Monday, September 12, 2011

Mashable's Todd Wasserman wants to kill the word "excited" in press releases.

If executive quotes are the black hole of press releases, then their repetitive choice of words is the big cosmic shovel that digs them down there.

Mashable's business and marketing editor Todd Wasserman decided the world needs to be rid of unimaginative quotes in press releases. After being on the receiving end of probably thousands of these numbing missives, Wasserman decided to launch a Tumblr blog called Everyone's Excited In Press Releases as sort of a tribute and warning. He posts actual quotes from current press releases, linking back to their original location.

Let's face it -- if you weren't "excited" about the new partnership, acquisition or new hire you are announcing, would you be issuing a press release in the first place? In my opinion, and what seems to be the overriding view of many journalists, nobody cares if you're excited, happy, doing cartwheels, or breaking into song. The news is the thing.

In January, 2009, I wrote on this blog about the words "excited," "thrilled" and "honored": "It is the duty of every public relations professional who is called upon to conjure quotes for executives to remove these three words from their vocabulary immediately.

This habit is far worse than buying Aramis cologne for your dad's birthday 30 years in a row. He can impress his neighbors at Boca Vista Village in Florida and wash it off at the end of the day, but your name is stuck on that press release forever."

What I love and depresses me at the same time about Todd's new Tumblr blog is that it takes a veteran journalist to mock the non-stop follies of one annoying, lazy inanity that many publicists and executives can't seem to shake out of their systems.

I interviewed Todd about his new side project:

Q: What gave you the idea to turn this into a Tumblr? Was there a breaking point?

Todd: Yes. Netflix's Sept. 5 press release about moving to Latin America included CEO Reed Hastings' quote: "We are excited to be bringing Netflix to Latin America and the Caribbean." I thought "That's it. I can't let this go on anymore."

Q: Why do you think quotes in press releases are so lame?

Todd: Because they have to be approved by 19 different people. The best quotes are off the cuff and when people aren't 100% aware of what they're saying, sort of like the subconscious mind speaking. A quote that's been worked over by everyone in the legal department is the opposite of that.

Q: What can be done to prevent lame quotes in press releases?

Todd: Either don't put one in, which is fine, or only put one in when the quote is actually funny or adds something to the announcement.

Q: Will you encompass other bogus quote words such as "honored" and "thrilled," or will those be other Tumblr blogs?

Todd: Actually, someone pointed out to me that the word "leading" is used much more than "excited," but excited seems to be especially funny to me because adding the quote "I'm so excited" actually seems to drain the announcement of any excitement at all. So no, though I am interested in starting a "taglines in quotes" blog that will feature stuff like "Suffolk County's leader in HVAC since 1988."

Q: How will you know if your Tumblr blog is effective?

The day I can search PR Newswire and Business Wire and not see a quote about being excited, I'll know it's done it's job.

Q: Have you heard from any of the people who wrote those press release you posted? If so, what did they say?

I heard from one woman who said "Guilty as charged," meaning she'd used that quote in the past. I'd like to hear from others. It's no different than if I used a cliche in a story and someone pointed it out. It's constructive criticism.

Q: Vote for lamest quote in a press release?

If we're dealing with "excited" quotes, I think it gets lamer if you add qualifiers like "extremely" and such. Otherwise, really bad puns would probably make the cut, like if someone got a job at Chevy and said they really hoped to "rev sales" or something along those lines.

Q: If a publicist is forced by gunpoint to write a quote for an executive, or if an executive insists they give a quote in a release, what would be your advice to prevent them from sounding like a cliche?

Todd: I'd ask them how they would explain what happened to their wife or friend outside the business. Then I'd find a new job where they don't use guns at work.

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