What do journalists find the most annoying about PR people? The answer could be long or short, depending on who you talk to, but judging from some recent stories about poor communications practices, ridiculous PR speak in press releases appears high on the list.
Freelance journalist and blogger Stuart Dredge wrote an article where he lists irrelevant and standardized press releases “sent without any thought as to whether it’s appropriate or not.” Robin Wauters from TechCrunch wrote an article stating that no matter what company press releases come from, they contain meaningless words and “basically all look alike.”
These comments most likely stem from the fact that journalists like Dredge and Wauters have come across one too many press releases that read something like this:
This seamlessly integrated product is a revolutionary masterpiece that is second to none. Not only does it provide an intuitive user interface, but it is also full of the best leading edge ingredients that make it the ultimate end-to-end consumer experience. For more information about this innovative new product, contact…
Does this look familiar?
Have you ever had to translate something like this from English to Finnish? Not the easiest thing to do is it? After all, if you translate the text word-for-word, the outcome would be even more incomprehensible then it is in its current form.
Over the years, I’ve heard numerous complaints from fellow communicators about how difficult it can be to translate content, including press releases, from English to Finnish. Why don’t you just say what you mean? Why do you have to use so many adjectives, journalists will decide for themselves if the product or service is a ‘revolutionary masterpiece?’
So how do we prevent ourselves from falling into the annoying communications practice above?
We should take a lesson from the Finnish communications style and get to the point.
In the article “It’s Just Different”: Emotions and Observations about Finnish and English, University of Helsinki lecturer Elizabeth Peterson interviewed native Finnish speakers asking ‘what they perceive to be the major differences in the ways they express themselves in both languages.’
– I think that in Finnish we go straight to the point. In English you have all these words that might make it softer, but they don’t mean anything, commented one Finnish woman.
True, the English language does have a very rich vocabulary whereas ‘soft’ words are minimal in the Finnish language. Although Finnish words are lengthy in comparison to English words, by the end of the translation process, the Finnish text is often much shorter than its English equivalent because the process has effectively cut-out the ‘soft’ words.
So, let’s do our journalist friends a favour and be more Finnish when communicating in English. Then, the next time we send them a press release, they just might thank us.