Have you seen the New York Times article about using “striking words” in your news releases to gain the attention of reporters, especially on slow news days? Oh yes! It’s true. The article, titled “Need Press? Repeat: ‘Green,’ ‘Sex,’ ‘Cancer,’ ‘Secret,’ ‘Fat'” ran last week and quotes, GASP!, PR people who support the notion that if you sensationalize a headline, the story will run in most major publications.

Take, for instance, the example they use about a shower curtain. The headline of the news release was “Toxic Ties to ‘New Shower Curtain Smell’ Evident, According to Latest Laboratory Testing.” Most of the major media ran this story before the Consumer Product Safety Commission could determine the truth behind the stories. Turns out, the story isn’t true, but the PR people (and, quite possibly, the client) probably feel like they did their jobs because the story ran. Who cares that it just isn’t true?

While I agree certain headlines attract attention while others do not, it just isn’t ethical to use sensationalism or spin, or to stretch the truth to secure a story on behalf of our clients.

I’m certain there are some PR people who are very successful in using striking words to gain the attention of a reporter, but they are not representative of most communicators. We live to the highest ethical standards of our industry and use our skills to help a company communicate effectively, internally and externally, and with all stakeholders, honestly and ethically.

Let’s elevate our thinking, people!

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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