Jason Wassell, chief executive of the BCCA, responds to an article by Credit Strategy’s consulting editor, Fred Crawley, about the business and approach of PR companies.
Over the last few months I have been enjoying the articles from consulting editor Fred Crawley on the relationships between the credit sector and Credit Strategy.
Regular readers will know that he has been talking about the interaction they have had with our sector. Though when he started talking about cargo cults I have to admit that I wondered where he was going.
It is fair to say that Fred expressed concerns about our media relations skills, and gave some examples of poorly drafted press releases. As a public relations professional by training, it was interesting and a little worrying.
It is not that long ago that a junior press officer would spend time on training courses on how to draft the perfect press release. I once spent a full day learning a bundle of drafting techniques; always searching for the perfect format.
Those courses still exist. However, nowadays the modern PR professional is just as likely to be learning about what makes a perfect tweet or how to develop a compelling blog.
However, from what Fred tells us, there is still a need for some back-to-basics advice. I chuckled when I heard that in every press release the chief executive is “delighted” to welcome any new development they are promoting.
The reason why we are always described as being delighted is that we were taught to use the quote to bring some personality or some emotion to the press release. So we tend to be delighted, disappointed or even dismayed.
There is a spectrum of emotions, but we can fall into the trap of using some tried and tested phrases.
Fred also told us that every announcement involves a market-changing development. Now, we can’t really take the blame for that. If the quote is there to express emotion then the rest of the press release should be factual. It is simply a vehicle for delivering information quickly and concisely to a journalist.
So why is this so important?
Well firstly communications should be two-way. Publications like Credit Strategy continue to be an important forum for discussion. This is supplemented by the development of sector events like F5 and the Credit Summit. These spark debates about a range of issues.
Over the last two years there have been interesting regulatory discussions, particularly around the key stages in the customer journey – for example, the acquisition of customers, issues of affordability in credit decisions and how we work with those that find themselves in debt.
Wider discussions continue about the nature of regulation under the Financial Conduct Authority, and some exciting visions of what the future might look like with new financial technology.
Trade associations, like the BCCA, create spaces for discussion but we are limited by the width of our membership. We recognise this, and are always looking for new ways to widen our network.
Sector wide discussion allows us to share experiences. We can share ideas and innovation. We can spot issues emerging in one area, often before they flow into another. We can develop best practice and ensure that it is quickly adopted.
If that is how the trade media can help us, then we need to think about how we make it easier for them. It is important that we play our part in this particular relationship. This requires us to be proactive in pushing out our good news, but also to bring some realism about what truly has news value.
So next time I write my press release I will do my best to be neither delighted nor dismayed.