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PR peeves

December 22, 2010

The public relations pet peeve of the week goes to Bill Phillips, who writes on his blog:

The new cancer care clinic in Prince George has hired its second oncologist. The press release writers go into full swing. The first quote in the press release is from MLA Shirley Bond, the second is from MLA Pat Bell, the third is from MLA John Rustad, the fourth from Dr. Ronald Chapman … finally someone who actually works in the field. The fourth quote is from someone from the B.C. Cancer Control Agency.

It’s a page-and-a-half press release and, lo and behold, there are no quotes from Dr. Suresh Kattakar, the new oncologist. Guess he’s not important.


It’s almost as if communication isn’t the main goal of these press release writers.

Here’s one rebellious idea that’s been floated to address the problem of the useless “our government has been working to blah blah blah” drivel: When you’re pressed into using a quote from a release, and when that quote is focused on self-promotion, use the word “bragged” rather than “said.”

Because that’s what the politicians who sign off on these releases are doing. And if, as a journalist, you’re going to use a government press release pretty much as is (which is sometimes necessary), adding that one word of truth is the least that can be done.

Does “bragged” connote something negative? Yes. It implies that the person is saying the words to further his or her political aims, rather than to tell the story behind how the project came to be built. If the quote is bragging, then say it.

Your thoughts?

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