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Why you should never send press releases as PDFs
Published on Tuesday, 13 April 2010

I'm posting this blog as a follow-up to a conversation on Twitter, when Chris Cooke from ThreeWeeks kicked off a campaign to send one simple message to the world: NEVER SEND PRESS RELEASES AS PDFs.  It's advice you've probably heard before - but after I'd repeated Chris's rallying cry, a few people tweeted back to ask me why.  Fair question.  Let me explain.

But before I begin, what should you do?  Well, Word documents aren't as bad as PDFs, but we don't really like those either.  Best of all is just plain old text, right there in the main bit of the email.  Here's why.

You should never send press releases as PDFs...  

Because they're hard to read on an iPhone or BlackBerry

These days, lots of people can pick up their email on the move - and that's a great opportunity, if you play it right.  If I'm on a bus, in a queue or waiting for a friend, it's a perfect moment to show me a press release.  I've got the time to spare and I want to have something to read.

But there's zero chance I'm going to bother struggling with a PDF on my iPhone's tiny screen.  And while Word docs aren't quite so bad, they take forever to download onto a phone.  So if you haven't put your message right there in the main body of the email, chances are I'll pass it over and move to the next one.

Because it's hard or impossible to copy and paste

Websites which copy and paste your entire press release are kind-of lazy, but it certainly does go on.  And even the most diligent writer wants to copy things like actors' names, dates and times - the kind of detail that's just boring and error-prone to transcribe.

It's too hard to copy and paste from a PDF, and even Word documents can take time to sort out the formatting.  If you make this easier for us, we'll have more time to spend on what you want us to be focussing on - the creative merits of your show.

Because they sometimes just don't WORK

Every piece of computer software comes out in different versions - and if your version is newer than ours, they might not play nicely together.  If you're an IT expert, you know how to deal with all this.  If you're not, there's at least a chance you're going to get it wrong.  (Incidentally, this is particularly a problem for Microsoft Word.)

But it's so pretty!

I know, I know.  Your show's your baby, and you feel it deserves better than a wodge of boring text.

Firstly, I promise, if you send a plain-text email then we know it's because we asked you to.  We love your for it - beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Secondly, if you're going to put effort into making something look really good, then work on your publicity photos.  If you've got those sorted, look at your flyers and posters.  A beautiful press release should be way down your list - by all means spend hours on the wording, but fussing over the appearance isn't a good use of your time.

But despite all that, if you have got a lovely PDF to share, here's what to do.  Stick it on the web somewhere, copy what it says into a plain-text email, and put a link to the pretty version somewhere near the top.  If I'm at my desk with a nice fast network, I'll click the link and see the fancy version.  If I'm not, well, you haven't forced me to.

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This is an archived column from Brighton 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to those we've featured, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.