How clear are your press releases? Article icon


Financial services firm Hargreaves Lansdowne is the clearest communicator in the FTSE50 as its press releases are found to be the easiest to read, a new survey has found.

Hargreaves Lansdowne, which states on its website that ‘press releases have been specifically designed and written for use by the media’, was ranked as the ‘clearest speaking company’ among the top 50 listed businesses in the UK in the second annual FTSE50 Clarity Index, compiled on behalf of storytelling consultancy Insight Agents.

Danny Cox, head of communications at Hargreaves Lansdowne, said: ‘The press release is far from dead, in financial services anyway. We aim to be a trusted source for journalists – reliable, with good ideas, information, expertise and quotable quote. We are here to help. We may not always hit the mark with the audience, but we have high standards in the quality of what we send.’

Researchers from the Catalyst Scheme at Sussex University’s Innovation Centre considered the complexity of ten recent news releases from the FTSE50 using the well-established Flesch Kincaid (FK) reading ease tool, which considers readability, average sentence length and average number of syllables per word. A score between 60 and 70 is considered acceptable; the Daily Mail, for example, scores in the mid 60s.

 While Hargreaves Lansdowne’s press releases are twice as long as the average release by a FTSE50 company, they were rated a B with a 64.1 FK score. Most of its releases are not linked to Hargreaves Lansdowne’s corporate news but instead relate to economic data or a trend, which the company then expands upon. For example, its most recent release relates to official third quarter figures on personal and economic wellbeing data, with the headline ‘Spending isn’t making us happy – in fact it’s making us worry about the future’.

The researchers found that the financial services sector was best for plain speaking, with Aviva and Barclays both appearing in the top ten communicators alongside Hargreaves Lansdowne. The pharmaceutical industry struggles to put across its story cohesively, with three out of four pharma companies ranking in the bottom third for clarity. But the biggest losers were the media companies, with Informa ranked at 45 while PR and advertising giant WPP is at 43.

Ironically, the ten WPP corporate news releases analysed by the researchers scored an average E grade and a FK reading ease of 35.1. ‘Perhaps the corporate centre should use other members of the corporate family if they want their story of change and renewal to come across more clearly,’ observed author Sam Knowles, founder of Insight Agents.