Every industry has its buzzwords, and PR is no exception. To help you decode PR jargon, we’ve compiled a list of words and phrases you may come across.
Typically, you would come across the phrase ‘down the line’ while arranging interviews. Easily misinterpreted to mean ‘at a further, later, or unspecified point’, when used in an interview context, ‘down the line’ usually refers to the way the interview is conducted, not when. Whether it’s pre-recorded on the telephone, or live in the studio through an earpiece, ‘down the line’ interviews are carried out remotely.
To agree or not to agree to down-the-line interviews is a topic of heated debate. Earlier this year, Sainsbury’s CEO, Mike Coupe, was caught off-guard singing ‘We’re in the Money’ in the moments prior to his down-the-line interview after news reached him that his company was to merge with rival supermarket, ASDA. Not realising that the cameras were already rolling, the business tycoon apologised to the public once ITV released the footage, saying: “This was an unguarded moment trying to compose myself before a TV interview. It was an unfortunate choice of song, from the musical 42nd Street, which I saw last year, and I apologise if I have offended anyone.”
Similarly, ex-minister, Nicky Morgan, received considerable backlash following one of her down-the-line interviews, with people taking to social media to comment on her appearance. In response to these unforgiving trolls, Ms Morgan has revealed that she now refuses BBC interviews as studios make her look ‘ugly’. When commenting on this decision, Ms Morgan said: “Sky’s a bit better but BBC Millbank – you sit there in a kind of small cupboard with a camera pointing straight at you. It is deeply unflattering in how you look, and actually that’s why I now don’t go and do TV from regional offices because – particularly at Nottingham – they get you to perch on a little chair, bright lights, really unflattering and then I just get a whole load of social abuse afterwards about how ugly I am. So actually why would I set myself up for that thank you very much so again I’m going to ask for the camera to come and find me.”
But are down-the-line interviews really that bad? While mastering them can be tricky, they do have their benefits, the main one being convenience. Is the radio station or TV studio too far away? Is the interview on a tight-deadline? For one reason or another, attending a live interview isn’t always possible. Remote interviews are perfect for such scenarios, ensuring that interview opportunities are never missed.
Not to be confused with an author bio, a byline is the ‘line at the beginning of a news story, magazine article, or book giving the writer’s name’. In addition to crediting the author for their work, a byline adds value and credibility to a piece of copy by demonstrating the authority and experience of the writer.
Contrary to what you might expect, this phrase has nothing to do with the exchange of money for a story. In order to get an article placed, a PR representative will ‘sell in’ or pitch the story to the editor or journalist of the chosen publication.
Each year, the number of UK start-ups rise to record levels. Since the beginning of 2018 alone, over 475,885 new businesses have been launched (StartUp Britain). With competition rife, the demand for considered and impactful PR has never been higher. But how easy is it to ‘sell in’ a story to the media? The answer: pretty darn difficult. Predominantly considered to be one of a PR professional’s most daunting and demanding tasks, pitching a story to the media requires determination, planning, and resilience. Acting as the critical intermediary between hopeful client and time-pressured journalist, a news pitch could, and usually does, involve one or more of the following tasks:
For some of the do’s and don’ts of PR pitching, check out @SmugJourno, a Twitter account dedicated to highlighting journalists’ top gripes.
A boilerplate is a short piece of text found at the bottom of a press release. This short paragraph should be approached in a similar way to an ‘about us’ section: it should briefly describe the company or organisation mentioned within the body of the release, highlighting its mission, biggest accomplishments, and any pertinent statistics.
As a starter for ten, a great boilerplate should:
The Royal British Legion‘s boilerplate is a perfect example of how it should be done:
The Royal British Legion’s work is encapsulated in its motto: Live On – to the memory of the fallen and the future of the living. The Legion is the nation’s biggest Armed Forces charity providing care and support to all members of the British Armed Forces past and present and their families. The Legion champions Remembrance and safeguards the Military Covenant between the nation and its Armed Forces. It is well known for the annual Poppy Appeal, and its emblem the red poppy. www.britishlegion.org.uk.
If a press release has been embargoed, it should not be shared with the public earlier than the exact date and time agreed between the source and the chosen media outlet. Typically, a PR person would embargo a release for one of the following reasons:
It is good practice to begin every press release with one of the following annotations written in bold:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
EMBARGOED UNTIL (desired date and time)
In this way, it is immediately obvious to the journalist whether the press release is ready to run immediately, or whether an embargo needs to be agreed. Whatever happens, do not assume that simply writing ‘embargoed’ on a release means that it is. For an embargo to be honoured, both parties must discuss and agree to it.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts to keep news under wraps, things happen and stories slip out. Take the 2017 Great British Bake Off debacle for example (The Independent). Despite the obvious embargo, hours before the final aired in the UK, judge Prue Leith revealed the winner on social media, tweeting ‘No one told me judging a #gbbo final would be so emotional. I wanted them all to win. Bravo Sophie.’ Realising the gravity of her mistake, Prue quickly deleted the tweet and apologised to the fans, blaming different time zones for the error.
Have you come across any other communication conundrums? If you’ve ever been bamboozled by PR vocab, contact Progeny and we’ll provide you with jargon-free advice.