Tees Business co-editor Dave Allan, who also runs Teesside-based DNA PR & Publicity, gives a rundown on mistakes made by many press release rookies…
Mistake No 1: No news is bad news
Journalists are always looking for news, so your press release should be newsworthy. It’s the reason it’s also called a “news release”. If you don’t have news, you’re wasting your time sending a press release. Too many companies feel they are doing something wrong if they haven’t sent out a press release for a couple of months. Unless you have a story that really is newsworthy, don’t send a press release. Reporters are hit with a barrage of press releases every hour. Save them for real news.
Mistake No 2: Failing to get to the point straight away
Too many press releases are written as if they are a magazine feature – or, worse still, a book – attempting to tell a story from start to finish. You have a matter of seconds to grab the attention of journalists before they decide whether your press release is worth reading, let alone using, so cut to the chase – get the salient points in the first paragraph. Who? Where? What? When?
Mistake No 3: Poor grammar
There’s nothing more certain to have journalists reaching for the “delete” button than a press release with poor grammar and punctuation or misspelled words. It will not only weaken your press release but you and your organisation look unprofessional too.
Mistake No 4: First person is the last thing to do
Go online or pick up the Gazette, the Northern Echo or any national newspaper and you’ll immediately see that every article is written in the third person – unless it’s a quote from someone. Unless it’s in a quote, don’t write “I” or “We”.
Mistake No 5: Photos that bomb
Here’s a mistake that even some PR companies make: poorly composed or weak photography to support a press release. To give your press release the best possible opportunity of gaining maximum space in the publication you’re targeting, you need great, eye-catching photography. I strongly recommend the use of a professional press photographer but if your budget won’t stretch to that make it an interesting shot – and don’t line up your colleagues in a straight row as if they’re about to face a firing squad.
Mistake No 6: It’s just an advert
Back to that old chestnut about it being newsworthy – if all you’re really trying to do is promote your product or service then you’re likely to be referred to the advertising department.
Mistake No 7: Over-hyping!
Littering your press release with exclamation marks is annoying! And unnecessary! Equally, claims that your organisation is “amazing”, “stunning” or even “the best” are no more than opinions and, as such, should be kept to quotes, not stated as facts.
Mistake No 8: Lack of colour
Don’t just include the facts in your press release. Add some colour, opinion and background too – and the best way to do that is often by including quotes from your MD or relevant in-house professional explaining what this news means to them, the company and, of course, your customers.
Mistake No 9: Using industry jargon
Acronyms without explanation are an absolute no-no in any press releases. Outside of your industry, or possibly your organisation, no one else understands what they mean – so the reader will quickly lose interest in your story.
Mistake No 10: Keep it simple
Don’t get caught up trying to make it pretty by adding too much formatting in such as indents and fancy fonts. You’re simply creating work for the reporter, who then has to take it all back out and put it into their organisation’s usual style.
Co-editor, Tees Business