The art of the press release

Writing press releases is a discipline, one with its own rules and conventions. Take, for example, two press releases related to Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film.

Here’s a passage from the November press release where Eon Productions, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Sony Corp. officially announced the new 007 film would be called Skyfall:

“We’re so delighted to have Sam Mendes direct SKYFALL and be working once again with Daniel Craig. We’ve a great script, an extraordinary cast and an incredibly talented creative team for this latest James Bond adventure,” said (Michael G.) Wilson and (Barbara) Broccoli.

And here’s the Feb. 8 press release where Heineken International announced a product-placement deal with Skyfall:

Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, the SKYFALL producers added: “The level of collaboration with Heineken® is unprecedented. We are excited by the global reach and the creativity that the Heineken® team is able to deliver.”

If you interpreted these quotes literally, then Wilson and Broccoli would be speaking the identical words, either simulaneously or in turn. Either way, it would be a surreal experience to watch.

HEINEKEN REPRESENTATIVE: What do you think, Mr. Wilson?

WILSON: The level of collaboration with Heineken® is unprecedented. We are excited by the global reach and the creativity that the Heineken® team is able to deliver.

HEINEKEN REPRESENTATIVE: And what are your thoughts, Ms. Broccoli?

BROCCOLI: The level of collaboration with Heineken® is unprecedented. We are excited by the global reach and the creativity that the Heineken® team is able to deliver.

Chances are, it probably didn’t happen that way.

With many press releases, the actual quote is drafted by the writer of the press release. The press release is then circulated to those whose names are cited whether they like the quote or not. If they do, it goes out as written. If not, it’s altered until they do approve.

In this case, Wilson and Broccoli are co-heads of Eon Productions, and both the official Skyfall and Heineken release wants to present them as equals. Also, does anyone think the producers actually talk this way?

4 Responses

  1. Point well taken. After some 30 years in public relations/marketing and corporate communications I can tell you that writing is not a skill demanded of the current crop of PR practitioners. What’s worse, their bosses and clients don’t demand excellence because most of them don’t know the difference. Learning how to craft a news release is not much different from learning how to structure a news story. The trick comes in finding the “news” hook for the client to hang their hats on. Don’t lead with the boilerplate, don’t bury the real lead (or lede if you prefer) and remember who your client is and get them into that opening graph, if not the opening sentence. Our profession has become the amateur hour in many respects, even when the companies paying good money for these so-called media relations efforts are as accomplished as Heineken and Eon Productions. Shame on us for not demanding better of ourselves anymore.

  2. “Also, does anyone think the producers actually talk this way?”

    Singing off the same hymn sheet? 😉

  3. Of course the producers talk that way, ergo that is why they have PR personnel to do their talking for them. Simple logic.

  4. […] all sorts of other alcohol beverages. Presumably, this is part of a deal Heinken announced in an awkwardly written press release. Rate this: Like this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

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