Why is PR writing so atrocious?

PR consultants continue to churn out unreadable press releases. Will it ever stop?

Every once in a while I’ll sit down with a jug of Jack Daniels and a bottle of Advil and dig through old press releases to see if PR agencies have learned how to write.

Of course you know the answer. Was it ever in doubt? Bad writing among PR agencies is the one thing in this world we can count on. Ice caps may melt. Sunnis and Shia may one day make peace. But PR agencies will continue to bill their hapless clients for thousands of press releases that no one on the planet could possibly comprehend.

PR writing is so horribly consistent that agencies even have a template for it. It goes something like this:

name of company, the leading solutions provider for the name of industry announces the appointment, purchase of, merger, etc of name of another company, the leading provider of name of product or service

The template also offers a column of buzzwords for these college grads to use when pumping out press releases. You simply highlight the word with your cursor, hit “enter” and the word is inserted into various spots throughout the release. The column includes all of the old standbys, including our friends “Thought Leadership” (in all caps of course); “connectivity,” “global,” “forward thinking,” “vision,” “strategic,” and “influencers.”

There is a reason for the template, of course. None of the kids hired by the agencies and billed out at $150 an hour have the slightest idea what they’re writing about. They don’t understand the product or the client. They have no background in the industry, and they never learned how to write in college.

Let’s take a look at this press release from Ruder Finn to see if it follows the above template.

CHICAGO, Jan. 7 /PRNewswire/ — Ruder Finn, Inc., a leading independent full-service global communications agency, today announced that it has been appointed global PR agency for Alterian, plc—the leading global enterprise marketing platform provider.

Of course the template is there in all of its glory, as it is with six out of 10 press releases I came across during my whiskey-aided research.

So here’s my question: Why do corporations continue to hire these agencies? Why do they continue to waste hundreds of thousands of dollars on releases that no reporter will ever read, no media outlet will ever pick up? Is there no one at the client office that sees what we see?

Please explain this to us. And while you’re at it, we’re collecting a list of new buzzwords to add to the template. We’d love to see your contributions.


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