This morning I ran through a long list of media queries from reporters who are looking for sources for their stories. I do this for my marketing clients and myself, so to say I’ve read through a few thousand queries is no exaggeration. This morning I found one that is a perfect example of how NOT to phrase things. Here it is:
We're looking for 10 entrepreneurs who started businesses beyond the age of 50. We'd like to know what inspired them at such an advanced age, what they brought with them from their former careers, how they keep up with younger entrepreneurs, etc.
I’m not sure of the age of this writer, but I would bet he isn’t anywhere close to the “advanced age” of 50. That phrasing more than likely turned off many responders who would have made interesting subjects for the story. And if that phrase didn’t do it, the implication that a 50 year old entrepreneur can’t match the energy of a younger business owner just might have.
There’s quite a bit in the media about young workers versus older workers – something I dislike seeing because frankly, right now, I think we need every single worker of any age, race, or creed we can get to help us out of our economic funk. Queries are advertisements, in effect. Writers need to find the subjects for their stories, just as business owners need to find customers for their products and services. I doubt you would write an advertisement that said something like, “we sell comfortable shoes for those over the advanced age of 50 who still manage to find the energy to walk.” I chuckle just thinking about it. Watch your phrasing – I feel sure this writer was totally oblivious to the tone of his query (which tells me something about him as a writer) but still, the bet is that he limited the responses to his query.
© Sue Painter