all large public companies and nearly half of all small private companies rely on outside PR/marketing counsel.
In selecting a public relations firm with which to work, however, companies would do well to remember three words: Hold the fluff.
In media parlance, “fluff” is the term for the flowery language and effusive frippery in which some publicists drown their copy. Rather than simply stating the facts and letting their client’s product or project speak for itself, some PR reps seem to believe that applying a thick coating of hyperbole to their prose will catch the eye of that jaded reporter and score their client a primo placement.
In reality, the response they’re more likely to get is “Please remove me from your distribution list.”
Few things can torpedo a successful product launch or announcement as swiftly as a press release that’s light on substance and heavy on fluff.
Here’s an excerpt from an actual press release recently posted on PR.com. The topic: A wedding dress designed for a dog. Here, the press release’s author quotes the designer describing the artistic inspiration for his canine couture (warning: reading the following may cause dizziness, confusion and possibly diabetes):
“Mia’s dress was my vision of a futuristic queen…Coming from a far away frozen land so cold, that people live in the underground cities made of crystals and diamonds. Kind and pure at heart, they live peacefully and stay secluded from the rest of the world. Artistic and proud people, they enjoy life by surrounding themselves with beauty. Art, music and fashion shape their society. Crystal sculptures are scattered throughout the cities, music is made with the resonance of crystals and can be heard softly in the streets. Their sense of fashion is pure, with crisp lines and soft fabric that is sometimes adorned with crystals and pearls, made of ice that is mined in the depths of the ice caves. As humbled people, they have lived in peace, secluded for centuries.”
Did I mention this is a press release about a wedding dress for a dog?
Today’s media landscape has changed. Media outlets are staffed leanly — and with a 24-hour news cycle to feed, reporters and editors simply don’t have the time to sift through press releases to find the actual news (if any) hidden amid the hyperbole. The best way to increase the chances of your release getting picked up, therefore, is to work with a public relations firm that will help build your company’s credibility by sharing actual news, not fluff.
Does it pass the fluff test?
To see if your PR firm’s press release passes the fluff test, read through the draft and ask yourself:
Is it simple?
Pretend you’re Dragnet’s Joe Friday: Does the release offer “Just the facts, ma’am”? Does it use quotes from your CEO or key spokesperson to explain the significance of those facts? And can those statements be supported with hard data if needed?
Is it brief?
Short copy sells. Unless the topic is extremely complex, your PR firm should aim to keep your release to a page and a half or less. Keeping copy short will leave less room for fluff.
Is it accurate?
A good press release shouldn’t exaggerate. Avoid claiming your product is the “best,” the “most amazing” or “one of a kind.” Over-the-top adjectives and superlatives are an immediate red flag to reporters and editors, and they damage your organization’s credibility.
To learn more about crafting effective press releases, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.