I spend a lot of my time telling anyone that wants to listen that PR Agencies do a lot more, and are a great deal more skilled, than simply being a batch of people that spend their days writing press releases and then sending them off to a group of friendly journalists who are so delighted to receive them that they immediately place them onto the front page of their own particular newspaper..... yes, I kid you not, that is what, I am afraid, the general perception is amongst non-PR/marketing people.
For an agency such as JWA, that works mainly for international companies, the job is even more skilled as (a) we usually have to produce press releases in at least two languages (and Czech into English and vice versa is not easy!) and (b) there is still a feeling amongst foreign companies that if we have 'contacts', we can 'persuade' the journalists to publish whatever it is we produce (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). Not so.
We pride ourselves on having really good writers, in both English and Czech, but sometimes that is a bit of a rod for my own back, as the writing and checking of the English is normally done by me (as a native English speaker and reasonable writer); my record, I think, is writing 26 press releases in one day..... can anyone beat that!! But sometimes having good writers doesn't really make much difference, as many of our clients will send us what they themselves have written and ask us just to translate it and then get it out there. And that is what has kicked off this blog today; a completely insane press release that has been written by a non-native English speaker, in English, with nothing to even generate a flicker of the eyelid from a journalist, but that is expected to stay as it is, be translated and then get onto the front page.
Life in a PR agency can be very difficult when this happens! So what do we tell clients if they want to write something themselves.. and what do I tell my staff when they are preparing releases for their clients:
* Think of a press release as a news release; is it really 'newsy'?
* Find the most interesting bit of the story and put it into the headline and the opening paragraph
* Use a quote or two from someone local - not the boss the other side of the world that is, in most cases, meanningless to the media here
* Attach some pictures and images, but only if the file stays small!
* Don't forget to include your contact details (no, not a joke!)
* Try and keep to one page if at all possible!
And then.. well.. it all becomes very easy.. or does it! I might expand on that some other time!