12 Reasons Why News Releases Miss the Mark

Even in today’s fast-paced era of media convergence, the press release stands out as one of the most powerful and cost-effective tools for generating awareness and building corporate credibility.  Why?  When a news story is reported by a respected journalist, blogger, or other independent authority, it has instant third-party credibility with the audience.

But in this crowded information age, getting the attention of time-pressed editors, journalists and bloggers is no small feat.  If your news releases aren’t getting picked up, you may be committing one the following cardinal sins:

  1. No News:  The most important thing for any press release is to be topical, newsworthy and of interest to your audience.  Before sending out a news release, take an objective look at it and ask yourself:  “What’s really new and different here?  Why would my audience care about this?”  If it’s a product launch, for example, are you first to market or is it just another “me too” clone product? Explain what’s truly innovative about the product, how it will benefit users by saving them save them time or money.  Back up your claims with relevant statistics, case studies or independent third-party testimonials.  Above all, tone down the promotional fluff and focus on the facts.
  2. Boring Headline:  Busy editors, reporters and bloggers rarely read past the headline unless it grabs them.  Ensure your headline accurately summarizes the focus and content of the news release.  Make your headline short and catchy and incorporate keywords that’ll be picked up by search engines.
  3. Buried Lead:  The lead sentence is the most important part of the news story.  It should clearly convey the main point of your announcement.  Don’t make the news in your press release a game of “Where’s Waldo” by burying the lead in the body of the announcement.  Get to the point from the start, then support the main point with additional information in the rest of the release.
  4. No Numbers:  A business story without powerful numbers is like a day without sunshine.  If you’re pitching a business story on your company’s success, back it up with sales figures or revenues.  Otherwise, it will just fall flat.
  5. Density:  Identify the key benefit of your announcement and drive that point home.  Don’t get bogged down in too much detail.  Editors don’t have time to wade through a morass of copy.  Keep your release simple and succinct. Back up key points with relevant facts and direct the reader to your website for additional information if appropriate.
  6. A Jungle of Jargon:  Most mainstream media outlets are targeted to a general audience.  Write your press release for a lay audience and stay away from industry jargon or acronyms.   You may understand the industry-specific lingo, but chances are the reporter or blogger won’t.
  7. Lifeless Quotes:  Quotes should say something meaningful and be able to stand on their own. Avoid quotes that are self-congratulatory or state the obvious, such as “we’re pleased that…”  Of course your CEO is pleased.  He just signed a multi-million contract.  Who wouldn’t be?  Reporters see that same old “we’re pleased” quote half a dozen times a day.  And to tell the truth, they don’t really care that you’re “pleased.
  8. Too Promotional:  Don’t make your news release an infomercial.  A press release should contain newsworthy information of interest to a media outlet’s readers, viewers or listeners.  A blatant sales pitch will quickly end up in the round file and undermine your credibility with the journalist.  Keep your press releases factual, include pertinent statistics and third-party testimonials to back up your points, and keep unnecessary hype to a minimum.
  9. Ignoring SEO:  The end game for any announcement is to increase a company’s visibility.  Make sure your news release ranks highly on search engines.  Use Google Insights and other SEO tools to identify words and phrases your audience is using to search for  your company and its competitors and incorporate these terms in your release.   Include relevant keywords and phrases in your headline and lead paragraph, but don’t overdo it.  Include links with your keywords in the release to drive viewers to your homepage as well as other applicable websites.
  10. Playing Favorites:  Maintain a level playing field with all media outlets.  That means giving everybody the same information at the same time.  If you’re going to give one journalist an exclusive, that’s fine.  Just don’t try to peddle to story to everyone else after the news has been broken.  The same holds true for press conferences.  Don’t tip off one reporter the day before the official announcement. No one likes to play second fiddle to their competitors.  Putting other journalists in that position doesn’t reflect well on you or your organization.
  11. Disappearing Act:  When you send out a news release, make sure your spokesperson is available days following the announcement.  Nothing frustrates a journalist more than following up on a press release only to find that the spokesperson is holed up in a meeting all day or on a plane.  If your spokesperson isn’t available, hold off on your announcement until he or she is available to take calls.
  12. Spelling and Grammatical Errors: There’s no excuse for sending out a press release with typos, spelling mistakes or grievous grammatical errors.  It reflects poorly on your quality control and status as a professional communicator.  Carefully proofread all your work before it goes out, and then hand it to a colleague for a second set of eyes and a fresh perspective.

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