Corporate news releases bogged down by fuzzy language, jargon, and men

With each annual National Storytelling week, storytelling consultancy Insight Agents choose to mark the event by publishing new research.

Last year, they focused on how Biggest Companies Fail to Tell Their Stories Clearly. This year, they are turning their insight to news releases - the staple of corporate and brand storytelling.

Through a linguistic content analysis of News Releases from the top 50 firms on the Financial Times share index, Insight Agents found that news releases are commonly constructed with lengthy jargon and opaque language that obscures the news story at hand. Also, men currently outnumber women almost nine to one as spokespeople.

The research was supported by Oliver Taylor from the Catalyst Team. Oliver first sourced the most recent press releases from the 50 biggest companies of the FTSE (posted to mid-November 2018). He then analysed how simple or complex they were to read, with the help of the prominent Flesch Kincaid (FK) reading easy tool via www.readable.io.

The research showed that financial services firm Hargreaves Landsdown was the clearest communicator on the FTSE, one of three companies from the sector in the top ten alongside Aviva (4th) and Barclays (8th). Hargreaves Landsdown is then followed by Ashtead Group (2nd) and Ferguson (3rd).

Aviva (4th) also topped the inaugural FTSE50 Clarity Index in 2018. However, none of Britain’s ten biggest companies featured in the FTSE Clarity Index 2019, illustrating that market capitalisation doesn't necessarily reflect a business' ability to communicate effectively.

Regarding the gender imbalance of spokespeople quoted in news releases by Britain’s biggest businesses, almost 9 out of ten quoted were men; 21 quoted only men and 14 quoted just women. Prudential was the only company which appears to attempt parity, quoting six men and four women in the ten news releases analysed.

The research shows that news releases are still a pivotal tool for corporate communication. However, unlike social media, companies have total control over what is communicated. Therefore, taking into consideration that many of Britain’s companies cloud their press release in convoluted sentences and lengthy jargon, is embarrassing.

The report concludes that news releases should work by placing yourself into the mind of those who read them i.e. journalists, bloggers and people outside the organisation.

Download the whole report here, and to find out how the Catalyst Team can help you with your research projects, visit the website here.