Monday, November 26, 2007

Brass Tack #7 – Make it easy to copy and paste.

Still on the topic of press releases, this piece of advice may raise a few eyebrows. Many journalists would claim to balk at the idea of copying and pasting phrases from press releases into the text of their articles – well perhaps the odd quotation…

Nevertheless, many PR people would judge it a great success if the text of their press release made it virtually unscathed into the column centimetres. It would be an indicator that the item was well in tune with the style and news-sense of the publication.

Press releases are supposed to make life easier for journalists and it is not a sin of plagiarism if journalists use bits of them in their final stories. That's how it works. (And no, that's not why they call it 'writing copy'!)

So here’s my confession. When I’m writing my regular music column in the Coventry Telegraph, I often start by copying and pasting the best bits of a press release onto a blank page, along with any emailed comments and website information that might come in useful. Then I work on the text, shift bits around, rephrase, add words of my own, edit, check for word length and consistency in style and narrative, make further adjustments - et voila! – an article that has made use of these sources but still stands on its own terms as a piece of, dare I say it, music journalism.

Working this way, especially when I’m up against a tight deadline, makes me feel more kindly disposed to sources who have sent material that is easy to copy and paste – and less kindly disposed to sources who have sent me information on old fashioned pdf files, in tables that have to be converted back to text, or in any other format that slows down the creative process of writing copy.

Here's an example of a news item that was put together (not by me!) from two press releases, both of which were very easy to copy and paste.

Filed under:
media relations       press release      PR sources      journalists      music journalism     Coventry Telegraph

No comments: