As a writer I’m constantly trying to learn from my own mistakes and the mistakes of other writers. That’s why I like to occasionally visit some of those free press release distribution websites. It’s unfortunate, but the vast majority of press releases on those sites flat out suck. Why? Because they usually make one or more of these common mistakes.
1. It’s exploding with keywords – First, let me say that I’m a huge proponent of SEO. Optimizing your online press release is an excellent way to increase your search engine presence and to gain a few keyword-rich back links to your website. But optimizing your press release doesn’t mean cramming so many keywords in the thing that it becomes unreadable. Seriously, if your headline reads, “Houston Bicycle Company Launches New Website About Houston Bicycle Repair and Houston Bicycle Maintenance,” do us all a favor and never write another press release again.
2. Did Billy Mays write this thing? – Although he’s no longer with us, we all remember Billy Mays, the greatest (and loudest) pitchman of our generation. As soon as Mays popped up on the TV screen, you knew he was trying to sell you something. After all, that’s what commercials do. However, press releases are not commercials, so they shouldn’t read like one. Ditch the sales speak, and get rid of the hyperbole. It’s a news release: stick to the facts and avoid bias.
3. You focused on quantity instead of quality – Thanks to free press release distribution websites, the press release has slowly gone the way of the eZine article. As everyone begins to learn of the internet marketing benefits of press release distribution, they start to pump out as many press releases as they can. The result: Their internet presence consists of hundreds of poorly-written, keyword-stuffed, and non-newsworthy press releases.
4. Get to the point already! – Here’s a little tip: Someone should be able to know what your story is about by reading only the first paragraph of your press release. Press releases are written in what’s called the “inverted pyramid” format. This means the most important information (who, what, when, where, and how) is placed at the top of the press release, followed by all of the minor details. So, get to the point quickly, and don’t drag your press release out for 3 pages.
5. A translator is required to interpret the jargon – Have you ever seen the Web Economy BS Generator? It’s a funny little tool that allows you to instantly create meaningless jargon and corporate-speak, like “generate ubiquitous mindshare” and “monetize frictionless technologies.” Unfortunately, some companies must be using this tool to write their press releases because I can’t understand what the heck they’re talking about sometimes. Save the jargon for your shareholders meetings; it has no place in your press release.
6. The headline is boring – I hate to break it to you, but no one cares if you updated your website or started a new blog. Sure, you can create news from doing this, but you have to find a different angle than “XYZ Company Updates Website.” Find a solid news angle that focuses on some unique function of the new website that provides a tangible benefit people might be interested in. Then, craft your headline around that news angle. Just be careful not to make your headline too salesy or cutesy, as it will come off like a cheap advertisement rather than a newsworthy press release.
7. You forgot to proofread it – Honestly, I hate proofreading. It gives me a headache, but it’s a necessary evil. Without proofreading, you risk sending out a press release that’s riddled with typos and grammatical errors. Needless to say, that doesn’t exactly command respect from editors and online readers. I find it helpful to set aside the press release for a day or two before trying to proofread it. This allows you to view it with a fresh set of eyes, helping you identify overlooked mistakes.
Which press release mistakes would you add to this list? Share your thoughts in the replies.
This article, written by Eric Brantner, originally appeared in PR Fuel (https://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (https://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: https://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.
James, press releases are getting picked up every day from legitimate newswires (like our partner PR Newswire) and trusted connections. Publicists call on their Rolodex of journalists with whom they’ve established relationships. eReleases sends to subscribing journalists. Free press releases websites … well, they just post press releases or any bit of marketing text online.
You covered some great points here. Especially about the press release “exploding with keywords” lol. That’s hilarious but it’s also true. While it’s good to keep in mind SEO and include some keywords. if you go balls to the wall w/ keywords, it will sound ridiculous and won’t connect with actual humans readers.
Thanks for tweeting this gman. Just what I needed. I have a set of press releases that need to be tweaked, optimized, and sent out on the wires tomorrow.
Thanks for posting. Good advice. What can those of us with small businesses or art businesses do?
No problem buddy. I thought it was well written and useful. I’m glad you found it helpful also.
The name “press release” is outdated. It suggests that the media is “The Press” and an increasingly small number of media are “printed” anymore. And the number of people who get their news from a medium produced on a “press” is dwindling.
“News” release is a more apt description.
Great post, Mickie. Another attribute that stinks is the poorly crafted corporate quote that usually starts with “We are pleased.” Who says that in real life? And, its apparent the CEO, president or whoever is being quoted, along with the PR person or writer, decided to go the safe, canned route. Reasons may be lack of time, energy, etc., but let’s give our audiences something meaningful to respond to, tweet about, and so on.
This proves that the type of PR that Internet marketers suggest you do is not the same as PR done the traditional way. The free press release sites and low cost submission services only seem to be good for backlinks and maybe some search engine listings with a minute chance that an actual media outlet will publish your story.
The exposure of traditional PR will always bring much better results. If you want true media exposure, you need to learn to do it this way.
I learned PR from Paul Hartunian. The stuff he teaches is along the same lines of what Mickie teaches on this website.
I think people who are first introduced to the “Internet” method of pr are being misled. When they try it and it doesnt work, they abadon the whole idea of PR and they miss out on getting real results.
Bravo, great points. I notice a practice of omitting dates on releases posted in Web site Media Rooms. With a straight face, someone told me the logic is that this makes releases seem fresh longer. Huh? All it does is alienate reporters who realize they’ve been scammed.
I agree with much of what is said but have a problem with the headline. For me a press release is limiting and confines people’s expectations of can happen when we release news. With my clients I use the term media release because it takes their expectations beyond the press into opportunities they hadn’t considered.
I know many readers will find this focus on a single word pedantic but it is vital when we try to grow clients’ expectations.
In my own case I average one radio interview per month (plus lots of coverage on websites, newspapers and magazines) and use this to goad my clients into thinking beyond their local newspaper or trade journal.
This article makes a lot of great points. I would add that there’s a real need for something that will help “level the playing field” for smaller companies and, well, people like me. I’m an independent author and must try somehow to compete with gigantic publishing companies to get my message out.
— Ed Creager
[Author of “The Money-Saving Idea Book” and the “EasyTerms” scientific terminology series]
@Nicole–Really great point about the filler quotes that you usually see in press releases. I prefer quotes that actually add something to the story and provide a little insight into their personality and way of thinking.
@Jacqueline–Those are all great additions, especially the trying too hard to be edgy. I can’t stand when people are controversial simply for the sake of doing so. It seems cheap and desperate.
Good stuff! Now how do we get more PR flaks to read this? I’m going to Tweet it out as soon as I’m back to my computer. May I add a few pet peeves?
1. THE ALL CAPS RELEASE – your info is mot more newsworthy just because YOU ARE SHOUTING
2. Missing key info – if you want me to write aboutyour stunning new restaurant opening, the date would be an example of key info to include
3. Trying too hard to be edgy – recently, I’ve seen a spate of releases or announcements/newsletters that have included the following: cocaine references, pedophile “jokes”, insider exclusionary references. These do not make me think you are cool. They do make me think you are a headless, insecure, boor.
Short, thorough, clever, professional. Doesn’t seem so much to ask from a Public Relations “Professional”.
– Jacqueline Church
The Leather District Gourmet
Thanks Jacqueline. I like your peeves. Good points.
Eric- thanks have Tweeted this and gotten a few new PR followers, so maybe more will read it. Btw, curious – did you have a second thought about “sucks”? Or was that intentional, chosen for effect?
Nice advice. I like your post and book mark it for future use. I like the whole idea o press release writing optimization and syndication. Thanks for providing!!!
Jacqueline–Honestly, I didn’t really think twice about the title. I had a list of ideas for posts, and that’s the one I ended up writing.
@Jacqueline & @Eric,
Personally I found the title to be quite awesome!
Thanks for this article. Provides useful information and reinforces what I need to avoid when writing press releases.
@Tonya–Exactly right. It’s all about balance. Too many “SEO writers” get so caught up in how many keywords they have and where they’re placed that they lose sight of the quality of the content. It’s a balancing act.
I don’t worry too much about SEO when writing a press release. Mention the keyword in the title. Mention it in the first sentence or two. Then write a good several paragraphs that describes whatever it is you want to say about your product or service.
Sometimes less is more when it comes to SEO. It’s still all about content.
@Eric – Thanks for the shout out. I agree with your point!
I never write my press release for SEO point of view You should must be a Independent and True journalists who just not to work for only sell any product or services. Always deliver those things which bound the readers.
A journalists job is to release the right information to the viewers rather then just to marketing of any product or services.
There are two ways to write a press release first is for the press and public, the second is for your boss and company. They either put out releases that management likes or ones that might get published.
In my experience management has a deep fear of actually saying anything. They fear concrete statements. So they like releases that use this soft, murky language. All too often the press agent will just go along, putting out junk, rather than trying to convince management that clearly stating points in simple, active English is the best way.
Another few points you may wish to add :
(a) putting a persons contact details in the press release. You be surprised how many people forget to add a contact persons name and email in a press release.
(b) forgetting to format the press release properly. I have seen press releases where it is all one page with no line breaks (no paragraphs).
(c) Not writing in a lucid form (eg: dosent make the relevant points in a properly structured form).
No one’s perfect including you. you can’t understand scientific or business jargon cause you’re a journalist. same goes to the science and business people. they don’t write well cause.. well, they have more important things to do rather than mindlessly reading press releases online and writing about it..
I am in the camp that says you must talk to your target. And, while press (media releases) are de rigeur, don’t expect good results without using that Rolodex, as mentioned wisely earlier in comments.
As with all communications, put yourself in your targets’ shoes. “Why does this interest ME?” and “Why will MY editor like this story from ME?”
Internet techniques are important but do not substitute for human interaction. Obama ain’t sitting in DC waiting for the votes.
Thanks Michael. Good advice.
What is a good press release firm for a NASDAQ company that wants to outsource the preparation of its press releases. My company is paying alot for its press releases. Anyone have an idea how much a small NASDAQ company should be spending per year on 4 to 5 quarterly/year end press releases to coincide with its 10Q’s and 10K’s?
This is great advice, but what does it really matter? As you said in #3 (“Thanks to free press release distribution websites, the press release has slowly gone the way of the eZine article”), no one really seems to read press release any more, regardless of quality. How do we actually distribute press releases in a format that generates results?