Imagine this: You spend years of hard work developing a new product at your business. You scrounge together a sizable marketing budget and prepare a press release to celebrate your launch.
You eagerly submit your story and await the responses. The next morning, you check your email and WHAM… Nothing happens.
Press releases are a tricky beast. Just like the headlines that journalists write, you need a captivating, mouth-watering story that stands out amid the sea of daily news. Trouble is, you’ve trained yourself to be an expert at running your business – not at writing feature stories.
Fortunately, there’s a few common lessons that will get you on the right track. Avoiding these simple press release mistakes will put you miles ahead of the other businesses also competing to get their stories read.
Before we dive into the details on this topic, we also suggest you check out eReleases, our recommended press release distribution service. eReleases aims to get your story in the hands of qualified journalists. Their service includes distribution through The Associated Press, the PR Newswire network and their own network of websites and journalists. Visit eReleases to learn more.
Mistake #1 – Your Title is Boring
Put yourself in the shoes of a journalist: You’re flipping through hundreds of press release headlines. It’s a sea of names and acronyms you’ve never heard of, announcing new locations or industry rewards you didn’t know existed.
Finally, you come across something that catches your attention:
“New Report Ranks Top U.S. Cities for Bedbug Infestations”
“These Pencils Sprout into Vegetables, Herbs and Flowering Plants”
These are titles that grab our curiosity and beg to be read. Their secret is that they avoid excessive name-dropping, or using any buzzwords. Instead, they focus purely on introducing the story/product in an eye-grabbing and mouth-watering way.
Mistake #2 – You Overuse Buzzwords Like “Breakthrough” or “State-of-the-Art”
Madeline Johnson, The Market Council
Avoid using too much marketing fluff like “breakthrough,” “innovation,” or “state-of-the-art” to describe your product/service.
Journalists and consumers alike are overexposed to these words. It does little to capture their interest. Instead, focus on describing what truly makes your business unique. For example “Fushigi Ball Poised to be Bigger than Snuggies, X-Box” is far more interesting than “Groundbreaking new toy Fushigi Ball to Sellout this Season.”
Other examples of overused Buzzwords include: (from Adam Sherk)
- Award Winning
Mistake #3 – You’re Writing an Ad, Not a Story
Lisa Concepcion, KMR Communications
“A press release is a tool to use when you have news,” Lisa explains. Take this example of a press release for a new app:
Title: New YogiDoodle App Gives Psyche Analysis of Your Doodles.
Lead: “What does your doodling mean? A new app decodes your personality and mood based on your doodles.”
“This is NEW, different, exciting and, since everyone doodles, relatable,” Lisa explains. Now, on the other hand, take a look at this example:
Title: YogiDoodle Reaches 1 Million Doodles Analyzed.
“While the YogiDoodle client and their yes people account reps would LOVE to issue a press release with this headline the media probably won’t bat an eye at it. The story could be great but the headline; when too self serving is off-putting to media.”
Mistake #4 – It Doesn’t Read Like a News Article
Kimberly Spencer, Crown Yourself
On a similar note, Kimberly shares this piece of advice:
“Too many companies make their press releases all about them, their product. In a world of 24/7 media and information, with everyone vying for attention, more shouting doesn’t make anyone really stop and notice…
“The best advice is to listen. Listen to what is being talked about in the media. Can your business, product or service tap into the conversation? Your press releases should read like a news article, adding to the conversation, or better yet, providing a solution.”
Mistake #5 – You Didn’t Get Permission…
Wayne Perry, Greensations
“Our first major breakthrough brand was Sinus Buster hot pepper nasal spray way back in 2005. CVS (yes that CVS) picked up the brand for their website to test it for an eventual launch in their stores. This was a big deal for a tiny company… I got a bit too excited and sent out a press release with PRWeb once the product was up on the CVS website.
“Two days later, the buyer for CVS stores called us to Rhode island for a meeting. We thought – this is it – they are going to put us in stores! So we happily made the long drive from New York to Rhode Island for the big meeting.
“When the buyer walked in the room – he immediately screamed at us and said he decided they were not taking the product into the stores because we sent out a press release without their permission. He read us the riot act as they say and told us we were lucky he didn’t pull it from the website. The product stayed on their website and eventually we got it into the stores and we eventually sold sinus buster to a larger company, but it’s a lesson I’ll never forget.”
The Bottom Line
Take these 5 press release mistakes as a quick checklist to make sure your story is good to go. To double check your formatting, be sure to also check out our Press Release Template. Also, for tips on distributing your press release, check out our comparison of eReleases vs. PR Newswire and PR Web.