Tuesday, June 2, 2009

How To Write A Cheerful Press Release

(it's good! we're good! everything's good!)

Every so often, I am called upon to write some positive copy about a not-so-positive development. Being a perky, positive person for the most part (except when I write about politics), I kind of enjoy these challenges.

Let's say a financial institution sends a request like this:

"Need an article informing customers that we are closing all of our offices except one. That one will be open only two days a week. Hopefully we will be able to keep the electricity on. Give it a positive slant, please."

No problem! I sit down and rattle off a positive, cheery article:

As part of our constant quest for efficient, friendly service, we are excited to announce that we will soon be consolidating our office space into one convenient location. No more wondering which branch to visit! We'll be right here to serve you, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 to 1. And remember! Our online banking service is ALWAYS open! How great is that??

This morning I found an excellent example of this type of writing. It's a press release issued by GM, announcing some recent exciting changes. I will review a few actual, un-edited excerpts for you, explaining the basic steps of writing a press release and demonstrating the value of a good copywriter in the process.

Step 1: Write a catchy, positive headline

Note from the client: "Oh my god, we're going bankrupt."

Headline from copywriter:

Step 2: Write an introductory paragraph with lots of upbeat, positive words strung together in a row.

Note from the client: We are laying off thousands of people, closing plants, and scrapping entire divisions. GM as we know it is over.

Introductory paragraph from copywriter:
GM today announced that it has reached agreements ... to accelerate its reinvention and create a leaner, stronger 'New GM' positioned for a profitable, self-sustaining and competitive future.

Step 3: If you have to use a word with a negative connotation, bury it in gobbledy-gook or turn it into something positive. Or both.

Note from the client: Don't mention the "b" word.

Words used by copywriter:
New GM ... leaner ... distinct advantages ... stronger balance sheet ... significantly lower debt burden ... winning financial results ... voluntary petitions for relief ... smooth transition ... defining moment ... opportunity to reinvent our business ... court-supervised process ...

I could go on and on. This press release is full of rosy little phrases like this! I love it! Whoever wrote it is a genius! (and no, it wasn't me.) I have a new copywriting hero, whoever they are.

Great job.

And best of luck, 'New GM.' I hope the court-supervised reinvention of your leaner, stronger, more profitable company goes well.

I really do.



chicamom85 said...

That was a wonderful read, thank you. My husband works for Ford(thank God) and so far is safe. As a Michigander the whole GM thing makes me sad.


Lesley said...

Yes, as a former Michigander it makes me sad too. Hopefully the restructuring will be successful and they will emerge better than ever!

MzzLily said...

I notice that kind of thing... spin.

Hubby and I live on our GM pensions. Pray for us. That's a big incentive to finish this book!

You are very talented. I'm glad I found your blog. I'll learn from you.

Lesley said...

Lily, I always look for the "spin" too - the GM press release really was a remarkable piece of writing! Made me dizzy just reading it. I do hope things work out for you guys and the other GM retirees. You're in such a tough spot - the control is really out of your hands, isn't it?

Fran Hill said...

Brilliant! I love these languagey blog posts. That's if 'languagey' is even a word. Ha! Irony!


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