Archive for the ‘LAQs’ Category

Curing PR News Releases of Being Overly Thrilled, Excited and Lame

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Words of Wisdom

Posted by Tom Gable

Ann Wylie, veteran communications and writing consultant, recently posted a fun piece on “I’m so excited — Executives are in a tizzy over their announcements.”

Ann wrote: “Have you noticed how excited corporate spokespeople are these days? And if not excited, how pleased, proud and delighted they are? Some are even thrilled.”

She conducted research on Business Wire releases issued during one 30-day period and found 1,284 releases using “pleased,” 1,007 releases using “excited,” 782 releases using “proud,” 401 releases using “thrilled,” and 378 releases using “delighted.”

She goes beyond the data to provide recommendations on solving the problems.  Check here for details and useful ideas.

http://freewritingtips.wyliecomm.com/

The sad thing is that the trends to being overly excited and writing Lame Ass Quotes (LAQs) aren’t new.  We’ve been tracking the trend for decades at Gable PR, blogged about it, written about it and spoken about it at various PRSA conferences.

Here are links to a few earlier posts and stories, with examples you might find helpful in honing your writing and advising clients when their levels of excitement might be beyond the pale.

Companies and PR Firms: Thrilled, Excited With Just About Everything

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Posted by Tom Gable

As covered here recently, we are fortunate to live in a country filled with leading providers of just about anything. We should never have to settle for anything from the trailing provider category (Although we know of some CEOs who could actually agree to be positioned as a leading provider in the bottom 10 percent of the market).

Adding to the folly: many were “very excited” or “thrilled” to be making their announcements of anything from hiring a new sales manager for the adult diaper category, to bulking up a law firm’s litigation practice to reaching the half-way mark in recruiting candidates for a clinical trial (“We are thrilled to have reached the halfway point for enrollment in our XYZ trial…”). Imagine how thrilled they will be when they complete enrollment, conduct the trials and report results.

One dictionary defined thrilled as: feeling intense pleasurable excitement. And excited: being in a state of excitement; emotionally aroused; stirred. We are thrilled to report that use of these phrases fits into a category defined by the media as LAQs (or Lame Ass Quotes), which are usually found in the second or third paragraph of LARs (Lame Ass Releases), a growing category.

Gable PR research into news releases issued through PR Newswire and Business Wire in the past quarter turned up from 200 to 300 thrilled or excited companies a month from each service. The most common crime against clear communications: announcing a new hire. The CEO is always ecstatic because he or she has found someone that actually fit the job description (“So I am excited that Trisha (name changed) is joining our team and will lead Customer Operations. She brings a tremendous amount of telecommunications experience, a proven history of success and her energy and leadership will be invaluable.”).

A bank in California was very excited to be reporting its first profitable month after 26 months of operation. Imagine the thrills if they have a profitable quarter or, shudder, a full year in the black. Neighbors will probably call in the riot police and vice squad to quell the celebration.

CEOs, senior managers and deal makers with lazy PR people as unindicted coconspirators must lead largely dull lives when they become excited and thrilled about:

  • Adding a new vice president of sales in bathroom products.
  • Forging a strategic alliance in selling annuities.
  • Introducing a new software package that provides endless seamless solutions (this is another category to be covered later).
  • A new research collaboration to reduce toxicity in new drug compounds (picture the PhDs and M.D.s in their lab coats giving each other chest bumps and high-fives to celebrate the agreement).
  • Finishing shooting a TV commercial on psoriasis relief (…”we captured excellent footage and are very excited to move forward into post production.”). Look for a rash of press conferences to celebrate actual airing of the commercial.
  • Hiring a new vice president whose appointment “will enable us to build on our current successes and advance our position as a leading edge provider of solutions to the DEF market.”
  • Joining a company to do the job outlined by the recruiter (“I am very excited to be joining the team at MNO to help develop our new service offering that will enable companies and organizations with large market distribution networks to provide their customers with our PQR services.”
  • Launching a new Web site for an Indian casino, designed with “guests in mind” (one would hope). “We are very excited about our new eye-catching website… designed to provide an exciting, up-to-date gallery of all of our entertainment options and is dedicated to keeping our guests informed of every aspect of our fun-filled products” (Can we assume that previously the guests were largely uninformed?).
  • Rebranding a company (“We are very excited to give the company a new name. NAME is a culmination of the deep enthusiasm, energy and experience that we have for our industry, our clients and our community”).

The list could go on ad infinitum (or ad nauseum as the case may be). In future editions, we plan on arousing some senses by including the company and agency names of the leading providers of PR thrills and excitement. Stay tuned.

 

PR Jargon Train Keeps Rolling and Gaining Speed

Friday, April 17th, 2009

Posted by Tom Gable

David Meerman Scott analyzed 711,123 press releases distributed during 2008 by North American companies through Business Wire, Marketwire, GlobeNewswire, and PR Newswire. He filtered for 325 gobbledygook phrases and issued a report. The top 10: innovate, pleased to, unique, focused on, leading provider, commitment, partnership, new and improved, leverage, and 120 percent.

He did the same survey in 2006 and the top 10: next generation, flexible, robust, world class, scalable, easy to use, cutting edge, well positioned, mission critical, and market leading.

Amazingly, stamping out jargon and gobbledygook in news releases is kind of like going after hardier strains of cockroaches. In a post on April 14, we cited the bad buzz words identified by Inc. magazine and listed the words our research among major media had turned up as most offensive some five years ago. They were: solutions, leading, leading provider, leading edge, cutting edge, seamless, state-of-the-art, best-of-breed, robust, end-to-end, first mover, customer-centric, mission critical, turnkey.

I pulled out earlier research from 2001 when we had a web site called jargonfreeweb.com and a “Jargonator” program for analyzing the jargon content of news releases and ranking the news value on a 1 to 5 scale (from bottom of the bird cage to NYT and WSJ quality). At that time, the words most despised by the media were very close to the 2004 research but in a different order: solutions, first-mover, customer-centric, leading, leading provider, seamless, leading edge, cutting edge, end-to-end, mission critical, best-of-breed, robust, world class and scalable.

Scott’s list also included phrases that should be exorcised from news releases forever — “pleased to” and “proud to” – because they always introduce a self-serving quote written in corporate speak (labeled by some media as LAQs, or lame-ass quotes): To his list we would add “I’m excited to.”

Here is a sample LAQ from an actual news release:

“I am extremely excited to have XYZ join ABC’s technology team. His extensive experience in wireless communications and his deep passion for technology will enable ABC to reach new heights as the company continues to develop future generations of the world’s only complete end-to-end solution for wireless LAN monitoring and intrusion detection and prevention,” according to DEF, president and CEO. (Not only does no human being speak that way but you could have fun thinking about the between-the-line implications: “XYZ’s predecessor had terminal ennui and distaste for technology that kept us stuck at the same level for years.”). For more on LAQs, link here to “Looking Foolish With Lame Ass Quotes.”

The jargon train keeps rolling. New generations of PR people and companies enter the fray, all fresh-cheeked, eager and lacking in sophistication or imagination. They pick up where the previous generations left off and start touting leading edge, best-of-breed seamless solutions. Perhaps with more coverage by Inc. and additional national media, research by David Meerman Scott and involvement of other proselytes, the PR profession can derail the jargon train and soar into the future on the wings of well-crafted communications and authentic counsel.

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Nine Ways to Insure Your News Doesn’t Get Through

Monday, March 16th, 2009

Wondering why your news isn’t getting through?  In some cases, it may be DOA (dead on arrival) and you may never have had the benefit of a crime scene investigation (CSI) to tell you why, until now.  In surveying former colleagues and friends in the media, we found nine key reasons for failure:

Wrong Outlet – The perpetrator failed to determine the editorial focus, needs and requirements of each target. This often involves having junior people compile lists and fire off news and semi-news willy-nilly without further research (i.e. sending a color mug shot of the new VP marketing at a private start-up to The Wall Street Journal; launching an earnings report from a local company, to the national media, major dailies, Web sites, blogs, television stations and daily newspapers throughout country; or sullying the inboxes of key bloggers with standard corporate news releases).

Wrong Target – Media database and list services aren’t always up to date, so due diligence is required. You can get the outlet right but throw a wild pitch.  Don’t send something addressed simply to the Editor; that’s like home junk mail addressed to “Occupant.” Avoid misdirection such as sending a biotech pitch to the telecom writer or a software story to the city columnist. Phone calls and emails can work wonders in finding the right target and even starting a relationship.

Lame Subject Lines – Media sources cited “See the attached” (with nothing in the message section); “for immediate release”; and anything that includes empty words such as leading, paradigm, synergy, best of breed, solutions and superlatives in general; has an exclamation point (!); or no subject line.

Burying the News – If it’s not in the headline, first paragraph, or both, it’s goodbye. Be brilliant in the first 100 words. Think like an editor.  Simply ask yourself, from an outside point of view: so what and who cares?

Content, of Course – Editors are amazed by how many pitches and releases are crammed with unsubstantiated claims (world leader), superlatives, lack of supporting data, hyperbole, self-serving quotes by the CEO or others, and jargon-laden copy understood by only a few engineers, Ph.D.s or cognoscenti in the business. Is it a good story for your target’s audience?  Does it stand above whatever the competition is doing? Is the story interesting to someone other than the CEO quoted in the story and his or her immediate family?

Obvious Spam – Anything with more than one name or zero names in the “TO:” or “CC:” lines.

Clogging the Pipeline – Not every writer/editor/blogger has high-speed connections or capacity for huge attachments.  Some media limit the size of files accepted by their systems, so you may never get through. Put essential news into the body of the email and offer to provide more information or high-resolution graphics if desired.

Lack of Style – Beyond content, connect with the media in their own news style, which is dictated by the Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual (Perseus Books).  Typical errors: capitalizing every possible title after a name (Joe Smythe, Asst. Vice President of Outside Sales, Lower Echelon Division), leaving out a first or last name of a person cited in the story, or their titles, or both.

Credibility – If you’ve violated any of the eight tenets listed above, you and your organization my find yourself in a “Bozo Filter,” a term coined by major media for filters set up to automatically delete any email from certain companies and agencies based on their previous performance, or lack of same. A similar fate – blacklisting – awaits those who violate some of the written and unwritten laws of the blogosphere.

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Posted by Tom Gable