The pithy PR pro: saying everything in a small space
Published on October 9th, 2012 by Renee Sylvestre-Williams
Chances are you’re well-versed in the industry you’re writing about. But there is a possibility your readers will be scratching their heads after they read your in-depth description of virtual desktop infrastructure, Software-as-a-Service, or dynamic random access memory. And if they feel like they’re reading another language, and it drags on, they may tune out. Consider learning about the importance of brevity in a press release, if keeping readers is important to you. It won’t take long, I promise!
Albert Einstein is attributed to the quote, “You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.” (Jarski, 2007) Your writing should reflect this sentiment. You know your field of expertise, now it’s time to break it down for someone who doesn’t. Condensing your writing is one way to make a press release easier to ingest.
A press release is a communication typically directed at members of the news media in order to gain publicity for the company’s products, services, events or any other newsworthy information. Press releases provide journalists with story ideas, but not the whole story. Instead of drowning assignment editors in a sea of industry-specific jargon, do the work for them.
With the Internet at our fingertips, consumers now have as much access to press releases as journalists do because press release distribution is no longer restricted to newsrooms. This is yet another reason to make sure you don’t bore your reader with a long press release or confuse them with the terms of your trade.
With the recipients of your press release being potential clients ranging from members of the general public to industry professionals, your language should cater to everyone. You should not be using a technical term unless it’s necessary to communicate your ideas. Why write “eschew obfuscation” when “avoid confusion” means the same thing? Remember your goal is to clearly deliver the message you wish to spread. Not turn away frustrated readers.
Using the active voice instead of the passive voice is another way to dramatically shorten lengthy press releases. Did you catch the irony in that sentence? With the active voice, action is expressed directly. Had the first sentence in this paragraph been written in the active voice it would have been written like this: “Dramatically shorten lengthy press releases by using the active voice instead of the passive voice.” Note how I eliminated some words this way. It’s simpler and more direct to write “The CEO delivered the speech,” rather than “The speech was delivered by the CEO.”
Your word choices will also make a major impact on shortening sentences. Why “utilize” something when you can “use” it? If you run out of breath when you read your sentences out loud, they’re probably unnecessarily long (or missing punctuation).
After you’ve written a press release that is succinct and to the point, but still feel there is important information to be shared, consider incorporating multimedia options in your final product. Your press release should go beyond just the words and ideas that make it up; do you ever find yourself bee-lining for a picture and reading the caption before you read the actual story? Prepare for your readers to do the same. Provide a video that demonstrates a concept difficult to explain on the page; or add an image of a chart with statistics instead of writing them out in paragraph form.
Always maintain the objective of your press release and you’ll realize that clear, concise writing will help you achieve that goal. We are now living in a society with a continuous 24-hour news cycle and short attention spans. Use this to your advantage — through links, images and videos — instead of writing 2,000 words.
 Jarski, Rosemarie. Words from the Wise: Over 6,000 of the Smartest Things Ever Said. N.p.: Skyhorse, 2007. Print.