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.


5 Market Research Tips You Can Use On The Fly

Here at The Content Fair, we’re all about helping the freelance writer. Whether you’re struggling to make a career out of your God-given talent for writing or you’re already at a level each writer wants to be in, you could always use a little bit of help here and there.

When I decided to become a full-time I was picky with whom I wanted to work with. But then later, I had to swallow my pride and accept what was given to me by my editor. Now I’m happy and content. But what about the millions out there wishing they could be on their own and be sought after by companies waiting for get their hands on their writing.

So are you now are at that level of having a few followers and you’re kinda-sorta sought after but don’t know how to stand out? The key is to do some market research. I know the word “research” is probably one of the most dreaded or feared word. But you have to do it, be good at it, and in fact, love it to keep your dream clients happy.

Here are a few tips on how to at least stay afloat with the market.

Remember some basics

By understanding who your customers are will give you a clearer path on how to reach them. Start with the basics by gathering data. If you create buyer personas within your niches, you could get a wealth of information. Use the U.S. Census Bureau for data by age, business, profession, city, state, etc.

Then you could find out where they are most active online – reading blogs, interacting in forums, commenting on Facebook or YouTube views.

Going online

Google is the most popular search engine in the world. But if you want to see just how popular a topic is in searches by region or area, you should use Google Trends.

This is perfect for small businesses to find out local interest on their product or service. It even ranks by city.

Another great tool called BuzzSumo can be used to dig up what your competitors are publishing and what is being shared the most. Big businesses can also get information on theirs and their competitors’ brand health and compare data and see what areas need to be addressed. See what campaigns are working for them and know what you can do to emulate them.

Keyword research tools to use

What are searchers really doing in Google or Bing? They’re all searching for something. If you could take a peek into what it really is they’re looking for and then write that killer paper that they so need. Wouldn’t that be an awesome superpower?

Understand what keyword phrases people are looking for then create your content. Some great sites to help you are Answer the Public and Seed Keywords. They work similarly in helping you create topics or give you content ideas.

Want to know what important keywords are being used in a competitor’s web page? Use  Tag Crowd and it will show you keywords by importance.

Engaging in communities

You may not agree but the best advice, opinions, advocacies, interests and just about anything a person has to offer can be found in online communities. It’s a great source of information for your market research if you just engage the right people with the right topics. If you want writing advice, there are lots of forums with your specific problem. And the best part of being in an online group is, each one is craving to be heard and eager to help.

Using feedback from customer reviews

Getting feedback isn’t just about asking how satisfied a customer is. It’s actually more than that. By collecting feedback you’re gaining new customers’ trust, you’re fixing a problem or you’re opening up to new ideas from your customers.

Your customers’ reviews can be used as testimonials especially those that are specific about a certain service or a special feature of your product. Don’t use the generic types like “Great product!” or “Good service.” They offer no help in decision making.

Reviews offer more than just insight to how you can improve your product. This is why curious customers always read reviews and recommendations before even considering a purchase. By reading the reviews, a writer can get into what the customer is trying to say, and feel his emotions as he explains his dilemma or his delight. It’s a view not often seen by writers as a content helper but it can be an emotion-grabber because you know where his exact sentiments lie.

Think of market research as a serious investment into your freelance writing future. Remember, research is a never-ending learning process. A decade ago, doing market research to better understand your target audience and current readers was such a difficult and expensive task. Take advantage of what simple things you can do online to get so much valuable information about your cherished brand and their beloved customers.

7 Ways to Take Your Writing from Yawn-Inspiring to Awe-Inspiring in a Few Seconds without an Editor

If you are like most content writers, chances are that you know just how frustrating it can be to get stuck on a headline for a very important piece or waste valuable hours of sleep trying to figure out what topics you should expand on next, in order to keep your readers on your side.

So what exactly should you do, when no amount of coffee could keep you awake like a pending deadline does? How could you write better onsite and offsite content when you can’t afford to add a great editor or content manager to your small team of creative minds?

You do what you can, with what you already have, and focus on becoming an even more successful all-in-one content creation guru. OK, so how do you do that?

7 Steps to Take to Become a Truly Inspiring Writer without an Editor on Board

While there is no secret tried and true recipe for success that you should apply to make your articles and blog posts seem more appealing in the eyes of your audience, there are a few simple and effective strategies that you could employ to elevate the quality of your writing in no time.

  1. Craft a More Compelling Story Introduced via a Magnetic Headline. Start by figuring out what you should write about. Choose a subject that is compatible with your interests and business profile, and also manages to address the curiosities of your public. Craft a compelling story around your brand, and make it about your readers. Before actually putting meat on the bones of your content piece, come up with an attention-grabbing headline that is tantalizing enough to make your readers stay on your page and read the whole body copy. Avoid writing headlines that are too vague or too specific to harness the interest of your audience and feed their curiosity.
  2. Start a Meaningful Conversation with Your Readers. Next, strive to create a solid bond with the people who visit your blog or website by begging your piece with an important question. Questions invite people to meditate on ideas that could change their lives for the best, and also give you, as a writer, the perfect opportunity to add your thoughts and maintain a fruitful dialogue with your public.
  3. Write with Your CTAs in Mind. Instead of letting your words flow freely, write with your specific purpose in mind. What kind of actions do you wish to drive through your content piece? Start by writing down a part of your desired outcome. By doing so, you could craft a more specific, action-inducing post, instead of creating a piece that is overly metaphorical and exploratory. Start the piece with a short introduction focused on the main pain points; continue by adding background information; develop a framework announcing possible solutions to the problems experienced by your readers; then draw the necessary conclusions by presenting the pros and cons of your preferred solution and encourage your audience to take action.
  4. Expand on Topics That You Are Familiar with (and Passionate about) and Get Specific. Making small talk with your readers is never a good idea, considering that most of your public is looking for quality problem-solving writing on your website. This is why you should always write your posts with the specific needs and demands of your readers in mind. Use a series of online tools such as Blog Topics Generator or Evernote to find inspiration for your next article or blog post, and organize and store your ideas in a more efficient way.

Also, keep in mind that we are all different, and don’t hesitate to get very specific and let your readers know exactly how you do things. Write about things that you are really good at; this way, you will manage to answer any potential question on to the core of your piece, surprise your audience with the best solutions to any subject-relayed problem, and establish yourself as an industry expert.

  1. Make Sure Your Writing Alternates between Third, Second and First Person. Also, keep in mind that your writing should reflect the perfect balance between first and third person. Opt for a smooth transition from the “I” statements, which allow the reader to become familiar with your own experiences and learn from them, to second and third person narrative, meant to help you create empathy and present a scene that will interest the readers, from the perspective of a neutral observer, encouraging your audience to respond to your calls to action.
  2. Incorporate Links to Your Favorite Sources. Believe it or not, no one expects you to reinvent the wheel while promoting your business via informative, engaging articles and blog posts. As a matter of fact, by adding links to your content pieces, you could highlight the fact that you are producing high-quality, well-researched and well-rounded content, and boost the credibility of your website.
  3. Rewrite the Begging and the End of Your Piece. Moreover, strive to become your own editor. Reread your work to eliminate fluff and reword certain sections that provide little to no value to your readers. After finishing the last sentence of your body copy, try to summarize and rewrite the beginning and the end. By doing so, you could keep the intro short and sweet, make the CTAs more noticeable and effective, and gain the appreciation of readers with a short attention span.

Practice What You Preach Often to Exceed Your Own Efforts as a Writer

At the end of the day, becoming a better writer is a perfectly achievable goal, especially when your personalized recipe for success involves consistency and practice. Writing is so much more than a method to generate and share life-changing ideas. As an invaluable communication tool, your written content pieces allow you to bridge any gap between your brand and your audiences. Given that the stake is so high, choose to redirect all your resources towards a process of self-discovery and self-improvement to reestablish yourself as an industry leader through your stellar content.

How to Handle These Freelance Writing Client Personalities Without Breaking a Sweat

I know freelance writing is no picnic. I mean, you’re doing what you love, you get to determine your own schedule, but there’s one thing you cannot avoid if you want to make a living as a writer: clients. You need them probably more than they need you. After all, someone’s got to pay for the lifestyle to which you’d like to be accustomed.

But, you’re always going to come across a few challenging personalities. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most typical clients you will come across – whether you are sourcing work from local businesses, online bidding sites, or *gasp* content mills (please, say it isn’t so!).

  1. Curious George

We’ll call our curious client George. He’s one of the most frustrating you’ll encounter. At first, he’ll be so impressed with your samples and so excited to work with you that he’ll talk the hind legs of your proverbial donkey and appear to live on coffee by the jar-full. At first, you may be eager to share your knowledge with George and offer extra tidbits here and there, but over time George becomes a thorn in your side: he’s demanding, and he’s slowing you down with every question he asks.

Here’s the thing: George doesn’t just want progress reports, he wants to know how you do your work, where you get your information from, and he’ll want you on Skype at ungodly hours nearly every day. So, you need to be direct. Tell George you’re busy and your time is limited. Let him know time is money for freelance writing and if he wants meetings and reports, he’ll need to make an appointment and stick to the allotted time.

  1. Cheapskate Charlie

There are so many Charlies in the freelance world, aren’t there? Charlie has a budget, and he doesn’t budge. He’s happy to sacrifice time and quality so long as you’re cheap. After all, why put a price on your training, education, time and dedication? Your kids don’t need to eat, right?

If you find Charlie approaching you for freelance writing, discuss quality with him. Let him know that he is going to get what he pays for and if he wants anything else, well, Charlie will have to dig a little deeper or move on. By the way, if you’re happy to work with Charlie, don’t spend too much time on his project; he isn’t paying for time or research, he just wants the job done. And don’t forget to lock him into a contract before you start – he may have no intention of paying you otherwise.

  1. Know-It-All Nelly

Nelly is easy to spot – you’ll hate her as soon as you’ve begun working with her. She knows more about freelance writing than you do, but she hired you regardless. She will interrupt you every chance she gets and refuses to be swayed by her ideas, which are obviously the best thing since, well, ever.

Nelly is a control freak, and she demands respect. It’s actually her insecurity. Use a little basic psychology to win her over: give her respect and power. Stroke her ego now and then to win her over. But do pick your battles, you are a professional, after all. Don’t fight back on every issue, save your strength for the bigger moments. Better yet, Nelly is someone who is often easier to walk away from if she refuses to respect your work and insists on working you up more than letting you get on with business.

  1. Helpful Harry

Harry is a sweetheart, but if you don’t handle him properly from the outset, he’s going to get under your feet. Harry likes to be hands-on, he loves interacting with you and your work. As long as you can keep Harry occupied, you two can get along.

If Harry insists on helping you, give him space to. It’s the perfect opportunity to practice your delegation skills and learn how to be a team player in a freelance world. So, give Harry something to do, just identify his skillset first and then ask him to perform a task related to the project, such as research.

  1. Day Dreamer Debbie

Debbie is not of this Earth. Her head is filled with big plans and harebrained ideas. Whether it’s about function or style, Debbie wants to ensure her product is the best thing out there. For a freelancer writer, helping make Debbie’s dreams come true can be tough. Without discouraging her passion, you need to bring her back into reality.

Ask Debbie to show you examples of what she really likes and be honest with her about timeframes and prices, so she knows what she is in for. Also, ask Debbie for details; get her to fill in the blanks. While her end goal is probably incredible, by discussing the details, you can both get a grasp on the scope of the writing project.

  1. Sophia the Sprinter

Sophia is exhausting. She saps you of energy and patience, and she’s on a mission to win an Olympic gold for most deadlines met in the history of deadlines and in the quickest time possible. Sophia thinks that is you can write her eBook in two weeks; then there’s no reason not to get it done in 24 hours.

For Sophia, time is of the essence, and, hey, it is for you too. After all, you want to get paid, don’t you? Sophia is a hardworking client; we can’t deny her that, so she has high expectations for those she deals with. If you’re about to take on a client like this, proceed with caution. Don’t get caught up in something that leaves you with an over-demanding assignment and a client pushing you every minute to get the job in. Let her know that every minute spent answering her queries is another minute away from the job. She’ll probably understand.

With Sophia, you need to guard your deadlines, so be realistic and flexible from the outset. Don’t budge from the deadlines when she is asking you to sprint ahead.

Have you come across a George, Nelly, Charlie, Harry, Debbie or Sophia along your freelance writing journey? Share with us how you handled them!