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Why clients need to trust their PR agencies on grammar

17th January 2013

As PROs we don’t claim to be perfect at everything we do, but we would like to think that we do understand basic grammar. We just wish that our clients did too – or at least have the decency to admit that they don’t know and to leave it to us to tell them what’s right or not.

We all make the odd mistake from time to time – especially when time is tight (and I know I’m going to have to check this column through a few times... ) but it’s when they are wrong but insist that they are correct. That's when we get really annoyed!

If we had a rupee for every time we’ve had to explain to a client that job titles are not proper nouns so therefore don't need capital letters, we’d be writing this column from a nice Maldives island!

It seems to be common practice on websites and other marketing materials so perhaps it’s done to make people sound important? But if clients read the actual publications they want to be in, they would realise that capitals are just not needed. I know there are exceptions – ‘God' and the 'President' maybe – but hey, none of our clients are quite that important yet.

We used to have a client that insisted that all job titles in releases had initial capital letters so we would simply change them before issuing so that we didn’t ruin the reputation that we had built up with journalists. We had several discussions with him as to what was grammatically correct but he simply insisted that “it looked better like that”. So we now have clients who feel they are important enough to change the English language!

On that note, we once had a very egotistical client who ran a company that had an ‘s’ on the end of it – let’s call it “Daisy Boots”. He was a very successful multimillionaire, but rather hard to work with, and was always right. He decreed that the entire company follow a style guide that he had written, and that every time the company name was used in a possessive nature it needed an apostrophe and an ‘s’ – thus his website stated “Daisy Boots’s products and services” – yuk! He wouldn’t listen to little old us – or anyone else in his team who pointed out that this looked awful.

Maybe we're just being a bit obsessive! We sometimes think we sound a bit demented. Perhaps that's why we’re losing clients?

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