Handbags at dawn. Or how NOT to write a press release/publicity pitch.

During the course of any given workday, my electronic inbox fills up with numerous press releases and pitches from marketing types and publicists, all hoping that I might be able to find space somewhere in my writing to mention whatever they (or their clients) might be selling. Most are rubbish, and get sent straight to junk. This one I felt was worthy of a wider audience.

Tips for those producing such press releases (this means you Katherine Niefeld of blinkpr.com offering “specialized services that guide and support our passionate clients through powerful branding and social networking strategies” blah blah blah)

1. Know your target. My name is not Teresa. My name has never been Teresa. My name is Richard. Any email sent to me that begins “Hi Teresa…” is probably not even going to get read, let alone acted upon.

2. Know your market. I’ve written thousands of articles in way too many years in journalism, but absolutely none of them have ever been about handbags, handbag designs/designers, “handbag heaven”, holiday gift guides, fashionistas (whatever they are) or anything remotely related. I have no idea why purveyors of such would think I was a suitable recipient of such a pitch.

3. Grammar, spelling, punctuation etc count. Regardless of the content, if you send me a press release without apostrophes when they’re needed (its instead of it’s) and include them when they’re not (fashionista’s instead of fashionistas) then it looks to me like it’s been written by the office junior. If you don’t care enough to write your press release properly, why should I care about publicising your product?

4. Cut the cr*p. Phraseology such as “handbag heaven”, “online mecca” and “handbag fairy godmother” get the bullsh*t bell ringing loudly. I know you have to at least try to be creative, but please…

Now I’m not claiming to be a perfect writer. I’ve made plenty of humiliating gaffes during my career, many of which have made it into print. And far be it for me to criticise anybody else who gets paid professionally for their words. But this kind of thing makes me bristle. Still, at least it got my attention!