7 Worst Miskakes to Make on Your Press Release
March 5, 2012
All Press Release practitioners have to start somewhere – we were all interns or first-jobbers once. Writing press releases for an organization is a great way for young or new staff to get to know a business, learn more about their new responsibilities and become a better writer and PR professional. Unfortunately, every rookie makes mistakes – it’s a fact of life – but as Press Releases are one of your main external message channels, any mistakes made here are amplified and are possibly even more costly.
This piece is written with our new friends in mind – if you only remember one rule about writing press releases then it’s this – they need to be clear, compelling, and relevant. And while it might seem logical to follow that the releases will therefore be straightforward, factual and objective, they aren’t always easy to write. In fact, if you’re used to other types of material — ad copy, marketing collateral, or educational assignments — you’ll be at a disadvantage when writing press releases. Here is a handy guide of the most common errors new press release writers can make – forewarned is forearmed!
7 WORST MISTAKES TO MAKE ON YOUR PRESS RELEASE
The ubiquitous spellchecker is both a blessing and a curse. It will recognize misspelled words easily enough but not grammatical errors, tense errors or even misused words. Every release whether you’ve been in the industry 20 years or 20 minutes, should be proofed again to catch any stray errors. This is also the best way of rechecking any factual information and statistics in the release to make sure it is up-to-date and correct.
2. Not Newsworthy
Press releases are supposed to announce news. This might sound obvious but an increasing number have to be read a second time to pick out the story. As a rough guide, a press release should be one or more of the following:-
- immediate – an event has happened recently or is about to happen
- new – something hasn’t happened before, or the public doesn’t know about it
- close-by – it is happening locally
- impactful – it is going to affect a number of people
- conflict – an oppositional event is taking place – debate, fight, contest etc.
- noteworthy – A unique or unusual achievement
If your press release doesn’t have any of these elements, then you might need to consider its relevance. No matter how well written it is.
3. Too Promotional
Any release has to be informative. It’s not an ad or marketing copy. Your primary audience are journalists and writers – not the public so reign in the sales and promotional urge, stick to the facts. .
4. Writing in First and Second Person
Generally, press releases should be written in the third-person. Don’t use “you,” “we,” or “I,” unless you’re quoting someone. This is a convention that your primary audience, journalists and editors are used to, so stick to it if at all possible.
5. Contact Information
No matter how well written or how comprehensive a release is, there will always be extra questions and information that the journalist or audience will want clarification or more detail on. All of your releases should have a contact name, telephone/cell number, email address, social media profiles and website address.
6. Include an Uninspiring Title or Headline
Journalists and editors receive dozens of pitches, calls and press releases every day. This means you have a small window to grab their attention and yours has to stand out. One of the simplest and best ways to begin this process is to write and attention-grabbing and compelling headline but keep it factual, not sensational. It should be enough to compel the reader to want to read on – not tell the whole story in one sentence.
7. No Call to Action
Press release writing isn’t copy-writing, but one thing both disciplines have in common is the necessity of a call to action. Include in your press release a method for the reader to take another action. Visit a website, scan a QR code, download a pdf report, order a product sample, send an email – anything to secure the tentative relationship you have just established with the reader. The release has done its job and got the information over, got their attention and has now gone the extra step by involving them in your process.
If you are new to writing press releases or even if you are an experienced PR practitioner, consider these suggestions in your next releases and you will find your writing tighter and more tantalizing than ever before.