Posts Tagged ‘hype’

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.

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.

Weighing In on the Taco Bell Drive Thru Diet – A Belly Laugh or Two

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Worked for me!

Posted by Krista Rogers

Among the top New Year’s resolutions are pledges about weight loss and exercise, so it is no surprise that when January rolls around we are besieged with gym and health-food advertisements. Ironically, as awareness of unhealthy transfats and the American obesity pandemic grows along with our waistlines, the fast food restaurants that have been guilty of clogging our arteries for years are now tooting their healthy-choices horn louder than ever. This makes sense from a marketing standpoint. People want healthier options, so it’s smart to truthfully highlight the healthier menu items. What doesn’t make sense is when a popular fast food chain tries to convince a nation that their “Drive-Thru Diet” is a weight loss secret. (more…)

PR News Release Words to Live By (Not!) in 2010

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Jargon for the Ages

Posted by Tom Gable

We entered 2010 with the banished words for the year from Lake Superior State University, an impressive list full of toxic assets that were shovel-ready for burial. To build on this fine start, we thought it would be instructive to offer a quick historical perspective on words most hated by the media in PR news releases.

Some words such as solutions must get dropped into news releases almost unconsciously, somewhat of a verbal tic. Lazy writers sprinkle their releases with jargon rather than striving to develop well-crafted, creative and compelling ideas that capture the personality of the company, its points of differentiation and the defining factors of its offering. Instead, they issue something that sounds like a majority of news releases going out over the wires each day. A test: redact the company name, send to colleagues in other markets and see if they can identify the company. (more…)

Banished Word List for 2010 – Just a Start!

Monday, January 4th, 2010
Jabberwocky landing

Jabberwocky landing

Posted by Tom Gable

Lake Superior State University recently released its annual Banished Words List. First started in 1975, the list is culled from tens of thousands of nominations and includes the best of the worst from marketing, media, education, technology, politics and more.

Interested in contributing? Check their alphabetical complete list first. For the 2010 list, including comments from various sources, read on:

SHOVEL-READY — A cadaver? Potted plant? Suggestion: a project ready to implement.

TRANSPARENT/TRANSPARENCY — Cynics say it means politically invisible. (more…)

PR Releases Packed with Leaders Providing Solutions

Thursday, November 5th, 2009
It's about style

It's about style


Posted by Tom Gable

In looking for new content for a speech on jargon later this month, we set up news trackers to see how all the leaders of the world were doing in providing seamless, end-to-end, leading edge, next generation, turnkey solutions to whatever niche they serve. Amazingly, the results mirror those from the first similar survey a decade ago and five subsequent tracking surveys. Every other release on Business Wire and PR Newswire comes from a leader and most of them are selling solutions, rather than specific products or well-defined services.

David Meerman Scott in his Gobbledygook surveys and others, including yours truly, have written about this extensively. For this exercise, we’ve pulled a few choice clauses from PR news releases and company boilerplates and inserted below without attribution. Since they are all leaders, instant name identification should be easy. We do identify one company, because it deserves recognition for hitting the Trifecta, incorporating three great terms disliked by most media into its boilerplate: leading provider, seamless solutions and performance-driven.

The Trifecta!

AccountNet is a leading solutions and professional services provider focused on the financial and government sectors. AccountNet creates performance-driven, seamless solutions that add considerable value, and utilizes proven system-integration methodologies and expertise to help clients capitalize on their existing infrastructures successfully and cost effectively

Whew. What are they selling?

Now, on to more leaders in many niches, with a few comments for the good of the order. And if you can identify any of these, post a comment. The person identifying the most leaders will get an Amazon gift certificate for buying reference books on style, grammar and the new world of PR.

  • the world’s leading provider of high-quality lenticular large format and custom-printed plastics
  • creates performance-driven, seamless solutions that add considerable value (the daily double)
  • (the company) goal is to be an end-to-end service provider to its customers by furnishing customized and integrated “turn-key” solutions
  • a leading provider of affordable easy-to-use enterprise-class systems management software as a service
  • an industry-leading provider of end-to-end web hosting services (they could be seamless, too!)
  • an impressive suite of proprietary products and services to create seamless solutions that meet each client’s highly specific needs (meeting unspecific needs wouldn’t work that well)
  • leading provider of email traffic shaping software (my email is in bad shape; I could use a seamless solution from these guys to get it into shape)
  • a leading provider of electronic engines for the optically connected digital world (would love to know more about this niche!)
  • the nation’s leading provider of cleaner electricity and carbon offset solutions (wonder if the leader in dirty electricity can use some PR help)
  • the leading provider of turnkey virtual communications and virtual office solutions (we could use some real solutions)
  • world’s leading provider of WiMAX™ and wireless broadband solutions
  • a leading provider of advanced font products
  • a leading provider of hip-hop ring tones and mobile content (probably a crowded market where leadership is critical to success)

The Sequenom Case: In Crisis PR, No-Hype and No-Spin Should Prevail

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Posted by Tom Gable

Can authentic no-spin PR, even in a crisis, help a company maintain a semblance of credibility, protect its reputation on the downside and set a vision for the future that even supports its stock price?

Sequenom Inc. in San Diego won’t know. On Monday, it issued a news release via PR Newswire with the headline: “SEQUENOM Announces Completion of Independent Investigation.”

The lead paragraph:

SAN DIEGO, Sept. 28 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — SEQUENOM, Inc. (Nasdaq: SQNM) today announced the completion of the independent investigation by a special committee of independent directors related to the test data and results for the company’s noninvasive prenatal test for Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome). The independent counsel engaged by the special committee interviewed over 40 witnesses and reviewed over 300,000 documents and emails.

Okay, so what’s the issue? Buried in the fourth paragraph is the bottom line of the investigation:

The company has terminated the employment of its president and chief executive officer, Harry Stylli, Ph.D., and its senior vice president of research and development…obtained the resignation of its chief financial officer…and one other officer… (and) also terminated the employment of three other employees. While each of these officers and employees has denied wrongdoing, the special committee’s investigation has raised serious concerns, resulting in a loss of confidence by the independent members of the company’s board of directors in the personnel involved.

How did the news media play it? Here are the headlines and first paragraphs from stories in the San Diego Daily Transcript, San Diego Union-Tribune and Xcomony.

Sequenom fires CEO and others after investigation (SDDT)

Sequenom Inc. says it fired its CEO and its research chief following an investigation into the mishandling of test results for its Down syndrome blood test. A total of four executives and three other employees were terminated or resigned, the company says.

… Sequenom said Harry Hixson Jr., 71, a member of its own board and a former president and chief operating officer of Amgen Inc. (Nasdaq: AMGN), will take over as interim CEO. Another board member, Ronald Lindsay, 61, will be interim CFO, and controller Justin File, 39, will be the principal financial and accounting officer.

…Sequenom’s (Nasdaq: SQNM) SEQureDx test, which screened maternal blood to discover Down syndrome in fetuses, was on track to reach the market in June until the company disclosed in late April that study data had been “mishandled” by employees. That made the data unreliable and lead to delays, hammering the San Diego company’s stock price.

Sequenom ousts CEO, other execs (Union-Tribune)

The San Diego biotechnology company Sequenom said yesterday that it has ousted its CEO and several other executives after an investigation into the mishandling of study data.

The discovery of the data problems in April led the company to postpone the launch of the test and to suspend four research and development employees. The test remains on hold, though the company has not disclosed specifically what went wrong…Now the company says the public should not rely on any of its previously announced data for the test, and it is not disclosing a timetable for development of eventual commercialization.

Sequenom Shares Tank After Executives Ousted Over Data Mishandling (Xconomy)

Sequenom shares plummeted 44 percent today in after-hours trading after the San Diego-based company said it has ousted CEO Harry Stylli and its head of R&D in the wake of an investigation into mishandling of data for its prenatal genetic test for Down Syndrome.

Sequenom shares fell $2.50, or 44 percent, to $3.20 in after-hours trading after the conference call. That’s a painful free fall for investors who bought last year on the enthusiastic news about Sequenom’s test, which drove shares up to $27.76 the day after the original announcement on Sept. 23, 2008.

How could this have been played differently by the company, to perhaps better results? One has to avoid the attempt to try short-term spin and think strategically about rebuilding credibility and creating a foundation to recover long-term reputation and valuation.

On positioning for the future, Hixson has impeccable credentials and credibility. During a conference call, he said the company is instituting new disclosure controls and procedures on all fronts, launching training in ethics and scientific processes and adding a new science committee on the company’s board of directors to oversee its research and development strategy and activities – definitely a positive direction.

The company said the data problems appeared to be confined to the Down syndrome program. It recently launched a separate test to identify parents with increased risk of having babies with cystic fibrosis, so is not a one-compound wonder, as happens with many biotech companies. The cystic fibrosis data, handled by a different unit than the one handling the Down syndrome data, has been validated by outside third-party collaborators. In addition, Hixson said the company still believes it has a valid approach to the detection of Down syndrome through genetic analysis of maternal blood. He said the company hopes to maintain its collaboration with Oxford University researcher Dennis Lo, who licensed his intellectual property to Sequenom for developing and commercializing its prenatal test.

He told the media that he and Lindsay were currently in the midst of strategic planning for the coming year and setting new priorities, with more to come as they get into it.

“We are determined to emerge from this experience stronger,” Hixson told the media.

What could have Sequenom done differently? One approach is to like a news organization rather than an attorney. How will the news be played? Then, be aggressive and pro-active in telling its story and making a few major points:

  • Sequenom has completed an independent investigation of issues involving the mishandling of data and release of results that were not accurate
  • As a result, the board has fired its CEO and removed others in top management and units involved with the mishandling
  • The company and its technology are sound Harry Hixson, former president of Amgen and a board member, is taking over and has announced plans to move forward aggressively in correcting internal issues while also continuing to pursue important research
  • The mishandled data related only to the Down syndrome studies and not to a promising study in identifying parents whose children could be prone to cystic fibrosis
  • The new Sequenom team will be doing all it can going forward to rebuild trust in the company, its people and the promise of its technology and research

Admittedly, there are issues with an ongoing SEC investigation and the raft of class action law suits that will follow, requiring some legal scrutiny of all communications and news releases. But being more candid from the outset and NOT burying the news in the fourth paragraph would probably have enhanced company credibility, started rebuilding trust and shored up the confidence of some investors by setting a vision for future change and, perhaps, success.

Great coverage, fatal PR? The Algae-Fueled Hypemobile Rolls On

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

Tricked out Hypemobile

Tricked out Hypemobile

Posted by Tom Gable

Gable PR works with several renewable energy clients, participate in clean tech and other organizations and our teams are always watching for good news on advances in technology that can help wean our world from its addiction to foreign oil.

Last week, our news trackers picked up the announcement of what appeared to be a great concept – a cross-country tour to promote the use of algae as a source for fuel to power automobiles. This could create what some PR professionals refer to as “rolling thunder,” where you launch something and watch the results roll across the country making big noise at every stop, with awareness and reputation building accordingly.

Unfortunately, this particular trip may be producing an ill-wind along the way (some cynics might use more descriptive and colorful terms). To start you on the journey, here are the first two paragraphs of the news release announcing the tour from the Sapphire Energy Web site:

“Veggie Van Organization and the FUEL Movie to Unveil the Algaeus”

Los Angeles, CA (August 27, 2009) – Green Fuel is real fuel as the Algaeus, the world’s first plug-in hybrid vehicle to cross the country on fuel containing a blend of algae-based renewable gasoline, hits the road to celebrate the launch of the award-winning film FUEL. Sponsored by the Veggie Van Organization, the eco-aggressive, 10-day cross country tour features a caravan of high technology ‘green’ vehicles, led by the groundbreaking Algaeus, which is fueled by Sapphire Energy. The tour kicks off on September 8 in San Francisco and culminates in New York City on September 18 to celebrate the nationwide premiere of FUEL, the movie that inspires green energy solutions such as those demonstrated on the tour.

Sundance Film Festival Winning Director of “FUEL” and Founder/Co-Director of Veggie Van Organization, Josh Tickell, says of the big news, “What better way to show that the energy solutions we have been waiting for are here than driving the world’s first algae fuel powered, 150 mile per gallon, plug-in-electric hybrid vehicle across America to celebrate the opening of a movie about a new green economy.”

What better way, indeed, until one starts probing into the facts of the case and the details of the car, a converted plug-in Prius; the deal is 95 percent hype and 5 percent reality.

The hype: using just 25 gallons of fuel to cross the country in the hybrid electric vehicle with just 5 percent of that algae-based fuel, or 1.25 gallons. The trek started with the unveiling of the car in San Francisco on September 8. For the 1.25 gallons, Tickell and his FUEL promotion team and Sapphire Energy achieved incredible media mileage, garnering attention from environmental bloggers, television and print media. Then, critical comments started popping up on multiple renewable energy Web sites and blogs. Here are a few highlights:

  • Well it’s not getting across the country by algae; it’s getting 5% of the way across the country by algae.
  • I suppose a publicity stunt is what is needed, but there are a lot of deceptive words in the press release…Because of the ethanol mandate, it could have more corn ethanol than algae fuel, yet it’s touted as being powered by algae…Why not call it the Cornius?
  • The car could probably succeed on 5 percent Mazola oil or recycled cooking oil from the McDonald’s deep fryers along the way. Does this really prove anything scientifically? It’s just a promotion from the Fuel movie and the media are going along for the ride.
  • So, a plug in hybrid, that utilizes a 5% algae gasoline mix will go coast-to-coast on only 25 gallons of fuel! So, what that means is that this vehicle and this publicity stunt, will be running mostly off of plug in power and good old fashioned gasoline. What that means kids, is that, the primary fuel being used for this little escapade is gasoline! 23.75 gallons of it, to be exact. The secondary fuel will be coal! Coal fired power plants will generate electricity which this vehicle will steal from hotels across the nation.
  • 0.5 gallons of algae fuel per tankful. At that rate, you could put that much water and an emulsifier in the tank and claim that the car runs on water!
  • The economy comes from the fact that it is a P-HEV, not from the fact it runs on algae ethanol…The overwhelming majority of the energy for this trip comes from oil based gasoline and electricity from a high carbon grid. Still fuel efficient, no contest there, but (it is) no more efficient or exciting as any other P-HEV on the road, except for the paint job. GREENWASHING!!!
  • If they’re going to use just 5% algae in the fuel, fine — but then they shouldn’t claim that the car is “powered by green crude” and paint a big “powered by ALGAE” sign on the side.
  • We need real green tech, not phony marketing ploys. This stunt could do more to discredit green technology than promote it. Some people will look at this, find out the truth, and conclude that biofuels are a hoax. Sad, because biofuels are actually a good idea that just hasn’t quite arrived yet.
  • I like the comment about substituting the algae fuel for the same amount of water and you call the car the Aqua-us!
  • How stupid do these PR brats think the public is? This…is all about drumming money out of gullible investors along the way, not about saving energy or the planet.
  • Seems to me that the Josh Tickell polluting the green movement are the reason that any viable “green fuel solution” is still well beyond the horizon…It would be real interesting to hear T. Boone Pickens’ take on this cross-country charade.

For further details, check the sponsoring Veggie Van organization Web site, which almost looks like a put-on. Its mission is “to facilitate the transition from fossil fuel use toward a new green economy by educating people about sustainable energy and providing them with appropriate pathways for integrating sustainable energy into homes, schools, communities, cities, states and ultimately nations.” The main vehicle for doing this (other than the colorful and media-friendly vehicles in its fleet) will be “to create a green curriculum that is nationally accredited for K-12 and to make available, free of charge, a 35 minute educational version of ‘FUEL’ to every school in the United States.”

The bottom line: generating more promotion for the movie and not much action in supporting the somewhat fuzzy mission statement. It will be interesting to see how the media react when the Hypemobile arrives in New York City on Sept. 18 for the theatrical launch and press event.

Paying for Intern Positions; Poor PR Practices

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Huffington Post Auctions Away Internship Position for More than $13,000

Posted by Krista Rogers

Despite the common phrase that is often said to justify a blunder, all press is NOT good press. In an obvious effort to grab attention, The Huffington Post decided to hold an auction on for a two to three month internship in NYC or D.C. Requirements include the applicant be at least 18 years old and have some serious extra dough to spend.

Now while the second caveat is not clearly stated in the auction regulations, the current bid for the short term internship is $13,000 with a minimum next bid of $15,500. And you thought your unpaid internship set you back!

Initially, it doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. Since the money raised will be donated to The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights charity, paying for a job almost seems justified. However, the HuffPost has had celebrity contributors including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Norman Mailer and John Cusack. They also reportedly raised over $25 million in seed money so it is hard to swallow the idea that a mere $13,000 written from a student’s trust fund is going to make a significant impact.

The issue of an aspiring journalist who wants to work for an American liberal news website and has the money to “jumpstart their career in the blogosphere,” is not what we are here to discuss. That is already generating enough negative feedback among critical bloggers and journalists. The question we want to answer is “what to do with PR backlash and how to prevent it?”

PR backlash results from poor research and poor planning. Why did The Huffington Post choose to go down the auction avenue as an effort to drive readers to their site? A lot of the negative feedback they have received questions the logic of the auction. The plan is flawed to the core because the obvious winner and future intern for the HuffPo is not going to be the most driven, qualified or intelligent journalist but instead the person with the biggest checkbook balance.

While I condone inventiveness and the ability to take the road less traveled, it is more important to consider motivation and target audience before executing a plan for media attention. So no, not all press is good press. Ironically, the Huffington Post Seems to Agree.

Storytelling in a Crisis: Dog Bites Lion or Lion Bites Dog?

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

mountainlionPosted by Erin Koch

In a crisis, the story that is told (and repeated and believed) is often NOT the most accurate story, but rather the most compelling story. This has huge implications for the health of a business.

Take the story of Hoagie (a beloved family dog) and a mountain lion. Earlier this month, reports flooded the internet and blogosphere with a heartwarming tale: A family dog named Hoagie (once saved by his owners from being put to sleep) threw himself in front of a charging mountain lion, saving his masters from near-certain bodily harm.

Yet the warm fuzzy tale, according to this piece in the LA Times, is highly unlikely. Mountain lions don’t typically attack humans, particularly when there are two or more people in a group and especially not when there is a dog around. More likely: the family pet saw and chased down the mountain lion (more likely a bobcat) and was injured in the ensuing fight.

Why then did the story of the heroic pet catch on so fast? The answer, obviously, is that it was a story worth telling and retelling.

How can businesses protect themselves from a similarly inaccurate story spreading like wildfire and damaging their reputation, perhaps irreversibly? Having a crisis plan in place is the key. If Gable PR were advising the “Association of Concerned Mountain Lions of Southern California”, our advice would include:

• Identify and highlight key facts early (for example, Hoagie was illegally not on a leash).
• Use statistics to highlight the infrequency of attacks.
• Identify credible experts to testify about your nonconfrontational nature.

What would a similar crisis plan look like for your business? Which key facts would you highlight? Which statistics would you use? Which experts would be ready to testify on your behalf? Are you ready for the dog to attack?

Photo by DigitalArt2