Stop the Press Release Abuse

stop-95477_1280Casual or conversational writing may be to blame, but press releases are now being written like a conversation. It is a style that has been made popular by blogs and social media.

The problem is that press releases are not designed for casual conversations. Rather,they are a company’s legacy. They are also legal documents. When an error is made, you need an official retraction.

Below are 4 cardinal sins to avoid if you want your press release to be effective (and read).

  1. The introduction either makes or breaks the press release

Journalists are always pressed for time. They constantly scan, speed read and research.  When they do read a press release, they want to know everything in the shortest possible time. That is the job of the introduction. If your introduction fails to do that, you will have lost their interest.

Stop writing the introduction like a story. Highlight key facts right up front. Keeping them for an exciting finish at the end will not do any good. Either the journalists will miss it or they will deem them unimportant. In fact, today’s bloggers and social media posters also report or write what they obtain from press release introductions purely due to space and time constraints.

An accurate, comprehensive and straight-to-the-point introduction is the most effective way to grab the attention you are after. Leave the storytelling to the journalists.

  1. Whatever you do, DO NOT lie

Journalists often get accused of sensationalizing. Sending a press release that sensationalizes, exaggerates or clearly lies will be quickly found out.

Stay away from motherhood statements like, “The Internet will change the planet” or unsubstantiated facts like, “A few studies show that 50% of companies will fail”. Stick to facts and factoids. Identify sources for studies and figures. The time spent on research will be appreciated and applauded by journalists.

A quick tip: Use infographics to summarize the key points visually. They are fast becoming a preferred supplementary material for many journalists who cannot afford time to read. Another option is a video. [bctt tweet=”Use infographics to summarize key points visually”]

  1. ALWAYS follow-up

Imagine your email inbox filled to the brim with press releases. That is a reality for every working journalist. Just because you write and send a press release does not mean the journalist will read it.

A good PR professional knows every press release needs extensive follow-up. It’s something that cannot be avoided. In fact, it is part and parcel of relationship building. If you skip this vital step of the process, you are being just plain lazy.

  1. Spend time to make your pitch perfect

Nothing is more irritating than a pitch that wastes a journalist’s time. And the worst kind of pitch is one that begins with “Will you be interested in covering the press release…” Why would a journalist want to do that? That is where the art of pitching comes in.

It takes practice and preparation. Before you pitch, understand why the journalist would be interested. Research articles they have written, identify his or her interests and find out what story angles they are looking for. This will help you to develop a pitch angle that will resonate well with the journalists.

Even if you do not have the perfect phone voice or are not a good storyteller, the right pitch can create interest. Journalists always appreciate a good, well-researched pitch.

Writing a press release is not difficult, but not all press releases are optimally written. Many are created under pressure while juggling journalist’s interests with corporate expectations. Nevertheless, the final product should be the best that can be written within all the constraints.

There is no room for bad or ineffective press releases. They are a critical PR tool. Like any tool, you need to learn the art and science behind it in order to eventually perfect it. When you do, it will help you engage with journalists more effectively.