Most businesses sending press releases hope for additional media coverage, but often fail to earn it due to common press release mistakes. This could be due to not offering a newsworthy angle, getting the distribution timing wrong, being too promotional, the press release being formatted or written poorly, or failing to include media. Keep reading to see the mistakes to avoid in writing a press release to give your story a better chance of earning coverage.
Here are more than a dozen of the most common press release mistakes to avoid:
1. Failing to Provide a Newsworthy Angle
Without a newsworthy angle, journalists are unlikely to cover your story, rendering the resources you invested in your press release wasted. Moreover, journalists could be more likely to ignore your future press releases as well.
A newsworthy angle could be one of several things. For example, it could be a press release that’s timely in covering a trending topic or showcasing innovation or industry disruption. Alternatively, the angle might be that the news significantly impacts readers or features your company (or products) as award-winning, or as influencer or celebrity-endorsed.
Some stories simply aren’t readily newsworthy. In this case, companies should either not issue the release or take action to convert the story into a newsworthy one.
For example, a winery hosting a tasting event in and of itself might not be newsworthy. However, it may become newsworthy if a local celebrity or influencer is involved in the event or if the wine or winery has recently won awards. Or it may become newsworthy if, at the event, the winery also runs an auction with proceeds going toward a community need or charitable cause (making it meaningful to your reader).
As you can see, you can create a newsworthy angle around an event or story to gain publicity or pursue specific organizational goals. Read our article on what a press release is to learn more about the purposes of using press releases in relation to business goals.
2. Not Following a Journalistic Writing Style or Format
Your press release should be in Associated Press (AP) style. This helps journalists easily absorb and cover your story without first sorting out confusing or unexpected press release styles or formats. The AP is the world’s largest news organization and sets the standard for writing a news-style piece of content.
As you write, it can be helpful to use a template to make press release formatting easier. Also, keep these simple rules in mind when writing your press release:
- Person: Use the third person singular or plural (he, she, they) when crafting your story. Never use the first person singular or plural (I or we).
- Numbers: Numbers from one through nine should be spelled out (e.g., three). Numbers above nine should be written as numerals (e.g., 10).
- Addresses: Abbreviate “Street” to “St.,” “Avenue” to “Ave.,” and “Boulevard” to “Blvd.” after a numbered address (123 Sky St., for example). Spell out the name of states (don’t abbreviate) unless the name of a state appears in an address with a city or county before it.
- Spacing: Include only one space after punctuation, such as after a period at the end of a sentence or a comma within a sentence.
- Punctuation: Don’t use the Oxford comma, which is a comma inserted before the last inclusion in a simple list (“customers, employees and investors,” not “customers, employees, and investors,” for example)—except if necessary to clarify meaning.
- Expressing time: Months should not be abbreviated when included in a full date with the month, day, and year. If the month is over six characters and is followed by a number, you can abbreviate it. The time of day should be formatted as 9:00 a.m. or 7:00 p.m.
To ensure your press release is formatted correctly, read and follow our guide on how to write a press release, which includes a downloadable press release template.
3. Using the Wrong Type of Press Release
Choosing the correct type of release will allow you to use the best format for a press release based on the information you have. Journalists and people in general also tend to filter press releases by type, so if you use the correct type of press release for your business, you are more likely to reach people looking for what you are offering.
Here are some of the most common types of press releases:
- Event press release
- Book press announcement
- Product (or service) launch or upgrade
- New business or grand opening
- New hire or promotion of a notable individual to a C-suite position
- Rebranding or company relaunch
- Joint venture or partnership media announcement
- Company merger or acquisition
- Award or recognition
- Crisis press release
- Business closure
Although there are key elements to press releases that should always be kept in mind, the type of press release still significantly affects the information that is highlighted in the content. Learn more about 12 different types of press releases in our article to know which to use and get ideas and guidance as you write your media announcement.
4. Using Bad Press Release Headlines
The average reporter spends just five seconds reviewing a press release before deciding whether or not to cover the story, so your title is extremely important. Given its prominent location above the fold, a catchy headline will likely play a big part in the content consumed in those five seconds.
In fact, journalists may not read anything after the headline. As a result, it’s best to think of your title as perhaps the only part of your release a time-strapped journalist will read, so spend the time to make it enticing.
Here are some ways to avoid using bad press release headlines and make yours enticing:
- Answer the most important questions: A journalist wants to know why their audience will value your story. You can accomplish this with a headline that hits the most important facts followed by a lead paragraph that addresses your story’s who, what, when, where, and why aspects in a single sentence. Get inspiration for your headline and lead in our list of the 20 best press release examples and why they work.
- Make it relevant: Focus on a trendy or revolutionary angle in the story (solves a pressing or current problem). You can do so by incorporating trending or buzz keywords in your industry, mentioning a challenging industry problem, or dropping the name of a current celebrity or influencer featured in some part of your story.
- Leave a little mystery: Your title should pique journalists’ interest but indicate there is more to the story they will want to know. Don’t be afraid to tease the reader by offering just enough to stimulate interest, but not everything.
- Use active voice: Active voice (e.g., dogs love this shampoo) is engaging and vivid and so pulls the reader into the story. Passive voice (e.g., this shampoo is loved by dogs) can make the reader feel removed from the action in the story. Stick to an active voice to pull journalists in and entice them to read beyond those five seconds.
- Keep it brief: Remember you have just five seconds to grab a journalist’s attention, so keep your headline under 100 characters or as close to it as you can.
- Evoke emotion: To connect with your audience, you want to elicit an emotional response. For example, “odds-defying XYZ company celebrates 50 years in business,” “Get your tickets before they’re gone,” or “Surprise discovery makes scientists rethink…”
Making press release mistakes like vague or boring headlines is common, especially if you haven’t fully identified your intended audience. One way to beef up your headline and subheading is to write them (or revisit them) after fully writing the rest of your press release. This makes it easier to identify the key aspects to include in them.
Need help writing your press release? eReleases offers press release writing as an add-on to distribution. They can revise or fully write your news announcement, and you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing your press release was written by experienced public relations professionals.
5. Using Quotes That Sound Like Hype
Quotes within your press release offer a more human perspective in an otherwise objective news story. As such, they can be used to shed a favorable light on your business, but that doesn’t mean you should forsake authenticity for sales-speak. Obviously, biased or inauthentic quotes are a major reason many journalists rarely use comments they find in press releases.
Your job is to include quotes journalists can use in objective coverage. Journalists may reach out for such quotes if they are not in your press release, but many don’t have the time. They’ll simply skip over your story for one that is more ready-made for publication. Providing an authentic quote from a credible source increases the chance your press release lands coverage, even by deadline-driven journalists.
When including quotes from executives, for example, it should be something they actually wrote or said without adding flattering adjectives or complex jargon. Further, don’t coach executives to summarize flattering information about your company that is already covered in the release. Instead, allow them to offer additional information not already covered. The result should be a conversational, authentic, and original quote.
For a truly journalistic style, your quote should be from an unbiased source. Though few companies go so far as to offer this assistance to journalists, it saves journalists considerable time, which may make it more likely that a journalist will cover your story. For example, for a new product launch, reach out to an industry expert with no stake in your company and ask them to provide a quote about what your new product will mean for the industry.
6. Making Your Announcement Sound Like an Advertisement
Businesses often make the press release mistake of writing copy that sounds sales-y. While your press release can result in publicity (and with that free marketing for your business), the reality is that journalists aren’t in the business of writing ads, but writing stories.
When writing your press release, put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Consider if the story is indeed a story, and if so, whether it’s an interesting one. On the flip side, ask yourself if you heard the text of your press release over the radio, would it sound more like an advertisement or a news clip?
Looking for more press release tips to write your announcement? Read our article on what makes a good press release to learn what to do.
7. Not Including Helpful Links for Your Audience
Links in press releases don’t offer much search engine optimization (SEO) value for your website because most will be no-follow links. But they do need to provide value for journalists, your target audience, and your business. A link can offer value to your reader that cannot fit within your 500-word press release.
For example, if your press release is in response to a community crisis, include a link to a web page where future updates will be provided. If your release announces a product launch, link to the product landing page where your audience can learn more, especially if it offers additional value like a product demo, sample, or introductory offer. These are both examples of links that help journalists more thoroughly cover your story.
Links in your press release can also be valuable to your business. They can drive web traffic, attract leads, track press release performance, and earn more media coverage. For example, a link to a webinar about your new product can help you connect with readers and journalists personally, answer their questions, and even capture emails to funnel readers into lead-nurturing campaigns.
Keep these best practices in mind when including links in your press release:
- Don’t go overboard: As a rule of thumb, keep the number of links you include in your press release to no more than two or three.
- Always include links that offer value to your reader: If your only goal in adding a link is to benefit your business, it’s best to leave it out. Instead, include links that offer relevant additional value your reader will appreciate.
- Link to deep pages on your website: You will provide more value to your readers if you link to a deep page on your website (like a landing page dedicated to the topic discussed in your press release) rather than your company’s home page.
- Carefully choose your anchor text: Instead of linking to generic text like “click here,” the text used to link to your website should be descriptive of the link’s destination. For example, if your link takes readers to a landing page about the product, the text you use for your link should include the name or type of the product. Likewise, if you’re linking to a webinar or event registration page, the text you use for your link could be “please join our webinar.”
8. Sounding Unsure or Uncredible
Writing a credible press release leads to people seeing your company as trustworthy and having valuable information. Aside from establishing professional credibility by following the correct press release format and writing style, it is also important to use complete and accurate facts. Some helpful tips to remember to make sure your press release sounds credible are:
- Back up your news with the main facts: who, what, when, where, how, and why
- Only include relevant information
- Include the sources for the information you didn’t gather directly
- Share accurate quotes and supports the message
- Give a background of your company to establish credibility
- Refrain from using outdated statistics
- Do not make claims you cannot back up or can be easily disproven
9. Including Too Much Information
In line with press release best practices, in most cases, your announcement should only be one-page long, but many businesses submit multiple-page press releases. The longer a release is, the less likely a journalist will read it.
Unless it’s essential to write a long story, keep it short. You don’t need to include every last detail, but you need to pique a journalist’s interest. They will reach out to you if they have questions and want to learn more.
We know that writing a press release is no laughing matter. One way to improve is to study real-world press release examples for inspiration and to learn why they work to find out how to craft your news into a concise, yet informative brief.
If you do feel that a 500-word press release is selling your story short, include a link to a landing page with a longer version. This will help any interested journalist to round out their coverage of your story and allow readers to learn more without compromising the quality of your initial press release.
10. Forgetting About SEO
Although the core purpose of press releases is to communicate company events and announcements, they can also complement your company’s search engine optimization (SEO) efforts as well. A well-optimized press release can help provide high-quality and keyword-rich links to your company website that are counted by search engines.
In addition, optimizing your press release for search makes it more likely that your story will be found online. By including keywords your audience might be searching for, you have another opportunity to introduce your brand to new audience members and journalists looking for stories like yours.
A key step of writing search engine-optimized press releases is to emphasize SEO keywords and phrases throughout the body of your press release. If unsure about which keywords to focus on, use the keywords from your existing SEO campaign or perform keyword research with reliable keyword research tools like Semrush. Use hyperlinks and bold these keywords accordingly, as long as it doesn’t disrupt the flow of your press release.
Another good tip for optimizing your press release is to mention all the relevant information within the first 250 words of your piece. Having this information at the top of your content can help search engine algorithms understand your press release and rank it higher.
11. Failing to Include Multimedia
Today’s journalists know their stories must include elements that get people’s attention and engage them to keep reading. For this reason, press releases that include images receive exponentially more views than those that do not. In other words, include multimedia like images, videos, and graphics in your press release.
Businesses that provide multimedia elements upfront are more likely to get their story covered by journalists writing on short deadlines. Most distribution services offer requirements regarding resolution and multimedia sizes you can follow. At a minimum, include at least one or two relevant images when distributing your release, and don’t use stock images―include original photos and graphics.
Our top-recommended press release distribution service, EIN Presswire, allows you to embed an image and a video in each press release, with mass and targeted distribution starting under $100. If you need more media inclusions, check out IssueWire. While their distribution isn’t as wide as other services, packages are priced lower, and you can embed up to five images in your release.
12. Not Targeting Your Press Release
Failing to target distribution may end up wasting your investment or even harming your brand reputation. Sending mass pitches is the fastest way to end up in journalists’ spam folders and render emails announcing future press releases as spam.
Likewise, sending a bulk email to multiple journalists tells them they aren’t receiving a personalized email. It can also trigger email providers to filter your news to spam folders (or even block your email address) before journalists even read your release.
Instead, whenever you send a release via email, send it to one journalist at a time with a personalized pitch. First, research each journalist’s work and audience. Look for trends in how they position stories to bring value to readers.
Take note of which industries and types of people the journalist targets. For example, if they write for the finance section, do they speak to the top 1% of society or the bargain hunters? Write a pitch that directly but briefly describes why their audiences would value your news.
Top press release distribution services like Newswire and eReleases allow you to target your story to the industries, locations, and readers most likely to value your news in addition to mass exposure through news wire placements. Multilayer targeting may cost more but could be well worth the investment since it ensures your release gets to the journalists most likely to be interested in covering your news.
Need more guidance? Read our list of 13 tips on how to distribute a press release effectively.
13. Not Making Your News Sharable or Share-worthy
A share-worthy story allows readers and journalists to easily share your news on social media. Here are a few press release tips to make your announcement more shareable:
- Include short, meaningful tidbits: Make your content shareable by including quotes, facts, or statistics that can be posted to social media profiles with no editing. This means limiting quotes or statistics you want to be shared under 280 characters to keep readers from having to edit them down before sharing them on platforms like Twitter.
- Incorporate multimedia: Twenty-two percent of journalists say they’re more likely to cover your story when you include images, videos, and other multimedia. When using a distribution service, follow the requirements for resolution, size, and number of multimedia additions you can include. For pitching via email, attach your multimedia files and use original proprietary (not stock) images.
- Use instant Tweet features: For quotes, statistics, or other tidbits that can stand by themselves and still be impactful, embed a “Click to Tweet” link. When users click the link, they are taken to Twitter, where a Tweet with the quote is automatically set up to share. All they have to do is post.
- Add social share buttons: Adding social share buttons to your press release first invites readers to share, and then makes it easy for them to do so (which, in turn, makes it more likely they will). Add social share buttons by choosing a distribution service news wire that includes them in your published release, and making sure your blog has easy social sharing buttons.
14. Failing to Use Multiple Distribution Channels
There are several ways to distribute your press release, each with its advantages and disadvantages. Different ways of distributing a press release—via distribution service, social media, and personalized email pitches, for example—have their strengths and weaknesses. Using multiple methods that complement one another provides the strongest possible results.
Here are the advantages and disadvantages of using three primary distribution methods:
- Using a distribution service: A press release distribution service allows you to target by industry, region, and even audience behaviors when distributing your press release to hundreds or even thousands of outlets. However, it can become expensive and not enable you to connect with and begin personal relationships with individual journalists.
- Distributing via social media: Distributing your press release via social media can help you reach journalists, publications, and influencers right where they are best positioned to reach an engaged audience. Moreover, you earn followers from these publications, which means greater reach for future press releases. When you distribute a release via a Facebook ad, for example, you can specify which publications (and with that, the journalists who write for them) you want to reach for just a few dollars a day.
- Pitching journalists directly by email: To pitch a journalist directly, you must first take the time to learn who the journalist and their audience are, then craft a personalized pitch that shows each journalist the value your release offers their audiences. While it can be time-consuming, the result is a win-win relationship with journalists (you get coverage, and they get stories their audiences will value) that can extend well into the future.
- Reaching out to bloggers and influencers: Finding bloggers and online influencers who have a wide following among your target audience can amplify the reach of your story. When you do, offering to give them early access to cover your news could entice them to share your story with their followers online.
If you only use a press release distribution service, you may miss out on building an engaged audience that your brand can later reach with a press release or even marketing campaigns. Plus, you miss out on opportunities to build personalized win-win relationships with journalists who you can help and who can help your business reach its goals in the future.
15. Not Publishing to Your Website
Publishing your press release to your website is a good idea for several reasons. One, it allows you to share links back to your press release on social media, email, and other channels that drive readers to your website. Not only does this bring more traffic to your site, but it also gives you the ability to convert that traffic into additional page views and potential prospects and customers.
Second, it adds to the credibility of your business when site visitors first visit your website or conduct research as part of a buying journey. Ideally, you should add a dedicated media page to your website to host your important company announcements and any official press releases you publish. If not, including it on your company’s “About” page or even as a blog post can be equally effective.
Unlike other types of content, publishing your press release to your website in addition to its outside media placements won’t result in duplicate content issues. This eliminates the worry that it could negatively impact your site’s search engine optimization (SEO). And if optimized for search, publishing the story to your website provides more ways for interested audiences and journalists can find your news.
16 Sending Your Press Release Too Late
Among the top press release distribution tips is making sure your announcement is timed correctly. Most commonly, press releases are distributed too late, which can mean expensive same-day distribution, or worse, losing out on potential coverage. After all, if journalists receive your press release after your big news has already happened, such as an event, it lacks relevance and will fail to earn coverage.
To avoid this press release mistake, send your announcement in advance to give journalists the time they need to discover your story, write about it, and publish it. Minimally, you want to send your press release three to five days before you hope it will be published.
However, in some cases, such as press releases that will likely involve a follow-up interview with an interested journalist, sending it as early as a week in advance is advised. If you want members of the press to attend your event, sending an advance copy of your release or sending a dedicated media advisory several days (or even weeks) before the event is advisable.
17. Not Tracking Performance
Analytics lets you know if you’ve met the business goals set for your press release, how you can improve future press releases for better results, and gives you insights into how to better promote and retarget your audience. Here’s why you should pay attention to the analytics reports offered by your distribution service:
- Determine if you are meeting your goals: Press release analytics track metrics like how many shares your release earned, which outlets covered it, how much traffic it drove to your site, and brand sentiment. In return, these insights will help you determine whether it was a worthwhile investment of your time and resources.
- Insights to optimize future press releases: Pay attention to how people engage with them. If journalists latched onto one quote and included it in all the stories covering your release, make notes of what may have made that quote different from the others. In future releases, match those characteristics when sourcing quotes.
- Determine the best distribution methods: Press release analytics reports often include information about the individuals who read the release. This may include demographics like age, income, interests (industry publications they read, for example), marital status, and location. Use this information to inform advertising or retargeting campaigns.
For instance, say your press release announced a new fashion line. Analytics reports showed that 40% of people who read your press release were from the East Coast of the U.S., were millennials, and were interested in women’s fashion. In response, consider running retargeting ads to women in those regions who belong to that generation and who share those interests. For example, you can easily do so with social media advertising targeting options.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What makes a bad press release?
A press release can turn out badly if it’s poorly written, formatted incorrectly, or doesn’t hone in on a compelling angle. Bad writing includes grammatical errors, stiff or unnatural writing, wrong use of writing style, or excessively long drafts. Failing to present a newsworthy angle is often due to not identifying a target audience. Incorrect formatting simply fails to follow the AP style or other expected press release format.
How do you correct a press release?
You can send corrections for a faulty press release to the distribution service or straight to the media that covered the release. This should be done as soon as possible. If a correction isn’t possible in the original press release, you can also write up a follow-up press release in order to explain and correct the misinformation from the previous release online.
What should you not do in a press release?
In a press release, you shouldn’t include hype or exaggerated claims or write copy that sounds like an advertisement. You also need to avoid mistakes like not being newsworthy, having vague or bland headlines, or using the wrong format and writing style. You must also not forget to include your contact information and a link to your website. Otherwise, journalists won’t have a way to follow up for more details.
Press releases can help your business earn positive media coverage. Because press releases are a unique form of business communication, it’s essential to put your best foot forward and avoid the common mistakes that prevent businesses from landing media coverage. Lead with your newsworthy angle, keep it short and objective, and use the correct formatting to make your story credible and worth covering.
Give your story the best chance of getting media attention by using Newswire to send your press release. In addition to multilayer targeting, it also ensures that your press release is in good form as it includes multitier professional editing.