In the most recent ‘From the Chair’ WGMW Chairman Roberts commented on the quality, or lack of it, evident in many press releases. 

This prompted a comment from veteran, one-time Vauxhall PR supremo Andrew Andersz about the press release training provided by the Ford press office of the 1980s.

He mentioned the word count, the structure and content but missed one very important point – the headline. 

I’ve seen many headlines that have more content than the subsequent press release and many more that are too long and say nothing of note. Occasionally you will come across a clever headline, either by design or by default that you have to read twice, maybe more, to determine exactly what message is being communicated.

This is where the dark art, the ‘smoke and mirrors’ of PR if you like, comes to the fore.

Sometimes it is just one word in the wrong place that leads to an assumption or interpretation that is not supported by the facts.

The latest example of this is the Volvo story last week that hit the headlines, some front pages of the national press and TV and radio news bulletins. The headline on the lead, front page story of The Times was ‘Volvo signals end of road for diesel and petrol cars’, and in the business section of the Daily Telegraph, ‘End of road for fuel as Volvo goes all-electric’. 

 It is easy to understand why this was written when you consider that the headline of the Volvo press release was ‘Volvo Cars to go all electric’, when in truth and to reflect the facts, the press release should have read ‘Volvo Cars all to go electric’. The position of the word ‘all’ made the difference.

Devious, ‘smoke and mirrors’ or just smart use of words for maximum effect? It probably doesn’t matter to Volvo because the subsequent coverage more than justified the means. 

Captain Pugwash

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