Press release of the month: Giveacar.com


Here is the press release I’m dissecting this month. It arrived in my inbox on 8th February:

“Young entrepreneur answers David Cameron’s call for Enterprise

In July last year David Cameron launched the ‘Big Society’ campaign to empower members of the public to play a greater role in the prevision of services in their local areas. This ambitious plan has sought to reinstate the entrepreneurial spirit and culture of volunteerism the Conservatives believe dwindled under Labour, as well as to loosen the restrictive grip of Whitehall over those who would like to influence the direction of services in their local communities.

The Big Society programme has come hand-in-hand with the spending cuts highlighted by the Prime Ministers as an essential step in creating a sustainable state. It is hoped that charities and social entrepreneurs will step into the void created by reductions in local spending to soften the blow of diminished public services. In addition, the Prime Minister sees the creation of a new generation of entrepreneurs as an important part of creating jobs and generating growth on the path to economic recovery.

One young entrepreneur and founder of the social enterprise Giveacar, Tom Chance, has heeded Mr Cameron’s call. Chance started the car donation service in January 2010 just as the economy was slowly emerging after an 18 month-long recession. His organisation arranges for the scrappage of old and unwanted cars, a service traditionally operated by local authorities, and donates the proceeds of the scrappage to charitable causes.

In the 12 months since its birth Giveacar’s popularity has grown rapidly. Attracted by the simplicity and the chance to make a donation to their favourite charity more and more people are utilising Chance’s scheme each month.

In addition to reducing the burden on local councils across the UK to deal with unwanted and abandoned cars, Giveacar, which Chance started from his bedroom, also provides employment for three people at its office in London. With demand sky high Chance is looking to add to his staff to cope with the mounting number of donations.

“It is great to contribute to the UK economy, even if only in a very small way. The charity sector, like other sectors, has been hit hard by the spending cuts, and never before has the demand for innovative schemes like Giveacar been higher.” Commented Chance.

The Giveacar scheme, now operating for one year, is supported by 250 charities, and has made donations exceeding £250,000. A drop in the ocean for the UK economy, but an indication that graduate enterprise has a lot to offer.

To find out more about Giveacar, visit www.giveacar.co.uk or call 020 0011 1664.”

SEVEN WAYS TO IMPROVE IT:

It’s an interesting business in a very topical area, but this press release isn’t doing justice to it. It could be vastly improved.

In my training course How to Write Copy That Journalists Actually Use I outline 20 steps to improving press releases. These are in four sections: getting the basics right, simplifying your language, telling a story, and making it relevant. I can straightaway identify seven improvements to this press release from just the getting the basics right and simplifying your language sections:

1) Sort your spelling out. First sentence: “prevision” should be “provision”. It looks sloppy and many journalists will stop reading right there and then.

2) Sort your grammar and punctuation out. To give just one example, there’s no need for hyphens in ‘hand in hand’. Again it looks a bit amateurish.

3) Get someone to proofread your copy. Why have we got an ‘s’ after Prime Minister? I know Cameron and Clegg are fairly indistinguishable, but I’m pretty sure there’s still only one Prime Minister.

4) Don’t waste time on unnecessary background. Everyone reading this is going to know what the Big Society is, and is just going to be bored by this fairly turgid explanation. Cut it.

5) Get to the point. This press release only begins to get interesting in the third paragraph. Why not cut the first two paras down to something like: “With Government spending cuts begining to bite and private sector recovery remaining tentative, it is more important than ever that social entrepreneurs step forward to deliver not only the Prime Minister’s Big Society agenda but also economic recovery for the UK….” – then get straight into the interesting stuff about what Giveacar.com does

6) Simplify your language. “This ambitious plan has sought to reinstate the entrepreneurial spirit and culture of volunteerism the Conservatives believe dwindled under Labour…” Er…. what? Any never, ever use “utilise”. Use is perfectly fine.

7) Be specific with figures. “In the 12 months since its birth Giveacar’s popularity has grown rapidly.” By how much? If it is an impressive figure why not include it? The fact that it’s not there makes us think it’s not that impressive.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

That’s just 7 ideas off the top of my head and from the simpler half of my training course. There are many more ways this could be improved.

To win a free place on my training session on the afternoon of Friday 4th March, and find out how I’d improve this further by telling a story with it, and making it relevant to the reader, e-mail me or comment on this post suggesting another way to improve this press release – the best suggestion wins the place.

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12 Comments

Filed under PR, Uncategorized, Writing

12 responses to “Press release of the month: Giveacar.com

  1. Celia Dixon

    Personally I think it needs a catchier title.

    ‘Giveacar scraps Cameron’s Big Society’

    Celia

  2. Sara Novara

    I love a challenge!
    8. what is in there for me? why should I be interested? E.g. they are coming to pick up the car directly from ny house and it will not cost me anything

  3. It almost sent me to sleep, but I have regained my senses

    A few more improvements:

    No need to bold – a little condescending
    Big paragraphs – break them up

    Let’s hear about one of the charities that has benefited

    Could lead with amount raised

    Big Society – not everyone does know what it means as covered in the press in the last couple of days. The journalist should know. I would put something in the notes or a small paragraph a little way in explaining it

    Image – something that illustrates the release in an original or engaging way

    Tom Chance – is he made-up? Is he a fabricated character? I want to know about him – he has something about him

    I could say more, but you asked for one point and if thsi was a school exam my technique would be awful, as indeed it frequently was.

  4. re Celia

    I disagree

    Sometimes a descriptive title is best as it tells a journalist what the release is about – it gets re-written generally and is not so important as the e-mail and opening paragraph

    • Celia Dixon

      Hmm perhaps not my original suggestion given the tone of the release but I do think the headline needs to be catchier and more telling of the story within release. In this case the journalist needs to go past the headline, and past the first two paragraphs to even get to a mention of Giveacar, this strikes me as odd!

  5. Rachael Collinge

    Get back to basics – who, what, where, when, how. Tell it how it is and cut out the cliches, subjectivity and hype. Phrases such as ‘sky high’, ‘soften the blow’ and ‘drop in the ocean’ are overly dramatic and actually mean nothing. Similarly, inflammatory statements such as ‘loosen the restrictive grip of Whitehall’ are totally OTT. We’re here to supply the hard facts (with an acceptable level of PR artistic licence, of course). Opionion peices are best left to those truly in the know. If it’s a subjective statement it’s got to be in a quote and, if you’re going to include a quote, make sure it sounds like someone’s actually said it (here is a prime example of wishy washy waffle).

  6. Eugene Tansey

    Given the volume of press releases that hit a journalist’s desk, I think the title does need to be catchy and engaging. otherwise the journo may not get to the first paragraph!

    A “Notes to Editors” section is needed. Some info. on Tom Chance and Giveacar could be added here. If I’m a busy journalist I might not be too inclined to click through to a website. Make it easy for me!

    The quote by Chance is bland and this is his opportunity to talk about HIS company. Instead he has wasted it by referring vaguely to ‘innovatve schemes like Givecar…..’ As a journo I think I would want to know about Giveacar, not see a vague reference to ‘other schemes’.

    A quote from one of the charities or another third party would lend credibility to the release.

    The release should start by telling me something I don’t already know, not open with “In July last year…….”. As stated above, get to the point and keep the language simple.

  7. Agree with all your points, Alex. My thoughts: it needs to address the ‘so what?’ factor. He’s set up a company – so what? How will this make my life easier? There is very little about what the company does. Also, address the important bits first – the first 2 paragraphs are unnecessary, as you pointed out, but even after that the important points are lost. Why wait until the very end to point out that they’ve donated a quarter of a million pounds to charity? It also doesn’t mention that he’s a graduate until the last sentence, which is a nice angle too. I know you only asked for one – but I gave you an extra one for luck 🙂

  8. Sara Doron

    Having only just started in PR, I’m by no means an expert, but I would avoid having an overt political angle on a contentious issue for fear of alienating many journalists and, if it gets published, much of the audience.

    It’s clear that the overall aim is to get good press for his scheme and for ‘Big Society’ as a whole, but, as it’s been mentioned, hyperbole and dramatic statements only serve to ‘tell’ instead of show.

    If the scheme is a positive thing, the facts and figures (assuming there are any) will speak for themselves. I would be seriously wary of making statements like Big Society was launched to “empower members of the public to play a greater role in the prevision [sic] of services in their local areas.” Many people would disagree with this.

    Basically I’d stick to fact where politics is concerned and let the journalist put their own slant on it – they will anyway.

  9. I agree with all of your suggestions Alex and some good points made above too. In addition I’d go through the entire release simplifying every sentence, rewording to shorten and make it punchier. The second sentence is a mouthful at 45 words long and doesn’t need to be there.

    I’d also cut any repetition such as ‘Chance started the car donation service in January 2010’, ‘In the 12 months since its birth’ and ‘The Giveacar scheme, now operating for one year’. This only needs to be said once.

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  11. Thank you all for your excellent and very insightful comments. A few thoughts:

    – I agree the title was weak, but also that it should describe what the press release is about; cheesy Sun-style headlines on press releases tend to annoy journalists; we want to know what is in the release that is going to interest our readers
    – In a similar fashion, while this release would have been better had the author simply stuck to the facts, I don’t believe that PROs need to avoid all comment and conjecture; draw a clear line between fact and opinion, yes, but don’t be afraid to add colour and a human touch where appropriate
    – case studies of charities who benefited would have greatly improved it
    – images are always useful
    – the sentences are too long, and the story (or lack of one!) would have become much more apparent with simpler language
    – the quote is indeed bland, and a missed opportunity

    However, for me, the most significant omission is definitely any explanation of what this might mean for my readers. Like so many press releases this just gives me a load of facts about an organisation and tells me how great they are, but I’m left wondering “so what?”.

    For that reason, I’ve decided to award the free place on 4th March to Sam Woodward.
    Congratulations, Sam – I’ll look forward to seeing you then. Apologies to everyone else that I could only offer one free place, and thanks again for your contributions.

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