Drafting an effective press release is a skill; it needs to be short and to the point in order to engage busy journalists yet detailed enough to allow them to write an informative piece. Avoid these common mistakes in order to get your message across well.
Writing what you think they want
You may have your own opinions on the juiciest details of your story but you are emotionally involved, and unlikely to think along the same lines as a journalist dealing with hundreds of possible stories a day. Journalistic writing typically uses a set framework; journalists require specific details in order to fit this framework. Unless you provide these details – including who, how, when, where, why – then your press release may well hit the shredder before the headlines.
Press releases are meant to provide a lead into a story; just enough detail to craft a small piece. If the journalist wants to know more they will contact you directly, which is why you need to ensure your telephone number is clearly visible. Don’t bloat your piece with unnecessary details, or interesting titbits that are completely out of context. If in doubt follow the inverted pyramid style of writing; put the most important details at the top (the who, when, why, what, how) and gradually write down to the least important bit that only a small percentage of readers will be interested in.
Too little or too much context
Press release information should be placed in the appropriate context, for example by providing background details or explaining why the news is socially or politically significant. This is an important part of furnishing journalists with the detail required to craft a news piece without them having to research the topic further. However, providing too little or too much context is a common mistake, with the resulting press release either bogged down with irrelevant details or abstract and unable to be understood easily.
Using an inflated introduction
Press releases should begin with the most important details because you need to grab peoples’ attention as soon as possible; there are a lot of press releases to read and yours needs to stand out. Your opening line should sum up the press release contents in a cogent and exciting way, allowing readers to get the gist of the information whilst encouraging them to read on. Active verbs and short, powerful words will help you achieve this.
Ignoring the target audience
When writing a press release you must use knowledge of your target demographic to dictate what language you use, how you write and what information you include. If you don’t say something that is useful to your audience then it’s unlikely anyone will read your press release. Make sure you tell your readers precisely why they need to continue reading your press release, and how the information is relevant to them. If submitting to a specific publication, conduct research as to the general audience of that publication.
Forgetting essential information
Press releases must include key contact information in addition to details of your company’s online presence. You may wish to include websites, Twitter streams and Facebook fan pages as these are all places journalists can go to find out more about what you offer. You should also include summary information your business at the bottom of the press release; this helps the journalist when crafting a story but doesn’t interrupt the flow of the main body. If you fail to include this information, the journalist will not do the hard work for you and your press release may well end up in the bin.