Hackneyed phrases to ditch from your press releases

Is your client truly ‘pleased/excited/proud/thrilled/honored/delighted/happy to announce’ anything? Research finds those trite terms in 38% of releases. Here’s how to do better.

I’m not so pleased to announce that “pleased to” has been crowned the most overused “happy” passive verb in press releases.

Marketing data and analytics consulting outfit Trust Insights reviewed 30,996 unique English-language press releases unearthed through Google News/GDELT over nearly nine months this year. Using custom-built software, Trust Insights discovered “pleased to” popped up in 3,182, or 10.3%, of the releases.

In all, the study searched for seven often-used phrases in press releases. Showing up in 2,996 releases (9.7%), “excited to” secured the No. 2 spot behind “pleased to.” The other offenders, in descending order, were:

  • “Proud to”—2,312 occurrences (7.5%)
  • “Thrilled to”—1,271 occurrences (4.1%)
  • “Honored to”—960 occurrences (3.1%)
  • “Delighted to”—697 occurrences (2.2%)
  • “Happy to”—401 occurrences (1.3%)

Collectively, these terms cropped up in 38.1% of the sampled press releases, Trust Insights says.

The company says “pleased to” and “excited to” battle it out for superiority month by month. Some months, like January, April and June, PR professionals are more “excited” than “pleased,” the study shows.

“When you see phrases repeated over and over again, it’s usually the result of either committee group-think or templates,” Trust Insights says. “In many public relations departments and agencies, often the people who are writing basic content like press releases are more junior in their careers, and they rely on pre-defined templates to do their work.”

Trust Insights says those templates look something like this:

  • Opening boilerplate introducing industry-leading company
  • Key point that company is pleased to announce
  • Quote from CEO
  • Information about product’s innovative, turnkey solution
  • Quote or testimonial
  • Contact info

Trust Insights surmises that “pleased to” and its cousins are simply “baked” in, resulting in releases that are boring and unengaging—and ultimately ignored.

“To stand out, communications professionals should change up their templates and change out the language to be more reflective of reality,” Trust Insights recommends.

“How many people are truly thrilled or excited by a new product announcement?” Trust Insights says. “Chances are, only the folks who have worked on that project might have that level of emotional engagement. Thus, don’t let the PR person write the release alone—get the unvarnished contributions from the project manager, the engineer, the designer, the people who legitimately are proud of their work, and let them speak to it in their own language.”

John Egan is a freelance writer in Austin, Texas.


8 Responses to “Hackneyed phrases to ditch from your press releases”

    Gina Yager says:

    As an agency, we’ve tried to break barriers in changing stale language in releases, but unfortunately it is often times the client who adds the jargon back in and insists on approving it that way to send out. Then we are stuck with our name on it as our own language.

    jb says:

    Suggestions for how to phrase an announcement that actually sounds like how someone would speak? Your subhead suggests your article will explain how to do it better, but you don’t offer any preferences. It’s always easy to complain without offering something better!

    Michael Strickland says:

    You don’t actually need alternatives to words that describe how you or the client feel, certainly not in the lead. Just state the facts in a clear summary lead.

    You need not say you’re proud to announce that you’re launching a revolutionary product that will accomplish X, Y and Z. It should be enough to announce that you’re launching a product that will revolutionize how we…???

    Could you be anything but thrilled that your campaign is raising record amounts. Just announce that your campaign is raising record amounts for the fight against…???

    And will anyone really need to say they’re delighted to have cured cancer? On that day, the headline will be: Cancer Cured!

    Marc Barnes says:

    To get a placement, (a) have something newsworthy to say and (b) write it well. Take E.B. White’s advice about eliminating needless words. Editors and news producers are more likely to use news that’s well written. Tell that to the client who wants to change it. Challenge them. If being a yes-man in such instances results in no placement, then you are being forced toward failing in what you set out to do.

    Tom Lamonica says:

    The best advice I ever got about writing news releases is the advice I give my students: “the only difference between a news person writing a story and a public relations person writing a news release is perspective.” Facts, quotes, information, transition … for best results as a PR person, write like a journalist (not just AP style) and you will reach your audiences.

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