A press release is a piece of writing that puts your company in the spotlight and grabs you some publicity.
Following on from our last post ‘5 Tips From a Successful Press Release Writer‘, we’d like to cross over to the dark side for a few minutes as we have a look at how things can sometimes go wrong.
Press releases are usually distributed to places that will publish your news, whether that be press release websites or directly to journalists. While most companies have reasonable success with press releases, many do not. The following examples show some of the common errors that companies make when writing news releases.
Not Using a Newsworthy Angle
A press release must have an angle that sets their news aside from other ‘run of the mill’ achievements. One of the most difficult things about writing a press release is putting your news into perspective. Put yourself in your reader’s shoes – does a 40% increase in sales really mean anything to them? Probably not. The key is to link your news in some way to a newsworthy angle, for example, perhaps your company increased your sales by 40% through some zany sales stunt? Now that would gather more of an interest from people.
However, some press releases will be newsworthy on their own; for example, if your company has launched a new website or has won a prestigious award, that’s news in itself, so you don’t need a second news angle.
In addition to a newsworthy angle, your press release needs to answer the five’ Ws and the H’:
Additionally, using statistics and including quotes in your press releases are effective ways to get the reader’s attention and establish credibility.
Focusing on Promotion Instead of News
Some press releases read like an advertising sales page and are full of hype and persuasive language. Paid for press release distribution sites will reject a release that reads like an advert and readers will see right through the sales pitch and respond accordingly, which normally means clicking the ‘back’ button. Likewise, if you send a ‘sales heavy’ press release to media contacts they’ll be unlikely to use it, especially if the news angle isn’t clear.
The trick to creating a good release is to promote your company without blatantly advertising. There is a difference. Readers want news and facts, so give them what they want.
Writing in The First or Second Person
A press release is news, so the only time you should write in the first or second person is when you’re quoting. The tone of a press release needs to be objective, not subjective, so double-check your release to ensure you have written it in the third person. Journalists and press release websites will knock back a release that is written in a subjective manner.
Not Having Enough Content
A news release should be between 300 and 800 words, should discuss the newsworthy topic and the company’s reason for releasing the news. If you’re sending your press release to journalists, it’s worth bearing in mind that not everything you write will be used and for that reason, you should always have more information than is actually needed. If distributing to press release websites, you’ll want readers to click your links. To achieve this, you first of all need to give them a reason to do so. If they don’t understand your news then they won’t feel compelled to click through to your site.
Don’t forget to add quotes from your own company. This lends credibility and speaks to the reader, encouraging them to take action.
One last thing about content: don’t stuff keywords. Placing your keywords in the headline, summary, and first paragraph is sufficient, unless your press release is more than 450 words. Generally, you should be aiming for a keyword density of 2 – 4%.
Not Taking the Time to Edit
One of the most common mistakes people make when writing press releases is not spending enough time editing them. It’s best if you can hire a professional proofreader or editor, as not only will they check the spelling and grammar, but will also suggest ways to improve the flow.
However, if you can’t hire an editor, use the spelling and grammar check on your word processor and have at least two people read it for errors. A fresh pair of eyes will do wonders for your writing.
Avoid these common mistakes, and you’re more than halfway to having a great press release.
Any more advice for would-be press release writers? Leave your thoughts below: