How not to send a press release

I have great respect for people who work in the communications business. Dark Side or not, they are part of the process that gets information (and government propaganda) to the public. And they are often grilled by the media for decisions made by other people.

So I’ll leave out the name of the poor sap who sent out this email. It’s not important, anyway. But hopefully it will serve as a lesson to others on how not to send messages to the media.

The email was about media accreditation for Quebec’s construction inquiry. As you can imagine, the inquiry is getting a lot of media attention, so it makes sense to try to organize that in some way.

The email, whose subject line was blank, said the following on top of signature boilerplate for the commission:

Bonjour à tous

Vous trouverez ci-joint la procédure pour l’accréditation des médias

Attached to the email was a Microsoft Word document of 545 kB. That Word document contained the following, plus contact information:

Avis aux médias

Objet : Accréditation des médias

Montréal, le 24 avril 2012 – La Commission d’enquête sur l’octroi et la gestion des contrats publics dans l’industrie de la construction publie aujourd’hui, sur son site Internet, la procédure ainsi que le formulaire pour obtenir l’accréditation afin d’avoir accès en tant que membre des médias aux locaux soit : salle d’audience, salle de presse et studio pour entrevues.

Sur le site Internet de la Commission, Section salle de presse (, vous trouverez la procédure ainsi que le formulaire pour l’accréditation.

Le formulaire ainsi qu’une photo numérique format passeport devront être acheminés à la Commission par courriel à .

So, to resume:

  • Subject line is blank
  • Text is contained in attached Word document for no good reason
  • Word document is 545 kB, mainly because of useless design features
  • Word document is three paragraphs essentially saying to go to their website
  • Rather than providing a direct link to the page, it gives instructions on where to click to find it
  • Message gets address of website wrong (it’s, not – a second email was sent an hour later to correct this

Next time, just say you’ve posted accreditation information on your website and provide a link to said page.

There, I’ve saved you the consulting fee for a communications specialist to spend three hours and a PowerPoint presentation telling you that.

11 thoughts on “How not to send a press release

  1. Marc

    I would add, don’t send out something so proprietary like a Word document. There are some firms who need to shed this belief that everyone uses Windoze, Word and the insanely obsolete Internet Exploder.

    Use TXT, RTF, HTML, PDF as examples. Not DOC.

    1. Mike Berthold

      It’s fine to ask for people to send documents using open standards, but don’t sound like a complete loon calling IE obsolete when it still has the largest browser market share.

      Seriously, you’re convincing the already converted and confusing the ones you’re trying to convert.

    2. Jason

      What is more annoying is when I get emails with .xlsx or .docx files.
      Those are for Office 2007 and later.

      Not everyone is using those versions.
      My Office XP and office 2003 can’t open those files.
      yes I know, get a new computer :)

        1. lop

          Don’t forget also, that newer maschines come with “home versions” of Office 2007, so the file.###X is soon to beocme the standard.

          i have to deal with it too.

  2. David Pinto

    Subject line is blank …
    Reminds me of a certain senior manager at a newspaper which shall not be named who routinely sent out emails with no subject line, as did, come to think of it, someone else who, while not a manager, worked for a senior manager.
    And then the was the executive assistant (in another department) who was in the habit of sending out emails with a subject line which said: Sent on behalf of (insert name of the position).
    Well, yes, if you are the exec asst of the Bells and Whistles manager, then presumably any email you might send out will be on behalf of the Bells and Whistles Manager.

  3. SN86

    Must be a new intern, fresh from university! Almost everyone posts lecture notes and papers in .DOC format in university although sometimes .PDF is used which is great as it is viewable on any platform and easily. They also send out emails in the same manner.

  4. Michael Black

    It’s gotten better in recent times, at least on the amateur level.

    Fifteen years ago, artists would send me things, and they’d be in Word format, something I couldn’t read. They were just making a judgement based on what they knew. I’d complain, nothing seemed to change.

    In recent years, it seems more likely to be a pdf. Or better, the email is just mostly email, a pointer to
    a webpage or pdf on the web. That was another annoyance, really large email, that forced you to wait while it was downloaded, rather than deal with it as you please. And so much of the time, it was a webpage, just in the email rather than online. Yet on the web, everyone could see it, in email, only the people that received the email. Still no real concept of building a cluster, instead keep people already in the loop informed.

    There are still lots of small art groups that don’t put press releases online for all to see if they choose, when it’s a cheap way of providing information (since it’s already written), and you never know when someone might make use of that information.



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