So Your Press Release Sucks. How to Make it Suck Less:

Worried that you aren’t getting the local media attention your organization deserves? Sending press releases to your local TV, radio station or paper, only to hear the sound of crickets in return? The problem may not be that your announcement isn’t newsworthy. The problem could be the way your approach in alerting local media. Here’s how to tell if your press releases suck, and how to fix them:

1. You don’t understand what a press release is.

Often, small businesses and organizations don’t understand the difference between a press release and a paid advertisement. You may submit a press release thinking that you have to pay for it, and that it will appear exactly as submitted, like an ad. You may also wonder, “how much will this cost me?”

A press release is not an advertisement. An ad is content you pay for, and there are some definite advantages to running an ad in place of or in addition to submitting a press release. As an advertiser, you have a degree of control over when your ad runs, where it runs and how often. You can pick the wording and decide what images will be featured. Not so with a press release, which is considered news content. The disadvantage is that you don’t have much of a say as to when or even if it will run. The uptick is that it’s free and you can pack in a lot of information. Learn more here: http://breakingeveninc.com/press­release­101­so­you­think-you­know­press­releases/

2. It was an afterthought.

If you’re going to put blood, sweat and tears into a project, make sure people know about it. Got a fundraiser coming up? Let the local media know a week or two ahead of time. Avoid procrastination. Don’t wait until the day before or, even worse, the day of your event or product launch to send it. Remember: News outlets prize timeliness.

3. You mailed or FAXed it

Email is so ubiquitous, so easy and so free that there’s no reason not to use it. We’re in a copy and paste age, and few local papers have newsroom staff dedicated to retyping your 800­word press release or scanning it in order to extract the text of your snail­mailed PR. FAXing is even worse, as often the reproduction is splotchy.

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4. You sent it to the wrong news outlet, the wrong person or the wrong department

The Baltimore Sun probably isn’t going to run your press release about your bean supper fundraiser in Waldo County, Maine. Neither will the New York Times, Chicago Tribune or Boston Globe, for that matter. But local and regional news outlets will. Identify the blogs, papers, radio and TV stations and other media outlets whose audience will be interested in what it is that you’re doing. Once you’ve identified the right outlet, make sure it gets to the right department. Your press release should be sent to the newsroom, not to the advertising department or the circulation department. Keep an updated press contact list — we’ll explore more about the in a future blog post.

5. You didn’t include the right contact information

Your press release’s header needs to include the name of a person who to contact, as well as a phone number and email address. Without that, how will the reporter know who to contact so they can cover your amazing event?

6. You padded it

Don’t use a lot of superlatives, don’t try to be cute, don’t use exclamation marks, and remember to cut to the chase in your first paragraph — what we call the lead. Right off the bat, tell them who, what, when where and why your event or launch is important to a news outlet’s readers, viewers or listeners. Keep in mind that a press release should read like news, not like an advertisement. Check spelling and grammar, too.

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7. Your photo was too small, out of focus, the wrong size/format

Remember that if you include a photo in your press release — and you probably should — that you don’t need to shoot on the latest Nikon DSLR. But it does need to be in focus. Don’t use any special filters to make it artsy. Don’t send it in black and white or use some monochrome filter. Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t imbed the photo within a Word document. It’s a pain to extract and the end results are usually less than desirable. One good photo is great. Two is better, but keep it to three, tops. Don’t send little bitty baby thumbnails. Think 300dpi at around 2 MB. Send photos as jpgs, not bitmaps (for goodness sake, it’s 2016 — who uses bitmaps any more?!).

8. You didn’t include any information about the photo

Very important but easily overlooked — captions, also known as cutlines. Include when and where the photo was taken, a brief description of who or what is pictured, and how it relates to your press release. If applicable, include the name of the people in the photo and their titles, and where they are situated within the photograph. In the caption, include the name of the photographer. The photographer is the person who actually took the person; not the person who owns the camera. That is, if George took a picture of Ringo with Paul’s camera, George is the photographer, not Paul.

9. You never followed up.

Take five minutes and call the newsroom to make sure they at least got the press release. A news outlet can’t run what it doesn’t have.

Stay tuned for more posts about Press Releases this month! In case you’ve missed them, be sure to check out our latest posts here:

Remixing Press Releases For Online Marketing

Press Release 101: So You Think You Know Press Releases?

Press Release 101: Writing and Formatting

Press Release 101: Using Imagery

Press Release 101: Releasing it into the Wild

 

John Swinconeck