I received a LinkedIn direct message from a recent connection early this past Sunday. “Press release, breaking news from Company XYZ,” he wrote. (Company name changed to protect the innocent.) As the founder of that company, which is just a few months old, he and I had chatted once or twice this year. Intrigued, I opened my app…
…only to find out the “breaking news” wasn’t breaking. Nor was the “press release” a press release. It was a 50-word announcement on his company’s LinkedIn page, with the names of newly hired regional representatives. Additionally, some of the news already appeared on his company’s LinkedIn page the week prior.
I certainly appreciate his eagerness to share information. Newly established companies want and need help getting the word out, after all. I also can relate to the feeling of excitement upon bringing onboard capable new employees. However, it’s important for communicators to understand what “breaking news” means. Equally important, communicators need to think twice about using that phrase.
Firstly, while you can find different stories about the origin of the phrase, the bottom line is that it refers to an important development. More to the point, it’s a new event or happening of such tremendous impact that the public should know immediately. Respectfully, one company’s expansion, as exciting as it is to the team, isn’t breaking news.
Secondly, “breaking news” is overused by traditional media outlets that honestly know better. They do it anyway because they believe it will attract attention—viewers, listeners, etc. Attention equates advertising dollars, too, since they can sell ads based on data. In the online world, it falls under the category of clickbait. The trouble is, the phrase is appearing hour after hour, day after day, about a story already revealed. Savvy consumers grew weary of the trick years ago.
Communicators, do yourselves a favor and ban “breaking news” from your vocabulary unless it’s absolutely, positively breaking. Otherwise, at best, you’ll elicit an eye roll. At worst, we in the media will brush aside the news and be wary about future outreach. Instead, use the tried-and-true practice of statements like, “Company XYZ is pleased to announce,” followed by a brief explanation. Invite us to contact you for more details and/or personal interviews, too.
Doing what you can to get attention makes sense. Just do it wisely.