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Top 7 Don’ts When Writing Press Releases
There are plenty of recommendations out there about how to produce a killer press release. Here, we look at things from a slightly different angle by looking at what not to do in your news story.
These are the mistakes that will not only prevent you from producing the killer press release, they will actually kill it instead!
Here are the most common pitfalls that destroy a press release even before it's really written and published. You also get some helpful tips about how to avoid these mistakes and get around the issues.
1. Boring and inappropriate title
Your title is the first hurdle you have to overcome. If you want your press release to be read, the title needs to be short, catchy and engaging, as well as being informative. You should resist the temptation to go into the details and the specifics in your title - it's what the press release lead is for.
Your title presents your content. It's the 'calling card' for your press release and it has to be the hook that draws the journalist in. They have to be interested, intrigued or inspired by what the title says. If they are, they click it open and start to read your press release.
2. Writing an essay
Remember, a press release is not an essay. It's not an academic paper that people are going to pore over. A press release has to include the key information, of course, but it needs to be snappy too.
No busy journalist or editor has the time or the inclination to wade through 10 dense paragraphs of copy. Keep it to 2000 characters or less and break your copy into short paragraphs.
The purpose of any press release is to present the news about your company. So, you need to get it published and read by its audience. Make it easy for the audience to skim and scan it over quickly and easily.
3. Too much advertisement
The title, lead and text body shouldn't contain any evident promotional content or, in other words, screaming marketing claims. Have in mind that you are writing a press release, not an advertisement. Remember that a press release needs to be newsworthy and informative. So read it over and cut out anything that sounds too promotional.
4. Writing in the first or second person
Stylistically, press releases need to be written in third person. This is the standard approach for all newsletters and articles and it is the same for press releases.
For press releases, you can forget about 'I', 'you', 'we', or 'ours'. Third person pronouns such as 'they', 'them' and 'theirs' are the way to go.
5. Undisclosed topic
Clarity is crucial for press releases. There is a balance to strike here. You need to include all the necessary facts and details about your story, as well as about your company - but still making the copy concise and engaging.
You need to accept that people may not know anything about your business, so you need to express the main point of your news story and represent your company at the same time.
This is why your title, lead and main text body must be logically connected and seamlessly structured so that it flows well.
6. Too many quotes
One of the most confusing things is how to best use press release quotes. So, it's a good idea to explain how to use quotes for press release in a bit more detail.
The first thing you need to know about using quotes is that you shouldn't overuse them. Often people go overboard on them. Whatever they are, don't put too many in!
As a general rule of thumb, one or two quotes should be the limit. The key function of quotes in a press release is simple:
- to explain your news hook;
- to raise your company's profile.
No more, no less. Keep your quotes concise, compact and informative. They should be used to underline and emphasize the main point of your news story.
As well as including too many quotes, another common problem with quotes for press release is that they are too long. If you can the message across in a quote of 10 sentences or less, do it! 20 or 30 sentences might pack in more detail but you should ask yourself whether it really necessary.
Avoid using industry jargon and buzzwords and the trick is to try to establish a personal connection with your audience. Therefore, quotes in press releases should be in a conversational tone. They should add a flash of colour and personality into proceedings - it is this that your audience will connect with.
If the quote is from somebody who holds credibility, this is really useful but more than anything it's the personality and how it shows a solution being offered to a problem that your audience will relate to the most.
Any public relation related quotes should work like a soundbite does. They need to come across as sincere, so they always need to be from an actual named person - not just a faceless title or organisation. Again, this comes back to the importance of establishing a personal connection with the reader.
Think 3 things with quotes: punchy, powerful and personal.
7. Grammar and Punctuation Errors
If you want to kill your press release stone dead, submit it with grammar and punctuation errors. With the amount of press releases that land in journalists' inboxes on a daily basis, they are going to use their own filtering processes.
A boring, non-descriptive title might mean your press release never even gets opened. But if you get past that first hurdle and what greets the journalist is sloppy, mistake-laden copy, your press release will be dead.
You don't necessarily need to be a grammar expert yourself. There are plenty of online spellchecking and grammar tools available to make things easier. Of course, employing the services of a professional writer is another option.
Whether you write the copy or not, check and check again before you hit the Send button.
Try to avoid all these common mistakes. These are the trapdoors that many press releases fall through. You need to produce professional and accurate copy every single time - but you need more than that.
Your press release needs to be something your audience will want to read. It needs to be catchy, punchy and clear. If it's not, nobody will be interested in it!