PR Drivel: There's a Better Way to Communicate with Your Stakeholders

by Jill Foster on April 29, 2009


Guest post from Mayra Ruiz-McPherson, regular guest contributor to Women Grow Business. Mayra works as an independent marketing strategist and social media enthusiast. With over 14 years of marketing and communications experience, Mayra helps businesses and non-profits with all aspects of their brand identity, outreach communications, and competitive positioning. She produces the blog Marketing Misfit and can be reached at www.twitter.com/marketingMisfit.

The old ways of ‘PR speak’ are gone
As Sawhorse Media CEO Greg Galant wrote recently:

Top executives for decades have delegated the essential task of communicating to PR professionals. I don’t know if it’s the fault of the PR people, the lawyers, or the management, but the voice of many corporations has lost its humanity. Few people respond well to the carefully-crafted and jargon-packed messages they receive from corporations, especially during a time like this when once seemingly stable brands can collapse overnight.

And how true this is.

The new and improved PR voice of today is far more human than its distant cousin — a.k.a. PR b.s. Telling a story in corporate jargon will get companies nowhere these days. But if your tone is earthier, friendlier, and more “common” than formal, your outreach efforts will be more well received than not. Why? Simply, people want simplicity. They want the truth. And they don’t want to sort through all the fluff and stuff PR people tend to dish out.

Some examples:
Galant has a great PR B.S. example in his recent PRWeek article How Twitter saved public relations from PR. What follows below is a blurb he lifted directly from the General Electric (GE) web site:

GE has a strong set of global businesses in infrastructure, finance and media aligned to meet today’s needs, including the demand for global infrastructure; growing and changing demographics that need access to healthcare, finance, and information and entertainment; and environmental technologies.

Now seriously, folks, who really talks like this?
Galant poses the same question. It’s PR B.S. alphabet soup. The words are so fluffy, all one can do is wonder about the beef (hint: there is none). Clearly, the substance GE meant to convey here is lost. Period. Sadly, GE is far from alone in its use of this type of PR lingo. Countless of other companies do the PR babble dance like it’s nobody’s business. The end result? Nobody can understand what said business is trying to communicate.

In stark contrast to GE’s PR jargon, we have 12seconds.tv — a web site which allows users to provide video updates of themselves within 12 seconds of video clip per update. 12seconds’ site content provides us with quite the effective contrast to GE’s PR jargon approach. Here’s a small snippet of copy from their About Us page:

Who is 12seconds?
12seconds was conceived and developed by a small team of nerds mostly from Santa Cruz, CA. 12seconds is a side project and is funded by burritos.
Email us anytime. We love you. info@12seconds.tv For press or media inquiries please contact our buddy: david@stagetwoconsulting.com.
Get some 12seconds gear! All proceeds go to burritos and bandwidth. Thanks!

OK, I know what you are thinking.
Who talks like this, right?!? Well, what if I told you more people would respond to this kind of PR ‘voice’ than the GE babble? I don’t think most people would be surprised. No matter if you find this kind of informality to be appropriate or not, it seems to resonate more than not [with consumers].
Some senior management folks understandably may not feel too comfortable with such a way of communicating but the reality is stark and clear:

PR babble is disconnected and ineffective.

Referring to Galant again:

The human touch is needed again in business to build trust with customers and shareholders.

I couldn’t agree more.

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