Even though the public relations industry is changing fast, some things never change.
That includes the need to write a clear, compelling, and relevant press release.
Unfortunately, while press releases are straightforward, factual and objective, they aren’t always easy to write. In fact, if you’re used to writing other pieces — advertisements and fiction for instance — you’ll be at a disadvantage when writing press releases.
Below are some of the most common mistakes I’ve seen on press releases.
7 Worst Mistakes to Make on Your Press Release
In this era of the spell checker, it’s quite unforgivable to have spelling mistakes on your press release. Other errors include typographical errors, grammatical errors and — gasp — factual errors.
Granted, spell check is not 100% fool proof. That’s why you ask at least one extra pair of eyes to read the press release before sending it off. It also helps to read your press release out loud.
If you need help with grammar, pick up a copy of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style, or refer to the many grammar resources available on line, for free.
Finally, double, no, triple check your facts and numbers, to make sure they’re accurate.
2. Not Being Newsworthy
Press releases are supposed to help journalists report on news. The following are generally considered “newsworthy”:
- immediate – it happened recently or is happening right now
- new or novel – it hasn’t happened before, or we’d never known about it before
- near – it happened right here
- high impact – it affects a lot of people
- conflict – David vs Goliath, man vs machine, nature vs nurture, and others
- awe-inspiring – it’s an unusual achievement
If your press release does not have these newsy elements, then it will be ignored, no matter how well written it is.
3. Being Overly Promotional
A press release needs to be as informative and objective as possible. Don’t write it as you would the copy for your print ad. Delete anything that sounds hypey or salesy.
4. Writing in the First and Second Person Point-of-View
Press releases should be written in the third-person point of view (POV). Don’t use “you,” “we,” or “I,” unless you’re quoting someone. This is the convention journalists and editors are used to, so stick to it.
5. Forgetting Your Contact Information
Each press release should have your contact person’s name, telephone number, email address, and website URL, at the very least. Omit this, and you might as well never send that press release.
6. Writing a Boring Headline or Title
Journalists receive dozens of pitches and press releases every day. This means yours needs to stand out. Do this by crafting an attention-grabbing and compelling headline. However, stay away from hypey headlines.
7. Not Having a Call to Action
Press release writing isn’t copywriting, but one thing they do have in common is the necessity of a call to action. End your press release by telling the reader what to do next. Examples: Visit the Acme website, download the free report, ask for a product sample for review, email marketing contact at…, and so on and so forth.
Those are just seven of the mistakes I often see in press releases. Next time you write a press release, look at this list first before sending it out. Give yourself enough lead time so you can show the press release to other people to help you catch mistakes, hype, and other undesirables.
Are You Guilty?
Have you made any of these mistakes? Did I miss other press release mistakes that you’d like to share?
Let me know your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. Or connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.
Elena is founder of a technology PR agency that works with startups to billion-dollar companies. She is passionate about helping marketers and small business owners with practical publicity strategies, which she's also using for her own bling flip flop company.
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