Somehow, the cannabis industry commits the most egregious grammar and style errors in paid press releases distributed over PR newswires. The following from a vaping company is remarkable in its amateurishness and misunderstanding of what’s news. Take a look.
Vaping crisis: Journalists encouraged to keep asking tough questions during vaping crisis
Essential lesson: Several basic and fundamental mistakes: repeating the same phrase in a headline (and in such a small space). Also, a headline is supposed to encourage readers by summarizing the entire idea in just a few words. ‘Journalists encourage’ isn’t a bad thought but who is encouraging them? It would be much better to say:
Leading vaping company encourages journalists to keep asking tough questions during vaping crisis
TORONTO, Sept. 24, 2019 /CNW/ – DashVapes Inc., Canada’s largest independently owned e-cigarette company, is concerned about the recent spread of misinformation and the holding back of accurate and important information in regard to recent vaping-related illnesses and deaths, in Canada and the USA.
This happens to be one of the most poorly written and least newsworthy releases in some time. ‘Is concerned about the recent spread of misinformation’ is apparently the news peg, even though the headline encourages journalists ‘to ask tough questions.’ A basic ‘How to Be a Better Press Release Writer (title of upcoming book) rule is to link the headline with the lead. One thought should follow and amplify the other. In this case, these two thoughts have no link.
The real news comes in the quote: ‘We ask all stakeholders in the vaping industry to make sure they fully answer media questions,” said DashVapes President Shai Bekman — that would link the lead and headline.
Now back to the writing: the lead and follow up quote are confusing and don’t rise to the level of a first-year PR student. Some commentary about why I said that even though in and edited version, this lead would never survive. It is in face uneditable. But a few points:
DashVapes Inc., Canada’s largest independently owned e-cigarette company, is concerned about the recent spread of misinformation and the holding back of accurate and important information in regard to recent vaping-related illnesses and deaths, in Canada and the USA.
Look at this: ‘about the recent spread of misinformation and the holding back of accurate and important information,’ again repeating the same words in one sentence, as occurred with the headline. How about:
‘Spreading misinformation by holding back accurate facts.’
Then: in regard to recent vaping-related illnesses and deaths, in Canada and the USA.
How about simply ‘regarding’ instead of ‘in regard to.’ Then ‘in Canada and in the USA,’ a basic error. The country south of the border is the U.S. in PR writing the ‘of America’ is unnecessary.
To add insult to injury, here is my nomination for the worst PR quote of the year or at least the latest #PRfail. And companies pay to have these distributed!
“Further, we ask all stakeholders and public health agencies to not mislead the media, similarly to what has been done by the Middlesex-London Health Unit; and through them, mislead the Canadian public, health and marketing regulators, government officials, people who vape, and importantly, the families and friends of vapers who worry, based on current negative news coverage,” said Mr. Bekman.
What is wrong?
• It repeats the idea of not misleading the media
• Accuses some other Health Unit (with a passive voice) of misleading the media and the public, a real PR no-no, without any citation of what its sin was.
• The quote itself should be broken up, with the company president cited in the middle.
• It’s one 57-word sentence, with incorrect punctuation. The semi colon should link two independent thoughts. A new sentence should start there.
A quote should amplify the story, add something to it, not bring up some other direction, not only with an accusation but also an unproved assumption. Someone just needed to vent in this but a news release certainly isn’t the place for that.