For many PR pros, the press release is a curious artifact. It’s the product of a bygone age (you know, ten years ago) when information had to be pumped directly to the media in the hopes they would pick up the story. However, they are still an essential headache to worry about.
To demystify them a bit, let’s dissect a random one I’ve picked off the web. Cutting it down into parts helps figure out exactly what works and what doesn’t. Find a copy of the press release in question here. I’ll recreate it on this page as well.
First, I notice there is no address for the organization at the top. They’ve decided to include it at the bottom of the page, printed on the form. That’s very handy for them, but if it’s one of the first things to pop out at me, it probably was noticed by the reporter as well. Thus, it was probably tossed.
Another thing that immediately pops out is the chunky second paragraph. Why isn’t it split up a bit more? It looks like a more text heavy document than it actually is. Couple that with the crazy italics and it comes off as hard to read.
Finally, the end of the document is weird. The section giving a small explanation of the company is in a quote smooshed in the second paragraph, and there’s no “###” signifying the end of the document. Also, why is it signed? It’s not a letter to Santa, it’s a press release.
Now, for the meat of the press release: the writing. My remarks in italics.
Title: “The Diplomatic Ladies Association visits The Dubai Center for Special Needs”
I have to say I like the title. It’s straight and to the point. Though most of us might not know who exactly the Diplomatic Ladies Association is and why they are important enough that a visit from them is newsworthy, a reporter looking for a heartwarming human interest piece might continue reading. It might also be incredibly obvious in Dubai, of course.
“The Dubai Center for Special Needs was pleased to welcome Mrs. Perihan M. Salem, wife of Consul General of Egypt, President of the Diplomatic Ladies Association and other distinguished members of the Diplomatic Ladies Association on Tuesday, 12th May, 2008.”
I’m a fan of press releases having a strong, separate first line, so I like the format here. Plus, again, it gets the point across and gets out. Not a lot of excess info here.
Not too sure about the repeated use of “Diplomatic Ladies Association,” though. We’re starting to get an idea of why the Association is such a big deal, though it perhaps could have used some more explanation.
“The ladies toured the facility after viewing a delightful performance put up by the nursery department and the school choir. Expressing her gratitude, the Director of the center, Dr Mashid Selhi quoted “We are always happy to have visitors at the Center, especially the Diplomatic Ladies Association. The center is a non profit charity and relies heavily on the kindness and generosity of the community and a visit from these caring ladies will help us in raising funds, create awareness and thereby join us in our mission to champion the cause of Special Needs”
Oof, a lot of issues here. First, make sure your spelling, grammar and punctuation are all up to speed. With these mistakes, the press release would have been tossed. Also, finishing up the entire press release with a huge quotation is a little iffy. It should’ve been worded more succinctly and the quote chopped up.
However, it is, once again, short and to the point, which reporters would like. With a little sprucing up and fixing the formatting (and spelling, etc.), it might have stood a chance. As is, it probably stood no chance at making the rounds, unless things were very slow at the newspaper!
This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download a free copy of the PR Checklist – a 24 point list of Press Release Dos and Don’ts here: http://www.ereleases.com/prchecklist.html