March 11, 2010

Ever notice how most CEOs or Marcom VPs are almost always “thrilled, excited, or pleased” when they are quoted in press releases or statements to the media? Of course they never really said those things but someone, usually a PR person, decided that would be the safest route to go. Personally I cannot recall ever having a conversation with one of the many, great executives we work with who’ve said they were thrilled, excited, or pleased about an announcement; after all isn’t such a thing implied by doing a press release? Logic would say if you weren’t happy about whatever IT is, you’d likely not be promoting it. So why are these 3 words used so often in quotes? I think there are 2 possible culprits: laziness and fear. Let’s examine:

FEAR. There is an old saying that goes “No one ever got fired for buying IBM”. What that means is even if IBM products may or may not be the best choice for a particular business, when given a few choices, one being an unknown or BRAND X, and the other being IBM, folks will likely go with IBM. Why? It’s not because IBM products are great (although they do make great stuff) rather it’s a CYA (cover your ass) move in the event that the proverbial shit hits the proverbial fan. “Hey who knew it wouldn’t work? It’s IBM”. Thrilled, excited, and pleased are like buying IBM – safe. No one is going to choke the throat of a PR or marketing executive because they quoted the CEO as being pleased. Please is nice – safe – and so boring.

LAZINESS. Writing quotes is an art. You need to get in the head of the person whom you’re writing and think like they think – or at least think like you’d want them to think. It takes time and courage. Why spend X amount of time working up something interesting or visionary when you can simply have your exec be…excited?

I think it’s time that agencies, PR individuals, and internal (corporate) folks make a pledge to do better on this front. Either that or at least make it work both ways: quote a CEO as saying he’s “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore”. Now that is interesting.


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