World leader in BS

Press releases usually trumpet a company as a leader in something. Often they are “global leaders”.

A search for the word “leading” among the press releases in my in-box threw up thousands. Some recent ones:

SYDNEY, Aust., December 10, 2010 —  Acronis, a leading provider of easy-to-use backup, recovery and security solutions for physical, virtual and cloud environments.

Auckland, December 9, 2010: PC Tools, a global leader in innovative performance and protection solutions

About Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. is a global leader in semiconductor, telecommunication, digital media and digital convergence technologies

Auckland – December 7, 2010 – Kaseya, the leading global provider of automated IT systems management software

SYDNEY, Aust., 1 December, 2010 – Akamai Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ: AKAM), the leading provider of cloud optimisation services

You’ll notice some claim to be the leader, while others are only a leader. Most claims are highly specific.

They are also unverifiable. None of them tell you who decided they are a leader or what criteria they used.

That’s because the claims are pointless self-aggrandisement. Public relations consultants feel they have little choice but to make these claims – no doubt they feel the client expects or demands it.

But leaving this nonsense in a release doesn’t help anyone.

It doesn’t help the media. Every journalist worth their salt cuts it. Nobody bothers to take seriously any publications not editing these claims.

It doesn’t help the boastful companies. They might argue it would help them show up in Google as a world leader in their area – but does anyone search for “global leader in innovative performance and protection solutions”.

So why do they do it?

10 thoughts on “World leader in BS

  1. Having experience on both sides of the fence I’d say – PR peole love adjectives; journos hate ‘em (unless they are their own).

    That said, sometimes something described as “leading” is actually leading.

    • @Mike – That’s a good point about adjectives. Modern publishing means journalists are often left with little choice but to use subbed press releases and a quick pass deleting all adjectives is the first step.

      And yes sometimes the company may be a leader. But it would be good to get beyond template press release writing and trumpet another attribute – maybe something more relevant to customers.

  2. Because every other vendor is doing it.
    If you’re not a global leader in something, you must be second-rate…

    • Understood, but that’s all the more reason to differentiate your brand by standing out – there are other adjectives for journalists to delete.

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  4. No doubt, “leader” is often hyperbole. I would agree with the assertion that, sometimes, a company does lead the pack and such a claim is often verifiable without much effort. For instance, one would likely not argue with the United States claiming it leads the world’s navies in sheer size and power. Or with Apple claiming to be a leading manufacturer of iPads (yes, that’s right, actually the only one) but it’s a word I would tend not to use without qualification – ie “Wacom claims to lead the industry in sales of pen tablets. A study by XYZ Research shows that with 99% of professional graphic artists…”

    It’s certainly a word to be avoided at all costs in the lead par of a yarn, unless of course you’re writing an advertorial. However, that said, thinking back over the years I think I may have committed such a sin. I now feel ill. A little suicidal, perhaps. I shall take my leave and repair with a brandy.

    • There’s also my point about how ridiculously specific some of the claims are. Look at the example about for Acronis.

      There may be a leader in this category, but are there any followers?

  5. It feels like the verbal equivalent of triple exclamation marking. An arms race of adjectives. “If we’re not leading, we’re nothing.”

    Plus there’s a conceptual gap right after a company’s name and right before what they do that begs to be filled with a positive attribute like “leading” or “one of New Zealand’s largest” or whatever. Leaving the gap empty makes the sentence sound blunt and leaves the company feeling unloved.

    And finally don’t forget the impact of the client’s red pen. “I think we need to position ourselves more positively.”

    • “leaves the company feeling unloved.”

      I think we’re getting to the bottom of this :-)

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