Note: This post was originally published at NakedPR.com / SocialRealist.com and was moved to BizAmmo: Social Media upon that blog’s retirement.
I’m constantly asked to give basic feedback on press releases, and hired to edit from scratch. While I normally reserve free feedback to releases posted publicly (so others can learn from the mistakes), even that is feeling like a waste of my time. Frankly, the same mistakes keep popping up (so apparently people aren’t “learning” from the mistakes of others after all). These 7 signs are pretty common indicators of a lousy press release. Make sure yours aren’t violating these press release sins:
1. Your press release headline is so “cutesy” that no one could possibly tell what the hell your news is by looking at it.
Remember that headlines need to be descriptive… think keyword-rich, and lightly embellished to make it catchy. You’re job is to tell the reader what the release is about, not make you look like a clever little monkey.
2. You neglect to leave your full contact information.
Journalists don’t give a rat’s behind that you’re worried about spam. If you want significant news coverage, you’d better include an email address and phone number. If spam is that big of an issue, then create an address or number reserved only for press releases, or find a better distribution method.
3. You don’t tell us why your story is newsworthy until the conclusion of the press release.
Simply put, if you do that, no journalist is going to bother reading that far to begin with. You need to get their attention early.
4. Your news release resembles a novel.
Huge blocks of text and multiple-page press releases just aren’t practical for a busy journalist, especially on top of the dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of other press releases they have waiting on them.
5. Any 6th grader could tell you were too lazy to proofread your press release.
If your release is littered with spelling and grammatical errors, don’t count on it being read. If you want someone to take the time to consider your story, respect them enough to take the time to proofread before your press release distribution.
6. It reads like a testimonial.
Despite what a lot of webmasters and small business owners seem to think, a press release is not an advertising / marketing tactic; it’s a publicity tool. Journalists don’t give a damn about what your customers say, or how great you think you are. If you want to run an advertisement, then buy advertising space.
7. Your mommy thinks you deserve a front page story.
Hey, you might think you have the best thing since sliced bread. So does the guy down the street… and the guy across town… and the guy across the country… and all of their brothers. You might think you have a high quality, solid news angle that journalists should be fighting over to break. They might think your news is a total yawn. Always run your news angle by unbiased parties when possible, and be able to come up with at least one good reason why your story should appeal to a wide enough audience (even with a niche publication) to justify a journalist spending their time on you.
It’s amazing what a solid news angle, a carefully written and edited release, and something as basic as contact info can do. Yet, you’d be surprised at how many press releases are distributed every day violating these and other press release writing sins. Don’t be a sinner if you want to be a winner… at least in the PR game.