Why good business writing matters

It’s still something that winds people up – and some of you have listed it as being among the most annoying aspects of living in Britain today. ‘It’ is bad grammar, and earlier this year respondents to a poll of 700 people cited it among the top 12 moans about life in the UK.

Granted, public transport, UKIP party leader Nigel Farage and snow ranked even higher in the survey, which was published by Metro newspaper. But it is good to see that sloppy English is still something that irks the public. Why should it matter?

The standards of many things have risen dramatically in recently years; so would it not put you off if a company (or organisation) can’t be bothered to communicate properly?

Think about it – if their website is poorly written and full of spelling mistakes, what does that say about the actual goods and services they supply?

If press releases they send to the media miss the main ‘newsworthy’ point and have other important information buried down the page, why should journalists be bothered to cover their stories?

And if a company’s social media feeds are full of unintelligible ‘youth-speak’, I would give them a miss and take my business elsewhere. Somewhere that talks to me in plain, simple English.

Content is certainly king these days, but part of that content should always be well-written words, in

Clear, simple writing always helps
It helps if your business writing is in clear, simple English – and easy to read!

a clear, simple style. Contact me for advice on helping make your business writing crystal clear.

  • What was the most irritating thing about life according to respondents to the poll? Self-service checkouts in supermarkets.
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In the picture: What to look for with PR photography

I am turning to some essentials for good PR and press photography in my latest blog.

This is a topic I hear virtually no discussion about in PR circles these days, but good photography is still important and a great photo can help persuade a journalist to include your story.

Having been the editor of a business to business magazine, I am surprised by a few photos still sometimes submitted for editorial use.

The landscape shifted away from film to digital a long time ago and today, there is much emphasis on providing compelling digital content – including images – for all kinds of audiences.

As a consequence of the digital revolution, many of us have access to digital cameras (often good ones), and smart phones can increasingly take better pictures. However, the person behind the camera and how he/she handles their subject remains important.

Any images supplied to a publication or editorial website for inclusion need to do justice both to the media outlet itself, and the organisation that sends them.

Here are some basic tips for commissioning, taking and supplying images:

  • Make sure photography is supplied in both high resolution (at 300 dpi – while bearing in the mind the final size the photo will be reproduced at) and low resolution (80 dpi) versions, the latter for websites. The former is essential for the printed media to ensure clarity when reproduced. Again, there is often now less emphasis on high resolution shots, given the popularity of digital media platforms
  • If possible, brief a professional photographer to take your pictures, especially if they are to accompany an important press release or media story. Write a clear brief in advance explaining exactly what story the image should tell, who should be on the picture and what style of photography is desired
  • Get the shots done in advance of when the press release or feature needs to be issued so you have time to make the best choice. Offer the media a small range of choices when it comes to images, or even the best single picture – journalists are busy and won’t have time to spend looking through a plethora of pictures. Provide accurate, clear captions for each picture (and yes, these are still missing sometimes)
  • If your story is very newsworthy, call your target media in advance and see if one of their staff photographers (or a trusted freelancer) will come to take some pictures instead of supplying your own. Have a clear idea in mind before contacting newspapers and magazines about the who/what/when/where and why for the photo beforehand. Often, an interesting, well-composed group shot showing some people – or a person – with a key involvement in the story is enough. There is no need to be too contrived when setting up photo opportunities. Try to give some notice before arranging such a ‘photo call’ so the media can accommodate this in their diaries
  • If you must take the picture yourself, go for a nice simple shot against a plain background using an SLR camera. Avoid the pitfalls like taking a picture of a group of people in front of a large window or other reflective surface!
  • When sending pictures out to the media to accompany a news release or feature, I am inclined not to include attachments with emails. Ideally, you can upload a small selection of images to a website where the media can view them via a link and make their choices. Journalists have pretty full inboxes and usually won’t welcome more big files clogging them up

All pretty basic photographic stuff. But it’s surprising how many low resolution Facebook style images (fine for social media, but most probably unusable for a quality printed publication) or shots of the back of people’s heads in a meeting are sometimes considered acceptable for journalistic consumption.