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It’s all in the word

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The PR practitioner should be many things but above all he/she should be a master of words, their meaning and their use. The headline of a press release is usually a good indication of whether or not the use of words has been mastered.

I’ve seen headlines that have more content than the subsequent press release and many more that are too long and say nothing of note. Occasionally you will come across a clever headline, either by design or by default, that you have to read twice, maybe more to determine exactly what message is being communicated.

Sometimes it’s just one word in the wrong place that leads to an assumption or interpretation that is not supported by the facts.

The latest example of this is the recent Volvo story that appeared on some front pages of the national press, as well as TV and radio news bulletins.

Volvo sent out a press release headlined ‘Volvo Cars to go all electric’. This resulted in the lead, front page story in The Times, with the headline ‘Volvo signals end of road for diesel and petrol cars’ and in the business section of The Telegraph, which reported: ‘End of road for fuel as Volvo goes all-electric’.

So far, so straightforward.

But – while some Volvo models will be 100% electric from 2019, others will feature electric motors coupled to diesel or petrol engines.

It’s easy to understand why the news coverage of this story was written as it was given the headline of the Volvo press release.

In truth, and to reflect the facts, the headline should have read ‘All Volvo Cars to go electric’.

The position of the word ‘all’ has completely changed the context of the sentence. Placed as it was suggested to the reader that every Volvo would be powered entirely by electric by 2019. In reality, some will still have diesel or petrol engines, albeit with electric motors.

Devious ‘smoke and mirrors’ or just masterly use of words for maximum effect? It probably doesn’t matter to Volvo – because the subsequent coverage more than justified the means.

Do you want your words to give you maximum PR power? Get in touch.

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