A press release can be an effective way to make an announcement that will draw attention to your business, event, product launch, or organization. Press releases can be picked up by journalists, and this can lead to the public learning about your offerings. When writing a press release, though, it is common for mistakes to be made, and these mistakes can lead to your release being ignored by the press. These thirteen mistakes can make your press release far less effective.
1. Poorly written headlines
There are a few different mistakes that can lead to a bad headline, particularly that it is too boring or too over-the-top. If a headline is dull, your local media will not think your story is worth covering. Meanwhile, if the headline feels too good to be true, it will likely also be ignored. Try to aim for a sweet spot in your headline that gives enough information to make your story interesting without overdoing it.
2. Writing in the first person
If you look at a newspaper or website, you will not see first-person pronouns like “I” or “you.” Instead, the news is written in the third person. This should be true for press releases as well. Even if your press release is announcing that your company is doing something, it should be formatted as “The company” instead of “Our company.”
3. Not enough information (Use the 5Ws of journalism: Who, What, When, Where, and Why)
Press releases are designed to short, generally around 400 words in length. This means that it is important to make every word count to explain exactly what it is you are announcing. News organizations receive a lot of press releases, and when they are determining which to follow up on or feature, they will turn to the ones with the most specific information.
4. There’s no image
Images are essential for capturing attention, and journalists are more likely to pick up a press release with an image. Already having an image makes it more likely that your press release will lead to further coverage.
5. Forgetting proper punctuation
Professionalism is key to a press release, and blatant errors in grammar or punctuation can greatly affect this. Don’t be afraid to have multiple people look over your press release or put it in a grammar checker before submitting it.
6. Using copy from website or newsletter
Your newsletter and website can be great tools to reach clients or community members, but they serve different functions than a press release. The copy in your newsletter especially may be written for an audience that already knows who you are and what you do, and this would not be helpful for a press release. Your website may explain some of what you do, but it is not designed to concisely share information like a press release.
7. Not making the most of quotes
This goes back to considering what a journalist would want as they read through press releases for story ideas. If you include relevant quotes in your press release from relevant figures in your organization, these can be used in stories. Because of this, press releases that contain quotes generally lead to more coverage.
8. Use of all caps
When writing a press release, make sure that the caps lock key stays off the entire time. You may be used to writing certain words or phrases in capital letters for your website or newsletter, but when news organizations look at your press release, they know that they will have to go back and make your text lowercase if they want to cover your story.
9. It’s not the right length (too short or too long)
As previously stated, press releases should be around 400 words. This is the sweet spot that allows you to cover all essential information without being excessively detailed. If your press release is too long, journalists might simply ignore it. Again, they are busy and don’t have time to read a novel of a press release.
10. The copy is too promotional (A press release is not an ad)
While the goal of your press release is to bring attention to your offerings, it should not sound like a piece of advertising. Instead, think of how a news story is structured while writing it. This will make the press release much more effective.
11. Heavy use of industry-specific lingo (write for ordinary people outside your industry)
You are trying to reach journalists and others who are not inside your industry through your press release. If you write your press release with heavy jargon, there is a risk that the reader will not understand you. Making the copy as universal as possible increases the chances of it being picked up.
12. Too many embedded links
Press releases are an artistic exercise in moderation, and this is true in using embedded links. You should generally limit yourself to using two or three links in a press release. Having too many can have the same effect as having too long of a press release in general; readers may be overwhelmed or not have the time to check everything out.
13. Your press release just isn’t newsworthy
To you, everything in your organization may be newsworthy, but for the general public, this is often not the case. Your local media will likely not pick up stories that do not seem pertinent or interesting. If your organization is hosting a major event or launching a new product, this could be newsworthy. If your press release just feels like a general ad for your business as a whole, that would not be newsworthy.
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