Writers tips

5 Ways to Kill a Press Release (And Not in a Good Way)

Press releases are the cornerstones of newsworthy media reports. Long before you see a particular breaking news report or read a first-page headlining newspaper story, it originated with a well-developed press release. However, there is a method to high-quality press releases that you must master if you want to write one yourself. You may already be familiar with the right things to do, but here are ____ ways you can immediately destroy the quality of any press release.

Write a Weak and Longwinded Introduction

The first paragraph of the press release must be one of the strongest paragraphs. It should grab the reader’s attention and give them enough key information right way to compel them to keep reading. It may seem like an old-fashioned method, but it is imperative to identify the “5 W’s” – What, Who, Where, When and Why – in your introductory paragraph. Trying to “build up” to those key points as if you are telling a story will kill your entire press release.

Use the First-Person Perspective

You should never write a press release from a first-person perspective. A press release is supposed to represent fact-based information from a third-party point of view. Even if you have a personal connection to the subject of the story, leave that connection as far away from the content as possible. Addressing the topic from a third-party point of view effectively prepares and structures it for media usage. Using a first-person perspective will require extensive rewrites and revisions – which may send your entire story to the cutting room floor.

Go Beyond a Reasonable Word Count

The beauty of a press release is its simplicity and brevity. It does not need a lot of words to make a solid point – especially if it sticks to the facts from beginning to end. The ideal press release should not exceed 600-800 words.

It is imperative to remember that your readers will not focus on every single word in your release. Most readers will get everything that they need to know from the well-developed introductory paragraph that outlines the “5 W’s.” To make your content more readable when it must be a little lengthier than expected, use subheadings and bulleted lists to break it up without compromising the overall structure.

Fire Ammunition at Competitors

Do not use your press release as a firing range to practice taking shots at your competitors. You have already set the stage for the “5 W’s” of your story in the introduction. Derailing your primary message with subtle jabs at your competitors will disengage your readers and possibly damage the reputation and credibility of your company. Always keep in mind that press releases are intended to be factual and nonbiased. Firing shots at competitors makes it clear to readers that your press release missed both of those marks.

Send the Release to the Masses

You may have a well-crafted press release that hits every mark beautifully from beginning to end. How you choose to distribute that release, however, is a still a life-or-death decision that should not be taken lightly. For instance, some make the mistake of attaching their well-developed press release to an email and sending it out to their contacts with a single email blast. Even if you blind-copy (BCC) the recipients, your email is more likely to be disregarded either by the reader or their email server as Spam.

When sending the release to journalists, do not approach it with a “law of large numbers” mentality – sending it out to every journalist you can find. Sending your press release to journalists that have nothing to do with the topic covered in your release is a quick way to burn bridges with media outlets. The best approach is to identify specific journalists and media outlets with a history of addressing similar topics and submit your release to each one individually.

 

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