Though they may seem like simple oversights to some people, mistakes often seen on press releases have unnecessarily costly repercussions. In spite of being seen as important forms of promotional communication, these documents are rarely commissioned to professional writers. It is generally assumed, instead, that anyone can write a press release. Notwithstanding this misconception, even press release writers are sometimes guilty of the following ten common mistakes:
1. Being unnecessarily overbearing or surly. Some releases say “Attend this next event hosted by so-and-so!” when they should say “Please honor us with your presence at …!”
2. Not including a “Call to Action” phrase. Some releases describe an event and sell its potential benefits well but they fail to clearly state what the writer wants from the reader.
3. Being loquacious. People just don’t have the time or interest to read a release that goes on ad infinitum. By all means, include all the necessary information (date, time, location, key points, etc.) but say only enough to spark interest, enumerate the benefits/rewards, and cover all the bases.
4. Leaving out important information. Not telling attendees of an event, for example, that they cannot park on an adjacent parking lot can have ugly repercussions, especially if some people get “illegal parking” tickets or, worse yet, get their car towed away. Writing a good press release requires detailed research into all aspects of what’s being promulgated.
5. Using a rigid or clinical tone. Just because the release is being sent to technical-industries professionals, for example, does not necessitate being matter-of-fact, stilted, or didactic. It’s okay to be conversational, friendly, and even witty, though care must be taken to not be flippant, too-chummy or presumptuous.
6. Not abiding by a client’s instructions. If the press release is being written for a client, then one must make sure that, whether the instructions make sense or not, the release conforms precisely to the guidelines.
7. Failing to stay focused. Sometimes, writers add ancillary information to announcements that would sound better without the added “fluff.” They may even put several announcements in one release, perhaps to save time and money. One focus should be maintained.
8. Introducing badly-timed expectations. Some press releases utilize unrealistic timetables or are put out too soon/too close to an event. There is a right/wrong time to put out press releases; sometimes, not putting out a release makes more sense than putting out a poorly-timed announcement.
9. Misusing technical terms. While people outside of the industry may not notice it, professionals within an industry will notice glaring misuse of technical terms. It’s imperative that press release writers familiarize themselves well with any special jargon used in formal communication.
10. Not fitting the language, tone and style to the specific audience being addressed. A “getting-published” symposium press release for college professors, for example, should read differently than one written for recent high school students invited to a technical college “open house.”
Fred F is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.