These days, every industry boasts its very own, highly-coveted slate of annual honors and awards. This is as it should be. The few exceptions to this rule include the more shadowy, behind-the-scenes fields. Oh, you know the ones I mean. Industrial espionage, for example. Impersonation. Secret shopping. Bodyguard work. And, of course, public relations.
As a travel writer whose inbox is always jam-packed with profound and deeply moving press releases, it started me thinking. Wasn't it high time that the finest of these works earned the recognition they deserve? It was. At 2:30 am, in the wake of several slightly-flat cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon, the 'Blurbie' Awards were born.
Without further ado, here are the 2014 'Blurbies' for Truly Ridiculous PR. (Feel free to post your congratulations to the winners--or suggestions for next year's awards--in the comment section at the bottom of this column):
* The 'Just Stay Home' Award goes to...
Ginny Grimsley of News & Experts PR for the thought provoking press release titled: "5 Reasons Why It's Best to Keep Your Travels Within U.S. Borders." Reading down a bit in this winning entry rewarded the judges with travel advice from News & Experts client, Alisa Abecassis, whose credentials include being "the proud mother of three children--Lilia, 17; Isaac, 15; and Joel, 14."
Sometimes it's best to step aside, and let a good release speak for itself. "At the risk of sounding paranoid," warns Abecassis, "travel to Mexico and you run the risk of being kidnapped and held for ransom by a drug cartel. Travel to China and you run the risk of getting severe food poisoning. And, Europe? Too many terrorist threats for my taste--train bombings in Spain, riots in France and the list goes on."
Abecassis is eloquent on the subject of cowering in your own picture-perfect backyard. "Consider all the turmoil happening around the globe," she notes, "and contrast it with the peace, stability, wealth and tolerance of America. We are so fortunate to enjoy freedom of speech, the liberation of women, religious tolerance and civil rights for all."
I, for one, am mulching my passport this afternoon.
* The 'Get Me Rewrite!!' Award goes to...
Nori Akashi, U.S. Public Relations Manager at the Japan National Tourism Organization, for a recent press release with the following, brilliantly-crafted headline: "Japan Tourism Documentary Identified the Jew Escaped from Europe."
The Jew? Which Jew might we be talking about? This is one smooth bit of pr that grabs you by the collar right at the start, and shakes you around a bit---not to mention your understanding of WWII history.
Here's a chunk of the winning first paragraph: "While Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) was unfolding the past 100 years of Japan tourism [sic], one unexpected finding from WWII showed Japanese people's involvement in helping Jewish refugees escaping from the anti-Semitic Nazis in Europe during WWII. The documentary "Transit to Freedom" was a collaboration of the New York Film Academy and JNTO, and was premiered at Japan Week, the tourism promotional event at Grand Central Terminal in New York City in March, 2014."
Let me see if I have this right. Is this a case of the Tourist Board of one former Axis power touting the humane actions of its population when visited by refugees from its primary wartime ally? Does anyone really want to go down this road? You tell me.
Will the German Tourist Board blast back with a press release of its own? That could get ugly: "German Citizens Sheltered War-Torn Chinese Refugees"(?) Stay tuned, I say. Stay tuned.
* The 'Olive Garden All-You-Can Eat' Award goes to...
Chelsea Alexander of M Booth Public Relations, on behalf of Foursquare, for the press release, "Top 10 Pasta Eating Cities in the Nation." "Here's something to noodle" [sic], begins the release, "in honor of World Pasta Day this Friday...and National Pasta Month. Foursquare has determined the Top 10 Pasta Eating Cities in the U.S."
All seems roughly as sleep-inducing as any run-of-the-mill press release until the reader scrolls down to check out the actual list. Here we go:
Top 10 Pasta-Eating Cities in the Nation
1. Atlantic City, NJ
2. Scranton, PA
3. Buffalo, NY
4. Hartford, CT
5. Worcester, MA
6. Fort Wayne, IN
7. Miami, FL
8. Columbus, OH
9. St. Louis, MO
10. Providence, RI
Now, I solemnly swear that I wasn't annoyed that my city, Providence, came in way behind its bland-to-the-core New England competitors: Hartford (for God's sake) and Worcester (what is going on here?). Down at the bottom of the release is a bit of methodology mumbo-jumbo explaining that the company used "The number of check-ins at Italian restaurants as a percentage of check-ins at all restaurants."
Some nifty data there, Foursquare. Am I hallucinating, or did you just come up with Atlantic City? Scranton, PA?? Did you actually cite Buffalo, NY??? I'm sorry to report that, by the time the judges got down the list to Fort Wayne!, Miami!!, and Columbus!!!, that they simply couldn't take it anymore.
A plate of real Providence, Rhode Island-style pasta was sent out for. A fresh can of Pabst Blue Ribbon was cracked open. And the Awards Ceremony was suspended.
Congratulations to the winners! See you all back here next year!
Peter Mandel is the author of the read-aloud bestseller Jackhammer Sam (Macmillan/Roaring Brook) and other books for kids, including Zoo Ah-Choooo (Holiday House) and Bun, Onion, Burger (Simon & Schuster).