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  • Diana Schneidman

PR copy isn’t what it used to be but maybe that’s OK

Recently I have been writing media releases for corporate clients and I’ve have gotten in touch (again!) with an important development in business writing that permeates all types of communications, especially press releases but extending far beyond.

Wordsmithing is no longer important.

Back when I worked on press releases as a full-time corporate employee, writing a press release or similar corporate positioning piece was a big deal. Copy would go from individual to individual, from department to department, as we negotiated word-by-word decisions. Then the final product was a stiff, but “perfect,” document that would be distributed in multiple channels but always with identical copy.

One feature of these releases was a quotation from the head honcho. This restated the primary message in different words and augmented a just-the-facts lead.

Though framed in quotation marks, the quotation didn’t really sound like something anyone would say in real life. Like in the National Enquirer when a starlet allegedly tells a blabbermouth friend that “we are deeply in love and are happier than we have ever been.”

Today with the dominance of the Internet over print, what’s important is much different.

Media releases (that is, releases for all media rather than print alone) and similar pieces are posted on multiple sites—press release sites, blogs, LinkedIn groups, article directories and more—with the intent of posting multiple versions to impress Google.

Over-thinking is kind of silly when varied editions will be produced, whether mechanically (by spinning software) or as rewrites by humans.

Of course a little copy may stand unchanged in each version, such as slogans, mission statements, certain facts and whatnot.

But what would have required long meetings and even outside consultants in the past is a moot point if the point of contemporary written communications is variety.

Do we meet customer expectations or do we please customers or do we delight customers?

Is our new program an innovation or an update?

And changing an active verb to a passive verb is a handy solution, whether grammarians like it or not.

Originally posted 2-1-11

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