What journalists want: the two-word trick

This online guide to what journalists want sent a shiver down my spine.

It reads as if the writer has enrolled in a Victorian object lesson about journalism, but never actually met a real live journalist. It represents the newsgathering process about as well as What Women Want mapped the depths of female consciousness.

The first link is About. The About (or About Us) page [...] can help writers flesh out articles, providing background details and some insight on what the company is all about.

No. If a journalist is doing a story on your company, chances are they already have a good idea of what you do. What a lot of journalists do look for is a two-word summary (three words max) of how your company would like to describe itself. If you provide that summary, chances are that a journalist will do you the courtesy of using it to describe you.


Slippy Solutions is a risk consultancy specialising in advising the catering industry on flooring.


What is Slippy Solutions? We advise bars, restaurants and fast-food outlets on all sorts of health and safety issues, but our real passion shines when it comes to flooring. Here at Slippy Solutions we believe you can’t be too careful – but taking care doesn’t mean shelling out huge sums on expensive consultancy fees...

In the first example, you can pretty much guarantee being described as  “Risk consultancy Slippy Solutions”. In the second example, you can pretty much guarantee that someone is going to need a second trip to the coffee machine before they finish the article about you.

One real-life example before I move on: the Association of British Drivers is an organisation campaigning to make life easier for motorists in the UK. They advocate raising speed limits, getting rid of speed cameras and building more roads. But their press officer Mark McArthur Christie has learnt the two-word trick, and as a result he is repeatedly described as a “road safety spokesman”.

The Benetton example given in the article is misleading because Benetton has already put so much money and time into establishing a recognisable brand, which means it isn’t so crucial to have an explanatory About page.

Anyone who didn’t already know what Benetton is would get very little idea from the About page. The words “clothes” and “clothing” don’t feature anywhere (although "fashion" and "garments" do). The bright colours in the pictures might convey that this is a creative industry, but that's really clutching at straws. Of the three pictures displayed there today, one is of a bus rushing past a building, one is of a disembodied head surrounded by blocks of colour (which might, if you squint, be folded jumpers, but I'm really not sure) and one is of two people being attacked by snake-like scarves. And of course there's no alt-text.

Damningly, the description text in the site’s metatags is clearer on what the company does than any text on the About page:

Italy. Manufacturer of men's, women's, and children's casual wear, footwear and accessories. Includes product photos and a store locator.

It’s a real wasted opportunity that such a clear description has been used to attract search engines rather than for information-seeking humans to read.

Edit: A second post about the e-consultancy.com article is here.

Edit 2: Some more useful advice on how to make your site press-friendly is here.