The Write Stuff – Blog

Mar 05 2012 How to Write a Press Release – 6 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid
How to write a press release

Writing your own press release can be a great, cost-effective way to generate publicity and new leads for your business. Having your business name appear in newspapers or on radio and TV – either locally or nationally – helps build your profile, giving your business instant credibility and a competitive edge.

But simply writing a press release and submitting it to various media outlets is no guarantee that it will get picked up. More often than not, new services are pushed for time and have plenty of potential stories to choose from.

So which rookie mistakes do you need to avoid to ensure your press release stands a better chance of making news?

1. Uninteresting or Irrelevant Headline and Subhead

The headline of your press release will be the very first thing anyone will read. If it doesn’t succinctly capture the essence of your release, or is dull, or blatantly self-promotional, your release won’t stand a chance of being read. The same goes for the subhead.

Write like a pro: Make your headline short, sharp and snappy. It needs to be something which evokes curiosity and entices the reader to continue. The subhead should flesh out the angle of your headline and give the reader an idea of what to expect from the rest of the article.

2.  Giving Background Information First

It may seem logical to set the scene with the background details before delivering the knock-out punch, but this is contrary to how news services deliver their stories.

Write like a pro: Always lead with most important facts of your story and follow with the details – and whenever possible, always answer the 6 essential questions: when, where, why, who, how and what.

3. Self-promoting

Yes – the idea of a press release is to draw attention to your business, but editors couldn’t care less about your new product, website or book; unless you…

Write like a pro: Give them something newsworthy and relevant to their audience. While they may not care about the new flavours of mineral water you’ve just launched, they will be interested to know how they’re a much healthier alternative to popular sports drinks which are contributing to obesity with high sugar levels. This is a newsworthy story their audience will want to read.

4. Writing in First-Person

Your press release may undergo some editing, but news editors don’t have the time or inclination to rewrite your piece to change it to third-person. Their publication is not an extension of your business, so first-person writing is completely inappropriate.

Write like a pro: Always write your press release in third-person and save first-person writing for direct quotes only.

5. Providing Old News

Media outlets aren’t interested in old news. They won’t care about what happened last week, let alone last month, regardless of how interesting that information may be.

Write like a pro: Always provide information that is fresh and current, such as how new laws will affect your industry, or details of an upcoming event. If it’s not new, it’s not news.

6. Not Understanding Your Publication Requirements

Different publications and media outlets will have different schedules and requirements for their content. Some will be happy to receive your press release that day, others will require it up to a week or more in advance. Some will be happy to accept photos, some will not. If your press release doesn’t meet the needs of your chosen news service, it won’t be used.

Write like a pro: Familiarise yourself with the various media outlets you intend to use so you know the best time to submit your press release, as well as any preferred formatting and the right person to send it to.

Of course, there’s still always the chance that a big story could break and your release will be overlooked, but by avoiding these rookie mistakes you’ll vastly increase the chances of your next press release making news.

4 Responses to “How to Write a Press Release – 6 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid”

  • Reply Adrian Brien Auto March 06, 2012at 1:52 pm

    When submitting to the various different press release websites, it’s also a good idea to submit manually and not use an automated program which will often be flagged as SPAM and not get approved :)

    • Reply Anna Butler March 06, 2012at 2:40 pm

      Excellent point! Thanks so much for your insightful addition.

  • Reply Nicole Leedham March 07, 2012at 6:19 pm

    Great post Anna. As usual, I wish I had written it!

    • Reply Anna Butler March 07, 2012at 6:22 pm

      Aw.. thanks Nicole, that’s so nice of you to say, but you write some pretty damn good posts yourself.

      I loved the one you wrote today about all the work that goes into pitching a great release. I think they were a perfect complement to each other :) (and how was the timing?)

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