No exaggerating. No boasting. And definitely no swearing!
So what’s good for bros is bad for business. That’s the message major banks are passing on to employees regarding the language of their internal and external communications.
These rules seem like common sense for most professionals, and should in theory be standard practice for those that make a living in the communications sector. Yet some PR professionals are still guilty of lacing their messages with a little too much exaggeration and hyperbole.
Pitches are a prime example. Often, phrases like “first of its kind”, “top of the line” and “industry-leading” get attached to things that aren’t necessarily so. Ideas and individuals are labeled as “revolutionary”, “game-changing” and “ahead of its time” in an effort to inflate their appeal.
Unlike ‘Fabulous Fab’ or other stars of the financial soap opera, PR hyperbole is more a symptom. Rock solid PR professionals will sell a story idea with the same zeal that their trader brethren will sell a hot stock. They have strong belief in their clients’ ideas and products, want to do right by them, and deliver the media coverage that will help them succeed.
Trouble is, the media are paid to dig up the truth, as now-jobless currency traders learned the hard way. When a journalist realizes that a mountain of a pitch is a mere molehill, the offending PR’s credibility sinks in their eyes. Their reputation as a ‘flack’ – the stereotype that every PR professional encounters – is confirmed.
In extreme cases, it can lead to a ‘boy who cried wolf’ type scenario, where a journalist may disregard a good story because it comes from a bad PR who burned them before.
Not every story idea will scintillate. But there’s a reason why a journalist is getting an idea in the first place, right? Be upfront about those reasons, rather than hiding them under layers of inflated language. Explain why the pitch is right for them, link back to previous related stories, mention their beat and make the connection.
Likewise, if the link is tenuous, admit it. In an age of incessant hype, honesty can prove surprisingly refreshing. It certainly stands out in a sea of hyped-up pitches. More often than not, the recipient will appreciate that you’re not trying to pull a fast one.
When in doubt, save the braggadocio for the bros, and you might just get more high-fives from colleagues, journalists and clients along the way.