Public relations is a fast paced world not for the faint of heart. Before you start email blasting press releases and spinning molehills into mountains, consult this list of the 6 most common PR mistakes:
No Guiding PR Strategy – This point is first for a reason. All these other mistakes can be forgiven and forgotten, but floundering around without a PR strategy will get you nowhere. Your only choice? Take a break from the phone and email, sit down, identify your PR goals, and pinpoint where you want your company to go and how you plan to get there. Every press release you send must be part of your strategy, and you should know exactly why you are sending it.
Badly Written Press Releases – Nothing turns a reporter – the ultimate communicator – off like a poorly written press release. Writing isn’t everyone’s strong suit. If it isn’t yours, there are plenty of services out there that will take over the odious task of press release writing for you so you can get back to doing what you do best – publicizing your company.
Failing to Research – For most harried PR pros, the heat is on to place news stories and obtain media bookings. Because of this job-threatening pressure, it’s tempting to email blast that pitch, press release or fact sheet to every media outlet that seems remotely likely to cover your news. Resist! But if you’ve already made that mistake (and wasted the time of many annoyed producers and editors), take a deep breath, do your research, and the next time you pitch to that outlet, make sure the story is right up its alley.
Lack of Follow Up – The boss calls you into his office. “Why am I getting all these calls from reporters?” Oops. You sent out a press release and the story caught fire, but you forgot to prep the boss with facts, figures, quotes and all the other necessities he needed to give the media a good story. Get in the habit of prepping the boss, the other PR pros, the legal team, and everyone else who might get a call when you’ve sent a press release.
Overhyping – Admit it. PR pros don’t have the best reputation in some circles. And a large part of that problem is some PR pros’ tendency to overhype. Don’t invite a hundred reporters to a press conference for a “life changing announcement” only to tell them that you’re company is bringing in a new Vice President. That’s the quickest way to lose your credibility. Instead, focus all your hype on the big news and admit it when the other information just isn’t newsworthy.
Prioritizing the Contact List – Just because that contact has “Editor-in-Chief” after her name doesn’t mean she’s the only person at the publication that matters. Some PR pros are too eager to step over the bodies of regular ol’ beat reporters to get to the EIC. Don’t be! Any journalist is a great contact and shouldn’t be treated lightly. And you never know, with all the shakeups in the media these days, your beat reporter buddy may soon be sporting that “Editor-in-Chief” title after her name.
There’s No News! – You’ve written a press release, so it’s automatically news, right? Wrong! Just because you or your boss thought it would be a good idea to throw a release together doesn’t mean what you talk about is actually news. You must be brutally impartial when you answer: would you read your press release in a newspaper? Would you watch a story about it on the news or talk about it over dinner? If the answer is anything less than “heck yes!” then it’s not news. Company mergers and new products? Probably news. Boss’ son having a birthday? Probably not.
It’s Vague! – Instead of explaining in detail what your product does, you thought you’d rather create a sense of mystery about it. So you came up with some interesting metaphors, found some colorful adjectives, and wrote the press release like it was a film noir. Unfortunately, all you’ve done is confuse and irritate the heck out of your readers. This includes the editor of your small town newspaper. Even if I am exaggerating a bit, it’s still important to look and eliminate any vague language in your release. If there’s anything I’ve learned from writing over the years it’s that there’s always a more precise way to say what you want to say.
It’s a Puff Piece! – I know it seems contradictory. However, you really shouldn’t boast about your new product so much. Wait, stop laughing and hear me out. The people reading this want to know why they should be using your product. This doesn’t necessarily involve you talking about it like it’s the greatest invention since bacon. Rather, the reader wants to know how it can help THEM, from their perspective. Usually, this involves setting up some sort of problem your product can solve. Perhaps you have invented something more glorious than bacon – so what does your foodstuff provide that bacon does not? Therein lies the problem you need to solve. The common consumer wasn’t getting something he or she didn’t know they needed. Now, they can get it, thanks to your glorious product!
Your Press Release Is Over-Optimized – It can become all too easy for you to get so caught up in trying to please the search engines that you lose sight of your main goal—writing a great press release that spreads far and wide. So how do you avoid that over-optimized press release? Write your release without even thinking about your keywords. Write it for humans and worry about the rest later.
Your Press Release Suffers from TMI – Put yourselves in the shoes of a journalist. Every day, you’re getting dozens of pitches from PR people seeking coverage for their clients. Your inbox is flooded with press releases, and the phone is ringing off the hook. You don’t have the time or energy to read every single press release and pitch that you get, so you just glance over them quickly to absorb the major details and find the stories that are most interesting. The press releases that do the best job of getting the basic information delivered clearly and in the least number of words will stand out from the rest. Here are some things you can do to keep your press releases from suffering from TMI: Create a strong headline – Don’t try to be clever, focus on clarity, and try to limit your headlines to about 10 words or less. Have a clear, strong lead paragraph – the basic details that make the piece newsworthy. Don’t try to do too much here. Set a target word count – A good press release is usually about 250 words in today’s online era where readers have shorter attention spans than ever before. Remember, your press release doesn’t have to tell the whole story, just the main idea. Edit. Edit. Edit – Trim it down until it’s as tight and clear as possible.
Your Press Release Contains Format Errors – Do you really want to make sure your press release never sees the light of day? The quickest way to do this is to include some errors on it. Spelling errors and grammar errors are one thing, and can certainly kill your chances of being included in tomorrow’s edition. But some of the most common errors made on press releases are formatting errors.
Your Press Release has a Bad, Weak Headline – It all comes down to the headline. If you have a great headline, the ball is in your court to make a convincing argument why your release should be in the newspaper or magazine. But if your headline stinks, then all is lost. Nobody will pay you any attention and your release will get deleted as soon as they can click the mouse.
Your Press Release was Written Just for Links – Somewhere along the way, people figured out that press releases can be a good tool to build links back to their site, thus boosting search rankings. And like any tool, people began abusing it almost immediately. The result? Crappy content for the sake of a little link. It didn’t take Google long to figure it out, and those links aren’t worth diddly-squat anymore.
Your Press Release has Sloppy Writing – Now that everyone who is anyone has tried their hand at the blogging world, the internet is overrun with sloppy writing. And while this is somewhat acceptable when it comes to blogging, press releases should be a bit more formal and written in third person. However, many novices don’t realize this and end up trying to “blog” their press releases.
Your Press Release has lots of Industry Jargon – Then you have the higher-ups that love the buzzwords. Doesn’t matter what industry you come from – the buzzwords are out there. But guess what? They weren’t created for communicating with overworked reporters!
Your Press Release is Boring – People get too caught up with trying to fit the business press release mold and forget all about being creative. As a result they end up churning out boring press releases that read just like all the others. Perhaps it’s time to think outside the box.
What do you think is the most common reason for a press release to fail? Let me know in the comments!
This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (https://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Grab your free 160-page copy of the Big Press Release Book – Press Releases for Every Occasion and Industry here: https://www.ereleases.com/free-offer/big-press-release-samples-book/