Here's the first in a rambling A to Z of my craft. I'll wander off topic regularly, but hopefully there'll be something in here of use to PR and communications practitioners. Feedback and disagreement welcomed.....
A is for "Assertions"
If you’re making an announcement with an assertion, make sure that you’re using data to support claims that are both credible and well-sourced. This might include finding, checking and referencing external sources – recent supportive announcements that contain verified facts or official government statistics, for example.
As a rule of thumb, nothing short of 1,000 responses is adequate for a national story. One thousand responses nationally really isn’t enough to break down into regional numbers.
A recent international story (pan-European) based on a sample of 500 made the PRs laughing stocks when they attempted to use small national figures (12 or so) to assert a national trend.
Resist at all times the temptation to make sweeping generalizations on the basis of very small samples. Journalists consider it a badge of honour to check sources and the veracity of data.
The only exception to this rule can be cases where the story is light-hearted, harmless whimsy in which case declared smaller sample sizes or straw polls can be acceptable.
Never lie. Accentuate the positive, of course, but don’t deliberately obscure the negative.
Balance wins credibility. There may be times due to rules and regulations that you are unable to answer a question and that is fine, but don’t ever attempt to promote anything other than the truth.
A quote from an executive can, of course, introduce a degree of hype. The role of the spokesperson is to excite people about the ramifications of an announcement.
Claiming that an announcement represents a “turning point” or something similar is absolutely fine on the assumption that announcement does genuinely reflect a significant change. If not, avoid such claims.
On the other hand, when the first draft is on paper, look at it again and ask whether the dial could be turned up a little. News works best when the contrast knob is turned to maximum and when the most interesting aspects are brought to the fore. Of fundamental importance are two questions: What’s genuinely interesting about the announcement and what does it mean for people like you and me. Make sure you answer that. Revelance is the foundation of any assertion.