Even the best PR people can be tripped up by the rise of business gobbledegook in client messaging
THE WORLD’S biggest fish farming company has hit the headlines after announcing a change of name.
But that’s not the mouthful that should be of most interest to PR professionals.
I’m not much bothered that the wholeseome-sounding Marine Harvest will now become the rather vanilla, Mowi. What did catch my attention was that some very capable PR people seem to have carefully and effectively managed the announcement, ensuring it reflects well on the fish farming giant.
The PR success started with an exclusive interview with CEO Alf-Helge Aarskog on BBC Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, and was then followed up with extensive media coverage in the likes of The Scotsman, The Times and a slew of fish farming related publications (aye, there are loads of them).
But didn’t I mention another mouthful? Something that didn’t leave quite such a pleasant after taste as forkful of smoked salmon? Yes indeedy, I did – and it was this howler:
“Through implementing our Mowi branding strategy, we can communicate our integrated value-chain from feed to the consumer’s plate. We are looking forward to announcing our new Mowi product line in the coming months.”
Said no-one. Ever. Yet this god-awful quote has been attributed to the otherwise very articulate Alf-Helge Aarskog. Worse, it’s been lifted from the press release and been repeated in a number of publications, some you’d really hope would know better.
When I was a jobbing journo a wise old sub-editor let me into the secret of the “say test”. Quotes simply aren’t credible or believable when they read like this. For the simple reason that it’s nigh on impossible to *actually* say them out loud.
Highlighting this one example makes me a hostage to fortune. I know my own agency has dropped similar fugly quotes in media releases. I may even have been responsible for a few myself.
That’s because over-earnest PR people sometimes get carried away. While us PR folk are supposed to be on guard against this sort of stuff, the truth is that even the best of us let our guard down occasionally. However, slip-ups are becoming more and more commonplace for two main reasons:
ONE – Corporate jargon is a plague. And it’s getting worse. Indeed, there’s a relentless push from clients, marketing managers, bean counters, corporate lawyers and sundry others to make business people sound like bulls**t-spouting automatons reading from the company brochure. PR people can push back, but it’s not unusual for clients to insist that a certain quote – no matter how awkward – is included in a media release. Urgh.
TWO – With many news outlets – both print and online – operating with grievously depleted staff numbers, another check and balance has been weakened. Unsayable, trite, marketing guff that once would have been weeded out is now appearing in print. That removes a major incentive for PR people to carefully shape client quotes, rather than trotting out the contents of the marketing brochures.
Right. Rant over. Everyone loves PR-bashing and I’m sure there will be plenty of folk only too happy to flag up similar, egregious examples that have offended their eyes. No doubt plenty of them will be from me or the team here at Holyrood PR 😀
But let’s get them all out there. Please share your examples in the comments – and who knows, we might even start to make a difference…