By Aneela Rose
Today, journalists and editors are busier than ever. So don’t blow your chances of grabbing their attention — and ultimately gaining valuable publicity for your company — with a sloppy news release. Make sure you avoid these 10 deadly sins:
1.Cumbersome headline — “Marriott, Comcast, Giant, Hyatt, Food Lion, Macy’s, Chipotle, Hershey’s and Other Businesses Sponsor Dinner for Leading Gay Activist Group That Promotes Same-Sex Marriage, Attacks Catholic and Mormon Churches.” Wowza! Apart from being slightly confusing (even after a caffeine-induced second read), this genuine headline has to take the gold medal for cumbersome headlines. Aim for a concise, clear and compelling headline that encourages an editor to actually read your story — and make sense of it.
2.Written in the first person — Releases that scream, “Me! Me! Me!” have only themselves to blame; they’ll end up in the ‘reject pile‘, cast aside, never to be laid eyes on again… And serves them right, too. In other words, use “he/she/they”. Not “you/we/us”.
3.No news — Sending a press release with no news value is akin to taking a large cannon, aiming it at your foot and shouting “fire!” A journalist doesn’t care how well presented your release is, or how fantastic your product is; if there’s nothing newsworthy, it will get binned. Journalists and editors are looking for ways they can use your release. So give them something news ’worthy’: something useful and/or different that will make them want to publish it.
4.Too many exclamation marks! — Everyone, it seems, has a case of the ‘exclamation-mark frenzy’ these days. But there isn’t a place for them in the serious world of hard, real news. Apart from causing spam filters to intercept your release before it reaches its destination, too many exclamation marks challenge the credibility of your story. In fact, when it comes to using exclamation marks in releases, there are three final words of advice that I can give you: Just say no.
5.Crammed full of jargon — Jargon is the enemy of good writing. So why use it in your press release? Instead, translate all jargon into clear language that anyone can understand: Simple, plain English.
6.Grammar and spelling mistakes — Okay, there are times when we all hit ‘send’ without properly checking over the content for grammatical and typographical mistakes. But, trust me, you do not want to be so cavalier with your press release. Hire a professional proofreader. Or simply print out your release and get at least two people to read through it. But definitely do not send off your release full of big, glaring typing no-nos.
7.Lack of photos or quotes to back up news — Really good images and quotations are like carrots: Dangle them in front of an editor and they’ll be on the phone wanting an interview before you hit that ‘send’ button.
8.Sending to the wrong media — Many great news releases get tossed simply because they have nothing to do with the publication to which they are sent. In other words, don’t send a health story to a blogger who writes about politics.
9.Bad timing — Timing can make or break a good story. Obviously, sending out your new ‘Valentine’s Village’ release in the middle of September is going to be a waste of time. But sometimes it’s a simple case of sending out your release when another, bigger or better story is breaking. There’s not much you can do about the latter, other than making sure you send out an irresistibly newsworthy release at the best possible time.
10.No follow-up — There’s no point wasting all your hard work by sending out your release and then sitting back, hoping for the best. You have to actively follow up. That doesn’t mean simply calling up to see if the media got your release (a BIG pet-hate among journalists). But suggesting a particular angle to your story that would best fit their publication, or giving new information or source that strengthens your release, could earn some brownie points.