When you’re first starting out writing press releases, it’s difficult to not slip up and make a few mistakes. Unfortunately, many of these mistakes come from simply not having experience in the field. Most journalists have come to notice these, so they will automatically know you’re a rookie! So to avoid looking like a total noob, do your best to avoid these five damaging goofs.
Since the headline is the first thing a journalist will see, it can be the beginning or end of everything. If your headline is great, the reader wants to keep reading. On the other hand, if it’s terrible, you’ve damned the entire thing to the recycle bin.
Press release rookies will often make the mistake of making a super long, overly detailed headline. Or, perhaps worse, they write a funny joke as a headline that gives no description of the actual piece. Experienced press release pros know that a concise and straightforward headline is the way to go.
Inverted pyramid style means your press release starts with the most important information, with the next sentence containing the next most important piece of information, and so on. Journalists use inverted pyramid formatting to enable a harried editor to be able to cut their article at the end of any sentence to fit into the available space, knowing that the part they left in the article contains the most important information that needs to be communicated.
Journalists learn about the inverted pyramid on day one of journalism school, and successful press release writers learn about it the day they start trying to woo journalists. Basically, the inverted pyramid is a “plan” to follow when writing news. The important stuff goes at the “top” of the pyramid – for instance, if the story was about an event, this would cover name, date, and location. As you move down the pyramid, the info gets less important.
A rookie has no idea to follow this basic structure. He or she will throw facts and quotes in at random. This makes the journalist trying to read it confused and angry. Follow the inverted pyramid and you will have a leg up on the competition.
Yes, we’re all on the Internet now, so we all use email. But as strange as it may sound, some people actually want to call you on the phone and talk to you to get more information to help them write their own story! Rookie press release writers may not realize this. Because of this, they forget to include the name, phone number, website and email info for the person you want the media to contact in your release..
This could be important for another reason: journalists are busy. If it’s three in the morning and they need to get in contact with you about a question on your press release, an email isn’t going to work. So if there’s no phone number, they will more than likely just skip over your story and run something else.
If you read the same type of document over and over every day, you would want a section that gives you a quick rundown of who sent it. Perhaps this section could be called an “About” section. Too bad there’s not something like this for press releases…
Wait, there is! Press releases contain a section called “boilerplate” language, which contains key information about the organization(s) the press release is written about, and citations for key information included in the release. – an “about section,” if you will. Write up a short bio and you’ll save time and headache.
Back in the day, wire services would use special characters to mark where the end of the release was. Often, this was “###.” There were others, but this is the one most press release writers learned in school. Of course in today’s world there’s no reason to include it – except that some journalists and scanner software look for this. I know for me, a press release doesn’t look “complete” unless those three little pound signs are down at the bottom. Go ahead and include them to forego any unforeseen problems!
I know I promised you 5, but I’m giving you an extra bonus. Here’s a sixth press release mistake that will call you out as a rookie.
Press release experts know that distributing your press release only to the company’s in-house list of press contacts severely limits the media who will run their story, crippling the results they will receive from that press release.
Distributing your press release through a quality press release distribution company like eReleases.com:
This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (https://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: https://www.ereleases.com/free-offer/pr-checklist/