The Silent Killer in Press Releases

For journalists, typos are instant turn-offs in press releases and other PR and marketing materials. But there is a silent killer, one that can really hurt a journalist who is a little too trusting. And if that journalist gets burned by this silent killer, she or he will exact a price against the PR person who sent the release, and against the brand with which it was associated.

The silent killer: factual errors.

I'm betting most journalists have experienced the pain of having written the name of a company, company executive or description of a product or service exactly as it appeared in a press release, only to find out after publication that the CEO's name was spelled incorrectly, or that the words in a company's name were transposed or that the features of a product or service are just plain wrong.

The ultimate responsibility is with the journalist and the media brand to do their own fact-checking. But after the journalist swears at himself for failing to fact-check his own copy, he's going to look at the press release he worked from and, if that's the source of the factual errors, well, don't bother sending any more releases to or pitching that journalist.

A few fact-checking tips for PR pros:

  1. Check with your client or a senior leader in your organization for the correct spelling and form of a company's name. Don't rely on your own Web site—frequently companies use different forms and spellings on their own sites.

  2. Contact executives directly for their most recent job title. That's also a good way to get the correct spelling of the exec's name.

  3. For a new product or service, ask more than one person in the organization for the correct name and for an accurate description. You may find that there is no consensus on either.

  4. Don't rely on previous press releases or marketing materials for your fact-checking. You may be passing on a legacy of errors.

  5. Bookmark It's the dictionary journalists use. You should use it, too.

Follow Steve Goldstein: @SGoldsteinAI

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About Steve Goldstein

Steve Goldstein is editorial director for Access Intelligence’s PR News brand, which encompasses premium, how-to content, data and competitive intelligence for public relations professionals; PR News Online; PR News conferences, webinars and awards programs; and PR News guidebooks. Previously at AI Steve was editorial director of min, min ’s b2b and minonline as well as managing editor of CableFAX: The Magazine and CableWorld. Before joining Access Intelligence, he was executive editor of World Screen News, and editor of Film/Tape World, which covered film, television and commercial production in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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