Stupid Press Release

It pays to check your work. And double check your work. Sometimes even triple checking your work isn’t a bad thing.

Earlier this week a friend e-mailed me about a press release that had gone out to some industry folks. But if you scrolled down past the normal release hype, you could see behind the veil and into the innerworkings of the industry. The press release had been sent with the entire e-mail exchange about how to wordsmith the release, along with the original release at the bottom. Oops.

Big time oops. I was tempted to blog all the juicy details (actually dared by the aforementioned friend), but I thought better of it. Instead I e-mailed the offending party, and he or she asked me not to blog about it. So for the sake of that peron’s job, I’m leaving out the incriminating details.

But in the long wrong they’re not that incriminating. It was a mistake, something that could have been disasterous. But the e-mail exchange was actually rather harmless, and if anything shows the company’s commitment to honesty and straight forward communication.

But how do you appropriately deal with a mistake like that?

As far as I can tell, the company involved and the publicist are probably going to publically ignore the misstep and hope it goes away. In this case that’s probably a wise move. Sending another release would just draw attention to the mistake. If anything the publicist is worried about his or her job–though that’s speculation on my part. I have no idea what kind of relationship the company and publicist have. At the least he or she is worried about his or her relationship.

What I thought was interesting is that a blog would have been an ideal way to handle a situation like this. Blogs are build on honesty and clarity, and I think if the publicist or company had a blog, this would be an ideal situation to diffuse on the blog.

The release happened to give an inside look into what goes on in the industry, namely how a press release is edited. A blog would be a perfect place to talk about that process and talk about everyone’s commitment to getting the word out, but also making sure the release is true and honest, not overly hyped or misleading. Sure somebody made a mistake, but why not take the opportunity to tell people a little more and further interest them. After all, exposure is exposure.

Of course this all assumes said company is honest in their dealings. If the e-mail exchange had been about manipulating numbers or covering up facts, then a blog couldn’t save you.

So I see three potential lessons from this snafu:

  1. Check your work. Always check your work. Especially anything that goes out to lots of people. If your job would be on the line, considering having someone else check your work as well.
  2. Blogs are an honest way to communicate with people. Use them.
  3. Be honest. Sometimes stuff happens and private converations become public. If you’ve got nothing to hide, then you’ve got nothing to fear.

One thought on “Stupid Press Release”

  1. At the newspaper where I work, we don’t use Microsoft Word — even though the vast majority of e-mailed press releases are sent out as Word documents rather than simply typed or pasted into the body of the e-mail.

    At various times, we’ve used Microsoft Works or open-source alternatives like AbiWord or Open Office to read Word files. They normally do a pretty good job, but sometimes there are format errors.

    At one point, we got several e-mailed Word documents where the translation had a strange side effect — when we opened the document in the non-Word word processor, it clearly showed revisions which had been made in the document, such as when a standard boilerplate release needed to be edited for each specific newspaper or situation. For example, you’d see the phrase (INSERT NAME OF STUDENT HERE) and then, right next to it, you’d see the name of the student.

    I never saw anything really embarassing in any of these documents, but the potential was certainly there.

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