September 13, 2013 by Colin Kelly
1) The press release about your new website.
It might be a big deal to you and the team but journalists couldn’t care less. The entire world is on the web and trumpeting your new site makes us wonder how rubbish the old one was. Are you that slow? If the site includes some amazing content or functionality, if there’s something it allows visitors to do that changes the game in your sector then you might be on to something. But make that the focus rather than simply ‘we’ve got a new website’. The same applies to apps.
2) The press release that contains the word ‘delighted’.
Or the word ‘fantastic’. Managing Directors and Chief Execs spend half their lives in a state of ‘delight’ or thinking things are ‘fantastic’ if press releases are to be believed. These words become meaningless and tell journalists you couldn’t be bothered thinking of something interesting to say. Go the extra mile and produce something of substance.
3) The press release your client or boss thinks is perfect.
A pat on the back is always nice so it’s tempting to write a press release that your client or boss loves. But the press release isn’t for them. It’s for a journalist. A busy, cynical journalist with deadlines, a pile of competing press releases and a very different view of the world. These journalists hate ‘puff pieces’ and if you don’t keep their needs at the forefront when you’re writing you’ll be wasting your time as it heads straight to ‘Trash’.
4) The press release with the spelling mistake.
You need a comprehensive proofreading plan that involves printing the release out, going through it word by word expecting to find mistakes and if possible involving a fresh pair of eyes from a colleague. Mistakes happen but they make you look like an idiot and undermine everything you’re trying to do. Be passionate about getting every detail right.
5) The press release you send to someone you don’t know.
You don’t need to invite them round for dinner but if the only dealing you have with a journalist is emailing them press releases then you don’t really have a relationship. Without a relationship, it would need to be a barnstorming bit of news to save your release from the trash. It’s the relationship that makes the difference. So work at it, when you’ve nothing to ‘sell’ and get to know journalists, on their terms. It’ll pay dividends.
6) The press release about the award the company won.
Some of these get used, you’ll see them in the local papers every week. But here’s the bottom line – if a newspaper is going to run a story about you winning an award, they’ll run it with or without a press release. So save yourself the bother of writing one. Phone them up, tell them what’s happened and if they’re the least bit interested they’ll take the details over the phone, you can send the pic by email and get on with something else.
7) The press release you send through the mail.
I know a news editor who, when the receptionist puts the general newsroom mail on their desk every day, picks it up, and puts it all straight in the bin, unopened. Their attitude: ‘I don’t have time, it’s all junk, and if any of it isn’t, they’ll figure out another way to get to me.’