Don’t Be That Press Release Writer!
We’ve all seen them — press releases so full of hype and narcissistic bluster that you’re sure your eyes will never roll back into the front of your head. They are not really “announcing” anything of importance. Just another loud and dull bid for attention and SEO link building.
Maybe you’re even a wee bit guilty of writing press releases of this type, long, long ago, before you knew better? In a previous position that I held, this duty occasionally fell into my lap. I always winced, for my own compromised dignity and that of the person for whom I was crafting the, “Are you really that needy?” so-called press release.
While the usual goal is to spark interest in journalists and other media outlets to help promote your announcement, it can be a fine and challenging line to walk in tone and format. Here are some Over/Unders to avoid when writing press releases.
Yes, press releases are promotional tools, but don’t confuse them with advertisements. Too many “calls to action” in what is intended to be an informative announcement will reek of self-promotional spam. Readers will turn off and turn away before they even get halfway through.
Is your announcement really newsworthy? To whom will it be timely and relevant? Are you providing information about something exciting and important, or does it read like “self congratulatory prattle”? Don’t just recycle existing marketing content to get your name out there and think that anyone will be impressed. A press release must communicate how this Big Deal of yours will benefit and add value to the reader’s life. Position accordingly!
Exclamation points, ALL CAPS, and over-the-top adjectives have little reason to pepper your release. Not only are they tacky and likely to cause a knee-jerk, “mark as spam” reaction in readers, it’s imperative that you are able to substantiate any claims that you make.
When using sizzle words such as “premier,” “most successful,” “best,” “world’s largest,” or “most effective,” be prepared to back them up with evidence if challenged by a competitor.
If your message is simple and straightforward, use at least 500 words to convey it. If it’s complex and detailed, consider 800 words your max. Make. Every. Word. Count. You need well-crafted, intelligent, impeccably written copy with pitch perfect tone for your intended audience. Sloppy copy dilutes the impact of anything else you hope to convey.
Aim for concise and polished communication that answers the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How questions that a release should address.
Press releases typically require a journalistic, third person, objective voice. This can be a challenge for people with strong marketing and advertising backgrounds where communication is pitched to the second person potential consumer. Subjective commentary can be incorporated as quotes, however, which is a clever way to breathe a bit of personalization into the release.
Quotes provide an emphatic boost of positivity and personality to a dry press release, so include one or two. Keep them upbeat and succinct, and be sure to give proper attribution. Indicate the name, title, company affiliation, and city/state of the quoted speaker. Likewise, when quoting a scientific study, cite the original source clearly. (“A super satisfied customer” or “Most experts say” don’t count.)
Laura W spends half of her life “unsubscribing” from hype.