Press Release Tips for the WEDC

Let’s assume you’re a troubled, controversial public-private hybrid agency in Wisconsin, like the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. While spending vast sums of public money, you decide to issue a press release announcing taxpayers’ your largesse.

You must know – and hope residents of a small city don’t know — that you’re politically toxic, across the whole political spectrum. For goodness’ sake, a conservative online newspaper from the nationwide Franklin Center is mocking your so-called ‘corporation,’ with lyrics from rap songs:

“Come get money with me, if you curious to see
how it feels to be with a P-I-M-P
Roll in the Benz with me, you could watch TV
From the backseat of my V, I’m a P-I-M-P …
If ever you needed someone, I’m the one you should call
I’ll be there to pick you up, if ever you should fall
If you got problems, I can solve’em, they big or they small”

That’s a damned big PR problem.

So if you’re the WEDC, what should you – in your news release – do or say?

1. Don’t publish the release on the Web, while using the past tense, before the actual ceremony even takes place.

During the Governor’s visit to the Whitewater Innovation Center, the CDA presented Date Check Pro and Got Apps, two area entrepreneurs, the first grants from the fund. The CDA provide both with a $10,000 grant to assist the companies in their business development. Click here to read their stories.

Why shouldn’t you do that? Because a blogger might notice on 2.6.13 that you’d released these words ahead of schedule, might prepare a post in reply that same day, and then follow up on 2.7.13 to ridicule your cheesy, canned press release.

2. When the local university chancellor thanks your organization in that cheesy, canned press release, make sure he gets your name right.

So when he thanks “the Wisconsin Economic Development Council,” you might want to remind him that you’re the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

Remember? You’re suposed to have this sounding like a private deal, and use words like corporation and CEO whenever possible. Yeah, it’s really public money, but can’t you at least try to fool people with a consistent use of deceptive terms?

Someone who holds you so close should at least know your name.

3. Ask those you’re quoting to speak matter-of-factly about their own neighbors.

So, if the city manager you’re quoting says that “[w]e are fortunate in Whitewater to have such a proactive, visionary CDA,’ you might want to remind him that ‘visionary,’ sounds absurd from one local person to another.

Visionary? That’s Jonas Salk, or Dr. King, or maybe even a famous science-fiction writer, like Jules Verne. It’s over-the-top and overdone when used to describe one agency to another in the same small city, in the same state.

It sounds silly, and you just never know if someone might point that out, perhaps even on the Web. One way or another, regardless, you can be sure that any normal people reading that flowery description will be thinking it’s silly.

Whitewater, or Wisconsin, or any American city will always deserve better than these clumsy and awkward attempts to hawk crony capitalism.

Next time, you might want to do better.

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