I get 10-20 press releases flying into my inbox on a daily basis. While some are engaging and well-written, with a strong news peg – 90 per cent are not. Here are 10 press release writing mistakes businesses make when trying to get their stories noticed…
A buried story
These are the press releases that don’t put the news angle in the first par. Or even in the second. Instead, the story peg is buried so far down the release you’re likely to miss it on first reading. An editor will think this release has nothing interesting to say. Make your release more impactful.
No relevance to me
Of the 10 releases I get as a journalist every day, at least half are irrelevant to my specialisms. The company has sent the release out to everyone on a contact list without appropriate targeting. Send it to the right person and it’s more likely to get pick up. This article is really helpful.
Bad news angles
These are the releases that try to skew a current national news story into their news angle, or it has absolutely no relevance to the company’s story. Worst still are those that make a PR spin out of a negative news story because they can’t find a better peg.
Absolutely no story
Sadly, these are more common than you might think and tend to come from PR and marketing firms that have committed to a media contract with a company. In doing so, they are living up to the contract by sending out a release – any release – once a month, even if there’s no story.
This refers to reams of copy that could be condensed into two pars. Many of these releases also include verbose cover emails, which talk for two paragraphs about the weather or something personal i.e. my boyfriend left me (this really happened). Journalists won’t have time to read lots of text, so get your key messages in the first paragraph.
These are press releases packed with jargon only the company’s resident expert understands. This isn’t about dumming down but simplfying. You might know what ‘six hydrocoptic marzel vanes and an ambifacient lunar’ are but a journalist won’t. Put it into layman’s terms, with these useful tips.
It makes your organisation look unprofessional and distracts from what could be a good story. It’s particularly unhelpful when names are spelt wrongly. Check out the numerous free online tools.
Out of date
Make an effort to understand short and long lead times. This stops you sending out releases in June for a June edition. Most magazines are put together at least three months before the publication date. In general:
- Monthly magazines work three to four months in advance.
- Weeklies: one month in advance.
- Dailies: one week in advance.
This is less about the writing and more about the approach. Chances are if a journalist is interested in a story, they will contact you within a few days. A quick follow-up reminder is helpful but when a press officer calls daily to ask if I am covering the story, and/or repeatedly asks ‘why aren’t you?’ this can feel a little like harassment!
Poor contact list
This is when the contacts listed at the bottom of the release are unavailable (no matter when you call), or the person named on the release has not been informed they are a press contact. They are as surprised as me when I call them out of the blue.