Planning to put out a press release to publicise your organisation’s latest development, promotion or event? Hoping to stand out against the hundreds of news releases each of your target journalists receives every day?
Stop, take a deep breath and read these five steps to killing it stone dead.
1. Mass mail your entire address book
Take the hit and hope approach. Drop your entire little black book into the BCC field and hit send. Better yet, use the CC field so that every editor can see just who has received your bit of PR (public relations) gold.
Or, if you’d prefer not to be blacklisted by half the publications in the country:
- Decide on a target market (those you want to reach) and figure out which publications they read.
- Write a release which is relevant and interesting to those publications and their readerships.
- Create a distribution list that targets only those journalists who actually cover that kind of story.
- If you have a reason to send the same message to multiple recipients, always, always BCC.
- Ideally, and wherever possible, send individual emails that show an awareness of each journalist’s interests, preferences and recent work.
Journalists face heavy workloads and tight deadlines, just like the rest of us. Waffle for all you’re worth, make your release several pages long and don’t get to the point until page three of six.
Of course, if you don’t want to kill your release, you might want to:
- Come up with a clear headline that highlights the main point.
- Where possible, keep your entire release under one screen of text.
- Use bullet points at the top to pull out the most salient points.
3. Pile on the jargon
Keep the acronym soup thick by piling on the ILMs, MDMs and NFCs and throw in an unhealthy helping of near-meaningless phrases such as ‘synergistic architectural solutions’.
No one, anywhere likes to read unintelligible ramblings disguised as promotional material, so as a rule of thumb:
- Aim to use words that someone with little prior knowledge of the subject would understand.
- Where acronyms are used, define them in brackets after the mention.
- If you’re writing for a specialist publication, it may well make sense to use certain industry specific terms without further explanation – use your common sense.
4. Write with your eyes closed
Stir in a large helping of glaring errors to neatly cast doubt on the credibility of your whole release.
To rescue your release, always get the best proofeader in your team to work through it and:
- Correct spelling/grammar/punctuation errors.
- Fact check all references.
- Make sure people’s names are spelt correctly and you’ve got their job titles right.
- Check formatting.
- Confirm any company / brand names are presented in the correct style.
Mistakes will still happen, so I’m not suggesting your release will bomb with one tiny typo in it, but if it’s full of them, it’s to the detriment of your credibility.
5. Write about how great you are
Include plenty of information about how great your organisation is, some customer testimonials, and a few paragraphs on the fact that you have a dress down Friday, but absolutely zero ‘news’.
Of course, to interest a journalist, a news release needs to contain some element of … news, so:
- Go back to those target publications and have another read, and another, and another.
- Get to know what represents a real story, and what doesn’t.
- Think about whether you really believe readers would be interested in your story. The answer should always be a confident, yes!
In writing this post, I’m not in any way implying that I’m anywhere close to perfect, or that you need to be. Journalists are not finicky villains and they will generally forgive small mistakes – but like anyone in any industry, they don’t have the time to plough through impossible materials that don’t even add value to the work they are trying to do.
Done right, releases can be a very effective way to share news, but they’re falling out of favour partly because they’re so often done badly, so sticking to best practice has never been more important.