The third most common misunderstanding I encounter about PR and the press is the emotive issue of headlines and how a company's news story is reported:
"The article they've written is fine I suppose, but I'm not happy - they haven't used the words we approved in the press release and the headline is completely misleading..."
For newcomers to PR the answer may be a blow, but it's no reason to be downhearted!
A press release is only ever a spring board from which to launch your announcement or news story. Don't spend too long composing it in committee, or over-worry about the words.
Obviously the better written a press release is the more likely it is a journalist will lift from it the key facts and the chairman's pithy, pertinent quote in paragraph two. However, despite all the hard work that goes into getting messages just right and those carefully crafted comments approved, it's never a script that will be printed word for word.
It is extremely rare for the press release headline to be used in the finished article. That's not our fault. Don't shoot the journalists as they don't get to dictate the headlines either.
It's the job of the sub-editor and headline writers working on the production team, because the purpose of a headline is to be an eye-catching graphic device, more part of the page design than about adding lucidity to the actual story beneath.
Headlines are written to be punchy, concise, brutal even - anything to grab your attention and keep you reading. Sub-editors are taught the art of jazzing up mediocre stories and love the opportunity for a pun or two, but there's not much room in a headline for nuances and niceties.
It's a PR dream to have a client's story powerfully or wittily captioned. Even a 'misleading' headline can work in your favour. If it's commercially damaging and utter nonsense there may be cause for complaint and we can probably help. But don't lose sleep over it all.
Instead, enjoy these recent gems I spotted courtesy of the Hold the Front Page Facebook group:
Children Get Shot At Games
New Church Opens On Sunday
Teenager Held For Skipping Trial
Fishermen Almost Swept Out To Sea
Great Tits Cope Well With Warming
and a good one for our industry (which thankfully we never used on a TrustMark story):
Warning Against Doorstep Builders
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If you'll excuse the indulgence, all this talk of headlines brings me on to a celebration of sheer genius... for I can't let the opportunity slip by to revel in the story about the wrecked wind turbine in Lincolnshire earlier this month.
According to Ecotricity's founder and resident blogger Zerocarbonista, the damage was almost certainly the result of materials or maintenance failure (boo). According to the MOD, it was the result of night-time flights by a stealth bomber (scary). According to the Guardian, it was the result of a reporter's family fireworks party (daft). But according to local residents who witnessed strange lights in the sky, it was the sure act of a UFO which had crossed the galaxies to joyride the skies (hoorah!).
And the classic headline (written by the Sun allegedly, although sadly the online story has a much more boring headline of 'UFO Hits Wind Turbine')?
E.T. Farm Harm.