21 June 2007

Meaningless initials

This one comes up because I receive regular email messages with "CSR" in the subject. Mostly these come from Cambridge Silicon Radio. Well, that was its name but like too many companies it has morphed into a set of cryptic initials.

A quick roam around CSR's web site provides little enlightenment. Even the company's press releases are silent on the subject.

This is dangerous. I once managed to use the name British Technology Group in an article I wrote for the Financial Times some time after the company became BTG plc.

Companies can reduce the likelihood of that sort of thing by using a phrase along the lines of "formerly known as Cambridge Silicon Radio". Just put it in the "About us" bit that seems to be an obligatory appendage to every press release these days.

In time the message sticks. It is most unlikely that anyone would mistakenly write "Imperial Chemical Industries" in an article. (Given the latest news they may even have to give up writing ICI.)

But back to those initials. Today's email brought a message from something called "article 13" with the subject "CBI CSR case studies - latest batch launched". I know what CBI stands for, but what about CSR?

The text of the message, including the web version, offers no clues. So over to the web site where we read that CSR stands for corporate social responsibility.

They actually spell it out in this non sentence "Typically in the areas of governance, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainable development." What they really meant to do was to put a comma at the end of the previous sentence "We are strategic advisors on risk associated with business responsibility." But let's not get too picky.

There's nothing wrong with writing about corporate social responsibility and using CSR as a shortcut, but it is usually a good idea to explain what you are up to in email messages that people might want to pass on to someone else. I mean, if someone thinks that it stands for Cambridge Silicon Radio, you will have a very baffled reader.

11 June 2007

Another unusable press release

If an organisation has a funny name you would have thought that it would offer as many opportunities as possible for journalists to get it right in any articles that they write. For example, if you send out a press release, then give a writer the chance to "copy and paste" from the release into their own articles. Indeed, for many PR people the perfect press release is one that the press simply copies and pastes, without bothering to add their own unhelpful adornments.

Pöyry Energy Consulting, for example, has those funny dots in its name. So rather than leave it to a poor hack to hunt out the right bits on their keyboard, why not put the names in a prominent place in the press release?

They have, actually, well sometimes. But the latest "News from Poyry" - yes, that is the unhelpful subject of the email message - points at a press release that is a PDF file. Just one problem, whoever created the file decided to allow journalists to print copies but not to "copy from this document," as Acrobat describes the security setting.

This is not the first press release we have seen in this format. There was another one last year. When we raised it with the PR person responsible, he replied that he had no idea why the company opted for that level of security. Our guess is that the person who made the PDF file just didn't think about the journalists who might have used the press release.

06 June 2007

A lethargic green writer

There has always been a chasm between the stuff written by medical correspondents and "health writers" on many newspapers. The former are specialist science writers whose beat includes the latest goings on on medical research. This is territory that is also the natural habitat of many science writers with a broader remit. Now, it seems, we have to find some way to differentiate environment correspondents from "green writers".

Just as health writers will cover any old tosh that deals with the human body, be it quack remedies or copper bracelets that cure snoring, while medical writers want some science behind their articles, we had always thought that an environment writer also built on scientific foundations. Indeed, many science writers also cover the environment which is, after all, a highly scientific subject.

Evidence that the green writers do not need this underpinning of science comes in the shape on an article that appeared in The Independent, My war on electrosmog by Julia Stephenson. The article is yet another in the saga of slow death by electromagnetic radiation that surfaces from time to time around mobile phones and, more recently, wifi. Ms Stephenson, whose own embryonic web site verges on the cleavage side of photography, has been feeling tired of late. Even her plants are in a bad way.

The self styled "Green Goddess" consulted her naturopath who "insisted that my exhaustion was caused by electromagnetic "smog" in my flat". Apart from finding it dodgy that anyone writing on such matters should consult a naturopath, I am puzzled that she also feels the need to talk to a "London-based complementary health practitioner". Ms Stephenson quotes Dr Nicole de Canha as saying "Any imbalance in our electromagnetic field creates a disturbance in cell structure and function, which can lead to illness in sensitive individuals."

Where, we have to ask, did Dr de Canha acquire that PhD? Therapynet, which seems to be a place for such folks to advertise their magic, tells us little beyond saying that the good doctor has a Doctorate in Homoeopathy, as well as Sports and Therapeutic Massage Diploma, Indian Head Massage, Ear Acupuncture Diploma. There is a link to Relax-O-Therapy but the website wasn't there when we clicked it.

It is depressing that a newspaper as solid as The Independent carries this sort of tosh. Perhaps the one saving grace is that they file it under "Lifestyle".