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In praise of the humble pun

August, 2018

Is the pun soon to be a thing of the past in the world of PR, its demise hastened by the onward march of search engine driven content? Andrew Metcalf, director at Kent-based PR agency Maxim, considers whether news of the death of puns is exaggerated, or an inevitability. 

The death of the pun was confirmed to me recently while enjoying a pint or two with a cohort of local newspaper reporters in a Tunbridge Wells beer garden, and it saddened me.

Andrew Metcalf (third from right) with some of the Maxim team and the Kent LIve team.

It’s hard to forget headlines like: Jeremy Clarkson and Strop Gear, or Anthony Worrall-Thompson: I’ve been Edam fool, but I’ll be gouda from now on, after being caught stealing cheese. I’m still in awe of many headline writers.

And that is why I think many PR people used puns. The adage of the headline selling the story, often resulted in the PR looking to attract the attention of the newsdesk with a witty play on words, or an alliteration or three. 

However, with the drive to meet the ongoing demands of the algorithms of the likes of Google, the pun has largely been replaced by factual keyword-driven headlines.

I’m not saying that this isn’t clever; it obviously is and clearly demonstrates that PRs have had to move with the times, but it’s a little dull.

Part of the fun for wordsmiths is crafting and then polishing a press release, and that includes the headline, that then leads the journalist into the first paragraph, on through the story, past the quote, and on to the end. And then hopefully onto the page or the website.

I think the loss is felt hardest by those of us who are repressed sub-editors, or news editors. That said, you often considered not writing the most obvious headline in case it left the subs struggling to better it and running the risk of dropping the story.
Ultimately, it’s the strength of the story that’s largely defines whether it gets used, and not the headline on the press release, or subject line of the email. Well, we’d like to still think so.

Andrew Metcalf - Director

Andrew Metcalf

Maxim / Managing Director

posted in: media relations, public relations,

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