Generation gapped

31 Aug 2015

Here at the palatial Questex offices overlooking Hong Kong's famed Victoria Harbour, some odd press releases come screaming into our inboxes. One particularly mangled missive grabbed my eye last week.

As we all know, streaming video on smartphones is the hot ticket right now. What we don't know: what the heck is gonna "optimize revenue streams" (that's corporate-speak for "make money"). Well, our friends at Korean IT service company NAVER (the ALL-CAPS fanatics who also operate popular OTT messenger service LINE) have an idea.

I'm just not exactly sure what it is, as I'm not fourteen years old. Here's the scheme (this happened August 29 but as the press release was sent less than 24 hours previous, still relevant as an example).

"Dear NAVER friends," it began, then started going on about "V app" which apparently "brings BTS’ backstage look of their Hong Kong concert into global fan’s smartphones screens"...

You get my point about being fourteen. I think of "BTS" as the acronym for Bangkok's Skytrain system. Firing up Acronym Finder lists Bangtan Boys – a South Korean hip-hop boy group. These likely suspects are profiled on (what else?) a Tumbler blog which lists one member as "Rap Monster." He looks more like a McDonalds counter-staff than any sort of monster, but...whatever.

Aha! The press release says: "BTS have revealed their different sides through various broadcasts on V app, including ‘RUN! B-T-S,’ ‘Attack on BTS’ and ‘1-Min English with Rap Monster'." Sounds a bit violent but you do get an English lesson with Rap Monster, so there's that.

Different dialect
The point of all this: there is such a thing as the English language. Promulgated by Shakespeare pre-dictionary, and codified in tomes like the Oxford English Dictionary and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Despite Twitter-shorthand, SMS-speak, and LOL-cats dialect, the language remains the backbone of international communications and – to a large extent – international commerce.

This particular press release, however, splintered and spindled the language in a manner I find unforgivable. It assumes we know the acronym for some brainless Korean boy-band, spits out into about live streaming via an app (a link is provided, so there's that) and breathlessly informs us: "As the last stop of the world tour, ‘2015 BTS Live Trilogy Episode II: The Red Bullet,’ BTS will be having a concert at the Asia World Expo Arena in Hong Kong."

The press release neglects to mention when said concert is supposed to take place. I guess you have to fire up V app and the squeaky teens will rip off a rap rhyme with the date and time?

Why press releases should be in English
Most press releases are frankly useless. But ones that assume inside information, like this rubbish about K-pop, are worse. Not only does it spit out what seems like random info, it ignores what a long-experienced editor I know calls "The 5 Ws": who, what, when, where, why.

So let's break it down. It's K-pop, that's the we can skip that. WHO is BTS? Not in the release. WHEN is their concert? Nope. There's a bit of the what but I've already stopped reading – and it's clear that by sending Telecom Asia this release, the PR agent is simply shoveling releases at us. A lot of people do that. We're not impressed by K-poppage hurled like popcorn.

And one more critical factoid about BTS: "the group also has the highest ‘Chemi-beat,’ the relationship index between a celebrity and the fans." Well, that's reassuring.

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