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Getting your message across

February, 2020

Sometimes words need to be serious, other times they need to be friendly and relaxed. Erica Jones, account manager at Kent PR and marketing agency Maxim, considers the importance of language when sharing your story.

Have you noticed how sometimes, no matter how interesting the story, you have absolutely no interest in finding out more? It could be that the book you’re reading sends you to sleep, or maybe the film fails to draw you away from your phone, whatever it is you simply cannot bring yourself to make the effort to stick with it.

The reason is often because the style of the narrative isn’t for you. It’s too slow when you want an action film, or the book takes a turn for the soppy when you want modern romance, the same problem can happen in the business world.

The words you choose to share your message can have a huge impact on whether or not it’s actually seen and understood. (The method is also important, but that’s an article for another day.)

Tone of voice

In its simplest form, this really is about deciding your voice in general. Should your words be formal or friendly? And does one style exclude the other? Will it offend your target audience if you start a sentence with an ‘and’? Or will they forgive you because you’re being conversational?

For some of our clients the language used is strictly formal:

Maxim is pleased to announce a new appointment. Erica Jones joins the team after more than a decade in local newspapers.

Whereas for other clients a relaxed approach is preferred:

We’re pleased to introduce our new employee. Erica likes books, beer and cats and joins us after more than 10 years in local papers.

There’s nothing wrong with the language used in either of the above statements, however both are directed at quite different audiences and could make a difference to how the announcement is received. In the case of a new appointment, they could also affect how the subject is perceived: the first example is professional and mature, the second is lighthearted and fluffy. The question is, which version of me will be more reassuring to my clients? The answer depends on the client’s audience.

What’s your angle?

The information being shared and the level of detail included can also have an impact on the reception of the story. Let’s take a different example.

Chris from Maidstone has grown a real-life money tree. Such an achievement could be a pretty big story, but if the press release begins: “A Maidstone resident is celebrating their horticultural success…” it’s unlikely the editor of The Times will read any further, neither will the editors of the majority of Kent’s newspapers and magazines, and as for television or radio – dream on.

If the press release instead begins: “Money really does grow on trees…” it’s likely all those editors will pay a little more attention.

The devil is in the detail

However even then Chris isn’t guaranteed media coverage. The press release could still blow it if the rest of the text fails to convince the editor the story is true.

Yes, that bold opening line gets the journalist’s attention, but if the next few sentences can’t offer some kind of confirmation of fact the press release could still easily be deleted. Equally, should the explanations get bogged down in science there’s a danger of overwhelming the reader and again pushing them away. There’s a fine balance between sharing convincing information and drowning in detail – unless your press release is for a science publication.

Which leads us to our third consideration: variety. Think back to our horticulturalist from Maidstone. Okay, so that first sentence example was a particularly poor one, but if the press release is going to a Maidstone paper, why not highlight the fact the first money tree was grown in the town? Equally, for the wider Kent media, why not let them know about the county’s ground-breaking achievement in money growing?

Essentially, it can almost never be a waste of time or money to produce two, three, four or sometimes more versions of a press release to ensure you use the best and most appropriate language and content for each individual recipient. Sometimes those versions will vary only in the odd word, others they’ll need a complete re-write.

The changeability of the world, politics and weather means there’s no guarantee that any press release will be picked up by the media, but by considering your message and audience you’ll be giving your news the best chance of being noticed. If in doubt, get in touch.

Erica Jones - Account Director

Erica Jones

Maxim / Account Director

posted in: advice, media relations, public relations,

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