What could be more important to your publicity than a press release announcement issued to the media and key audiences?
Press releases are an opportunity for brands, business and organizations to reach their target audience through the media. Although many might deem press release as being less important especially with the explosion of social media and digital transformation as we know it, they can still be very effective in boosting your profile and attracting new audiences.
The goal of a press release is to make every piece of writing concise, impactful, polished and clear. Writing a good press release isn’t rocket science, but there are some important rules to follow and mistakes to avoid if you want to increase your chances of scoring publicity.
So in no particular order, let’s see what are the 11 mistakes that can be commonly found in a good press release:
1. Unattractive Headline
An effective press release deserves a headlines that sizzles. Think of the headline as the most important words of the press release you will ever write. A good headline can answer one or more of the main questions in relation to any news story:
- Who is the story about?
- What happened?
- When did it happen?
At the very least it should tell who and what. An attractive headline grabs the attention and make people interested enough to want to learn more because it won’t tell the whole story in the headline. Do not let your title run on, make it short, pungent and to the point.
The title should give the reader a reason to want to continue reading or click through. Once you are done with the press release, go back and rework the title, as you will now have a better grasp on the title.
2. Writing In First / Second Person View
If you’ve been reading any news online or in your local newspaper you’ll notice that everything is written in the third person view – unless we’re talking about quotes from actual people of course. Never use “I” or “You” in a press release, as in “I’m really excited to offer this new service” or “You will love this new product!”
A good tip would be to pick up any newspaper and see how stories are written. You’ll be able to notice everything is never written in first person. It is as though if the journalist is telling the reader about someone or something else.
In keeping with the rules for news stories, always remember to write only in third person.
3. Too Little / Too Much Content
Will you read a three-paged press release? Probably no journalist and media person would waste much of their time on it.
The information in a press release should be placed in the appropriate context, for example by providing background details or explaining why the news is socially or politically significant.
This is an important part of furnishing journalists with the detail required to craft a news piece without them having to research the topic further. However, providing too little or too much context is another common mistake. This may result in the press release to either be bogged down with irrelevant details and unable to be understood easily.
According to MarketersMedia, a press release word count should be between 300 to 800 words. Read here for more of their PR Guidelines: https://services.marketersmedia.com/press-release-guidelines.
Don’t linger too much on details, otherwise you’ll kill your chance to grab your reader’s attention. Include only the gist to avoid blocks of unnecessary text.
4. Written like an advertisement
Many releases are written like advertisements, full of cliches, wild claims and adjectives like “amazing”, “top notch”, “cutting-edge” and “incredible”. If you visit a news website or a newspaper, you’ll see the difference between ads and news stories.
Ads a blatantly self-promotional, constantly making bold and often substantiated claims to compel people to buy something. They tend to be emotionally driven. News stories on the other hand, report on facts and circumstances from a third-party, supposedly in an unbiased viewpoint. Here, they are trying to inform or educate people about some aspect of the world. Your press release should adopt the same tone.
Instead of saying it’s “amazing” and “incredible” and using cliche which essentially means nothing, show the reader why it’s amazing and incredible. Here’s an example of the difference between showing and telling.
“The tree is magnificent!”
“The 2,000 year-old Redwood stood more than 300 feet tall, towering over the other trees in Yorkshire Dale State Park. Its thick, twisted trunk cast an intimidating shadow across the forest floor, while its luscious green leaves seemed to graze the sky.”
Notice the difference? By extension, don’t tell a journalist your company is great. Describe your company, your products, your services, cite statistics and provide evidence so that journalists can come to that conclusion themselves.
5. Incorporating Obvious Selling Language
Press release is a powerful tool to market your brand. However, some people tend to overuse the power of press release by turning it into a “sales-y” piece. A quality press release content provider will never create a release that sounds promotional.
Not to mention the screaming “buy now” tone in the body of your press release. Obvious hard selling kills your chance to promote your business. You see, although press release writing promotes and advertises your brand, it must appear factual and not to sell.
It can be tempting to use promotional language in your press release because you are trying to bring attention to your business. At the same time, distribution sites won’t accept pieces that are written from a sales perspective. A call to action is the closest you should get to promotion.
Remember, your press release is not a platform to sell your products. Stick to providing useful information and communicating news to your target audience.
6. Over-Hyped Copy and CAPS
Have you ever seen an exclamation point and in a news story if it wasn’t included as part of a quote? No you never will.
Also, NEVER SUBMIT A PRESS RELEASE IN ALL UPPERCASE LETTERS. As you can see, it’s difficult to read and marks you as an amateur writer.
Copy that is littered with exclamation marks and wild claims about your service, exhibition or event screams spam and self-promotional. The hype should be in the content itself, not in the excessive punctuation or filler words. Avoid unnecessary adjectives because it will only read like an advertisement and that’s something you want to avoid.
Don’t include phrases such as “This product is truly astounding!” The only thing that will be “truly astounding” is how quickly your release gets tossed in the recycle bin. Keep your tone measured, conservative and focused on interesting facts and detail.
7. Not Making The Most Of Quotes
Once you’ve established an angle for your story, you should always provide one or two quotes from the key person or spokesperson involved in the performance, project or event. But whatever you do, don’t let these quotes go to waste. They are the only thing journalists can’t chance, so make the most of them by throwing in some strong key messages.
A good press release quote will draw readers into your story, provide a unique perspective and inject much-needed human context. Be punch and precise. Get to the point in demonstrating the potential impact of your news.
For instance, “Our new CEO is in discussions to merge with our Asian counterparts,” will grab attention much faster than, “We are delighted that our new CEO has accepted this opportunity to explore new opportunities to expand our organizations into Asia”. I’m pretty sure the latter doesn’t appeal much since it’s so draggy and lengthy.
Another thing to note is do not repeat what has already been said elsewhere in the press release. Use quotes an opportunity to really sell yourself and your business. Keep it positive upbeat and to the point.
8. Poorly Written
Never write a press release that will have the journalist repeatedly trying to figure out what you are trying to tell. Chances are, if they have to read through it five times and finally getting a vague idea of what the release is, it will most probably be rejected next.
There is no better way to guarantee that your press release results in zero news coverage than to write it so poorly that a journalist can’t understand what you’re trying to say. Most journalists are juggling multiple assignments and duties each day. They don’t have time to sit around and try to decipher what your press release may or may not be getting at.
It’s understandable. We all make mistakes and it’s not the end of the world if there’s a typo or two. Though you obviously want to send a release that is well-written and error-free. But if your press release is confusing, complicated and unclear, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
9. Too Many Embedded Links
For any press release published online, linking is an important element in directing readers to places where they can get more information. Before you go on a linking spree, please heed this caveat: A link or two in a press release is great, but too many links in a body of text can have dire consequences for that content’s visibility.
Content that is filled with hyperlinks in the press release is equivalent to being annoyed with constant bombardments of TV ads. What’s worse is search engines are paying very close attention to links in content, and too many links can cause your press release to be flagged as spam and buried in search results. Embed two links – three if you absolutely must – in each press release. That’s it. Links in press release should provide a service, not a distraction.
Another most vital factor when linking is to make sure they are all functionable. The moment one link is not working, it will immediately be rejected without giving it a second thought. There are few things more annoying than reading an interesting article and when you click to learn more, the link is broken. Your piece will instantly lose credibility.
10. No News is Bad News
A good press release should be newsworthy. There’s no point in writing about that “new” CEO (who actually has already retired a couple of years ago). It’s old news. Tell them something they don’t know yet. A new, shiny, relevant story will get the editor’s attention right away.
Each press release should be hyper focused and not include content from older releases or about other subjects. Do not recycle any old content from a previous release. The only common thing in your press releases should be the boiler plate, which is the “about” section at the bottom that tells the reader briefly about your company and gives the contact information should they want to get in touch for more information.
11. No SEO
Online press releases rely on keywords and anchor text links to get indexed properly by search engines, and thus, found by people. Include your best keywords. If you’re adding links, use those keywords as anchor text for the links. This gives your press release SEO power.
Issuing a search-optimized press release that’s picked up on Google, Yahoo and elsewhere can generate a number of high-quality links back to your site. To get to major search engines, you need to use a press release distribution. Putting your press release on your own website is fine, but sending it out to thousands of potential outlets through a service like MarketersMEDIA is much better.
Not to mention that if your press release is good enough, it could lead to you actually getting positive press. Think it this way, you’re getting a big boost in attention for a relatively small investment. Here’s a blog on how you can optimize your next press release: https://blog.marketersmedia.com/4-steps-to-optimize-your-next-press-release/929/
Now, Go Write A Killer Press Release…
Press releases can be an excellent part of your advertising and media strategy. However, it has to be done correctly. All too often, people abuse the idea of a press release just because it is easy to send one on digital news wires.
As a result, journalists are constantly overwhelmed with media pitches and yours must be in perfect shape to cut through the clutter. You can do this by avoiding the common mistakes we discussed today and taking the pointers of how to come up with a good press release that will successfully appeal to your target audience and help get extra exposure for your company.
Press releases are just one aspect of a solid marketing strategy. Start by sending your releases today at MarketersMEDIA. They help you tell your stories better and louder, leveraging the top-notch partnerships and millions of online viewers out there.
Are there any more common mistakes that I might have left out? Let me know in the comment section below!