Friday, July 9, 2010

Book Review: In My Humble Opinion by Tom Foremski

I’m currently reading Tom Foremski’s book – In My Humble Opinion.

The company I work with has a good relationship with Tom and I’ve been well acquainted with his work and writing style. He’s the first person to leave a high profile newspaper (The Financial Times) and start full-time blogging.

As a young PR professional Tom’s book has been very very helpful. He discusses his experiences in the Silicon Valley and proposes some very interesting new ideas to the way traditional PR is done.

For example: Press Releases. Tom discusses the tedious process (not to mention hundreds of dollars) that goes into press releases. From the first draft, to the last draft to the approvals from the company’s attorneys – press releases are tedious.

While I agree that press releases are tedious, I think they’re necessary to some degree. When I worked for the Purdue newspaper, The Exponent, we were very attentive to all the press releases the university put out. We were able to understand what the University thought was important and write accordingly. As an independent school newspaper we were able to choose what we wrote about and sometimes we didn’t even discuss trivial releases the University announced. However, the fact that we had access to them and knew what was going on was helpful.

The book poses an alternative for press releases that are amazingly endearing. The following keeps the good and does away with the square style of the traditional release.

The alternative proposal to press releases:

“Deconstruct the press release into special sections and tag the information so that as apublisher, I [Tom] can pre-assemble some of the news story and make the information useful.”

In detail, Tom suggests that a brief description of what the announcement is be provided but the spin of the story be left to the creative energy of the journalist. Since journalists will apply their own spin to the story anyways why bother including a spin I the press release?

Some other suggestions include:
• Provide a page of quotes…
o From CEOs
o From customers
o From analystis
• Provide financial information in different formats
• Provide links inside the press release copy
• TAG everything so journalists can pre-assemble stories

I think the reason press releases are sent out is to gain media attention and clearly “release” the information to the press (and public, of course). I do think packaging up information so that journalists don’t have to sift through junk would make their lives easier, which is clearly something any PR professional wants to do (especially when garnering coverage!).

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