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Will your company win the 2008 C.R.A.P. Award? - July 16,2008
There is an award that is being vied for in the international corporate communications arena. It is called the C.R.A.P. Award (Corporate Rhetoric Awards Programme) and the proud winner will be the author of the worst piece of corporate communication (news release, speech or website or other content) published during this financial year.

Of course the award is fictitious and I have my love of that on-line newsletter, Ragan, to thank for it. But it got me to thinking about some of the very badly written corporate information that exists and how reporters, editors and assorted members of the reading public are being painfully exposed to the many possible winning entries into the ‘prestigious’ C.R.A.P. awards. The unfortunate and ironic fact though is that potential C.R.A.P. awardees remain convinced that their magnum opus should have entered the annals of the literary history such as have William Shakespeare, T.S. Eliot and closer home, Edward Baugh, Jean Rhys, Mervyn Morris, V.S. Naipaul or Derek Walcott and other Caribbean literary notables. The rest of us, they think, are just plain ‘bad-mind and grudgeful’ by not fully appreciating their magnificence.

Gallons of Pepto-Bismol
Indeed, the C.R.A.P. winner wanna-be’s get downright fussy if the world at large does not beat a path to their door and embrace their literary brilliance. I myself have heard editors groan in distress and seen these grown men and women writhe in agony and in the process, down gallons of Pepto-Bismol in response to the pernicious prose that parades across the news desk, masquerading as ‘news’ during the course of the workday. Unbeknownst to the uninitiated, in any news room there is a special and final resting place for some of these missives and it is called the Thirteenth File and you can catch up on the really interesting ones in Desmond Allen’s columns in the Sunday Observer.

Even as I write, I am absolutely too aware that I might at some point in my career (perhaps even as we speak) have been considered by some to be a serious contender for said C.R.A.P. award. So with this knowledge firmly in mind, I came up with several tips/guidelines to help us all out-rightly disqualify ourselves from becoming a major competitor/ candidate or entrant for this dubious honor when writing corporate information for the media.

Is it News Worthy?
When writing the news release make sure it is news worthy – and not only to you and your department’s ‘crew’ who get a kick out of massaging each other’s egos. There must be a kernel of something new in the item that will appeal to an editor to publish the article. Let us face the truth then, you must never for one minute think that because your company released an upgraded version of paper clip 3.76555, will the world erupt in orgasmic delight when they read of this feat. Make sure also that the release has a strong lead so that it will be noticed. How will it impact on the users of paper clips, far and wide? Aha, there’s the rub. Perhaps if you included something to that effect you might be on the losing end of walking up the aisle to collect the crappiest news release of the year award.
Is it stiff and stilted?
Dear Lord, please save us from boring corporate information, amen. When you are writing corporate might I urge us all to stay away from boring language, corporate speak and stilted quotes? If Mr. Big does not use, well, ‘big words’ in his ordinary day-to-day speech, why are you injecting it in his presentations and inoculating us all against a little excitement in anyway, shape or form? This is not to say that we must go outside of character in writing for our executives and make them out to be what they are not, but good grief, please make him or her sound like someone people actually want to listen to. If you are writing a news release and you need a quote to spice it up, please use one that makes sense to all and sundry and not one that ‘sound good’ to only you? Also using more quotes will perhaps stand you a better chance of getting published than the bald and unvarnished facts about paper clip version 3.76555.

Have substance
When someone goes on a platform to deliver a speech, they must leave the audience with something substantive. Presentations/speeches must enrich and your speakers must not take too long to get their either. And I do have many a stories about people who take too long to come to the point. But I digress. It is a sad truth that some people (I am not calling names) absolutely refuse to abstain from giving wordy evidence of the fact that they have nothing to say, really. I will let you be the judge and listen to some of the speeches being made. Wouldn’t you nominate some of our ‘speechifiers’ for the C.R.A.P. Hall of Fame? I would.

Don’t call us…
There is nothing more annoying to reporters or editors than a p.r. ‘person’ calling to find out when the media house is going to publish the news release he or she dispatched. This one is also for those executives who insist that their staff badger the media after delivering (what they believe) to be the equivalent of Brother Martin’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech. Believe me (and I have been on both sides of the fence), don’t call the news room, they will call you. Trust me on this one if it is news worthy, it will make an impact and you will see it newsprint the next day. If it is not used just let it be. Be kind to yourself and imagine that it never made the cut that time and be determined to write a killer release the next time around. My overall advice is to resolve not to be a contender for this year’s C.R.A.P. award, you just might win.


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