The 7 Biggest Press Release Mistakes, by an Ex-Journalist

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Your press release isn’t about you or your company.

What’s that? You may ask incredulously. The whole point of a press release is surely about me, and my product or service.  And telling everyone about it!

Allow me to explain. In my previous job as a financial journalist in London I’d look at dozens of press releases every day, and I developed a keen eye for what was newsworthy and what wasn’t. And often it was simply down to how the press release was written.

Here are the 7 most common mistakes I’d see every day:

Mistake 1: Focusing On You

As the journalist glancing at your press release for the 5 or 10 seconds its got to grab my attention, I only have one question in my mind; can I use this in a story that my readers will benefit from?

And that was all.

So when you write a release, put yourself in the journalist’s mindset.  Try to get outside of your company.  Write the release so that it’s a great story, and your company, or the event you’re publicizing, just happens to be a part of it.  It’s not purely about you.

That’s how you’ll begin to get noticed.

Mistake 2: It’s Not Topical

One of my main goals was to find a new angle on a very topical subject. Something that has been circulating around all the industry magazines, or the more mainstream news.

Because that topic, trend or story is already newsworthy – it’s on everybody’s lips. I only have to tap into that attention-pulling power.

Secondary to that was to find a compelling new story. And that was a more tricky one for a press release to deliver.  I mean it had to be a really interesting story, with real impact on the industry and my readers. And most company updates are just not that impactful.

So don’t take the hard route and try to make yourself sound so damn interesting you have to be talked about. I’m so very sorry to say it, but most of the time from the journalist’s point of view – you’re not.

At the very, very least mention how a powerful industry trend or event is related to your own story. And do it in the title:

Mistake 3: Bad Title – Saving The Best Until Later

The title, as in any marketing, is everything.

Do not give some bland title about ‘so and so company signs deal with so and so company’, and then have something genuinely interesting hidden three paragraphs down about how this relates to a great topical trend.

Put the hook in the title. Think about what will make the journalist’s mouth water – and put that in the first few words of your title!  Then you’ve earned the opening of your email and a bit more reading.

And continue to be strong and outwardly-focused in your content. Try to care about the journalist’s reader all the way through, and they will feel it and like it!  Don’t be:

Mistake 4: Too Self-Promotional

It’s not a sales pitch. It’s a tool for information delivery. Valuable information delivery.

So keep your language factual and free of big adjectives.  Use the content and the link into an exciting topical event to grip the reader’s attention. Not big colourful words and promises.

Remember, any journalist that publishes a sales pitch for a company is going to take a blow to their reputation. So they won’t do it – help them out. Give them something newsworthy delivered like news.

Mistake 5: Too Long

Don’t write several pages. Keep it short and punchy and relevant. It only takes a few words to deliver the most ground-breaking of news.

You ideally want them to scan it and read it in a minute or two, get excited about the angle, and the other components (see below), and pick up the phone to call you for more information or an interview.

Or simply to go ahead and publish it!

Mistake 6: No Structure Sympathetic to a Story

The journalist thinks in terms of stories, so try to get in the same headspace. And give them a release that follows a structure that’s easily taken and quickly written into a compelling little news story.

Many busy journalists will be happy to take a well-written press release and publish it with minimal re-writing.  That’s perfect for you!

So bear these factors in mind:

–          Great title;

–          Strong hook (the first paragraph) stating the relevancy to topical news. Giving the who, what, when and how of events;

–          One or two good quotes or testimonials (see Mistake 7);

–          Elaborate on the companies and individuals at the end, keep the top half for the juicy stuff;

–          Reference other articles in respected magazines, and even better industry studies, with statistics – save the journalist the trouble of finding these to beef up the piece and they’ll love you for it;

–          Link to wider events. At the end give an idea how this story might link into wider trends and events. Give it a future spin. Many journalists like to finish a quick article like that and you can help give them the idea.

Mistake 7: No Quotes or Bad Quotes

Quotes or testimonials should be from high sources not obviously affiliated with you, which are not ‘corporate robot speak’ but compelling language with short, punchy sentences and an opinion.

This tip is super-powerful.  Take the trouble to do it – It’s a bit of work but well-worth it.  And so few companies bother so you’ll really stand out!

So there you go, follow these directions and you’ll be head and shoulders above all the other press releases in that busy journalist’s inbox that day.

Need a hand creating a press release that gets published?  Get in touch, we’ll be happy to help.

Or you may also check these 11 copywriting courses and become a bad*ss journalist yourself.

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About the author

Konrad Sanders CEO & Lead Strategist at The Creative Copywriter
Hey you. I’m Konrad. A full-funnel content strategist and CEO with a pretty darn creative noggin on my shoulders. I run a team of word-slinging cowboys and strategists who blend science with art to help bold brands get their words right at every step of the customer journey. Which means? They sell more stuff and grow predictable revenue. Brands like AECOM, Thomson Reuters, TikTok, Panasonic, Adidas, Mercedes-Benz, plus shedloads of tech scale-ups...and you? Let's connect.

Leave a reply

Great to hear all of this from someone at the other end! I think I’ve been guilty of a few of these mistakes in the past, but I will try to remember these points with any new press releases I write. Thank you Marek!

Thank you for the tips. It’s a great title like all the content here on this blog. Here I can say that I have read something which is practical and no just words. We think of launching a new shopping search engine (searchub.com), so we’ll need to make few PRs to get noticed, and I’ll try to what exent I’ll avoid these mistakes. Thanks!

Just sent out a press release and I think I nailed most of these. I’ve written news content off and on for the last 20 years myself, so I was aware of the principles listed from the receiving side. I read this with interest, though, because it’s always good to make sure you’re doing everything you can, and keeping up with trends. Thanks for posting!

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