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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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7 Reasons Why Good Business Writing Matters: No.5

1) Writing poorly is rude to your readers

2) Bad writing makes you look bad

3)    Bad writing leads to misunderstanding

4)    Writing well saves everyone’s time

5)    Writing well can give full expression to your great ideas

How many thoroughly ordinary ideas are made to look great because they’re expressed well? And how many great ideas never get noticed because they weren’t expressed well?

Perhaps a few geniuses have already invented a perpetual motion machine, found a cure for cancer, or even figured out the meaning of life, but have been so poor at communicating their ideas that no one has understood them. How frustrating would that be?

Chances are that your business ideas are less impressive than that, but they still deserve to be heard. You might be an outstanding verbal communicator and you might be able to explain your great ideas in that way, but if you are to reach as many people as possible, if you are to give full expression to those ideas, you need to learn to write well.

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7 Reasons Why Good Business Writing Matters: No.2

1)    Writing poorly is rude to your readers

2)    Bad writing makes you look bad

Not everyone, when presented with poor writing, takes the time and trouble to wade through it. Many just conclude that the author is either careless or stupid and don’t waste their time reading it.

Can you blame them? How much time do you spend in clothes shops where the material looks cheap and the products are badly displayed? How often do you go back to a restaurant where the staff were rude and the food under-cooked?

You could argue that those are fatal flaws because it was a problem with the basic product or service. You could argue that, unless you’re a professional writer, writing isn’t essential. Why should a clothes retailer, a restaurateur, or an accountant, recruitment consultant, or website designer for that matter waste time getting their writing spot on?

For the same reasons that they invest in branding, marketing, or for that matter for the same reasons that they bother dressing smartly for work and talking coherently when they’re there. Writing is one of the ways we present ourselves to the world, and if we take no care of it, if we pay no attention to it, people will think less of us.

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