4 Press Release Pitfalls to Avoid at All Costs

As a writer, I charge clients more for press releases. It’s not because I hate writing them.And I’m not being discriminating toward those who are looking to promote a great product or to introduce their service to the masses. Instead, the quote I pass along to my clients reflects the sheer amount of time that a press release requires.

There’s a problem many of my clients have run into. They find that the press release they distributed, whether through local channels or via a larger service like PRWeb, isn’t getting the results they’d expected.

They’re doing it wrong.

A press release is an extremely delicate piece, and it absolutely must be “just so.”  But even the most perfectly and precisely written press release may not garner results. Chances are, it’s not because you’ve written it wrong. It’s because that exciting news you’re releasing, quite frankly, isn’t news.

It’s time to get back to basics with press releases. A return to Journalism 101, if you will. Avoid these pitfalls as you plan your next press release, and I guarantee you: you’ll see better consumer engagement.

Press Release Pitfall #1: The 5 Ws

Think back to your 5th grade social studies class when your teacher instructed you to create a current events report. You’d choose a news article from the local paper, then discuss in 500 words the event and its relevance to your world.

What did your teacher ask of you? She wanted you to list the 5 Ws. You remember.

  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • Why

Now it’s time to think about your press release. Are any of those Ws missing? If so, it’s time to incorporate them. There’s no need to dig deep with this one. It’s a pitfall which is very easily overcome.

Press Release Pitfall #2: It’s just not news

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been hired to write a news release for something that, simply put, just wasn’t news. The client was using the press release as a thinly veiled attempt at marketing, then wondering why no one cared.

Let’s say you’re the owner of a small business, and you’re opening a new location in Durham, North Carolina. That’s worthy of a press release. Are you offering 20% off all summer items? I’m sorry. That’s not a press release. That information would be more suitable for your business website or your social media account.

A press release is, by definition, used to alert the media of something which is newsworthy. That 10k race you’re holding as a fundraiser is newsworthy. Even the book signing you’re hosting, if it’s relevant to the community, is worthy of a well-written press release.

Press Release Pitfall #3: You’re not fooling anyone

Your target consumer has two traits you need to be ever mindful of. First, he’s not stupid. Second, he wants to be even more educated.

Your consumer is reading your news because he wants to be the first to know about trends, about the news and even about new services offered by your company. He does not want to read your press release if it’s just another sales pitch.

Furthermore, your target consumer will see right through you if you try to market to him via your press release. You’re not fooling anyone; your customers know what’s news and what’s not.

Earlier this year, I read this news article by my local news station. I was immediately turned off by the audacity of whomever had submitted the release to WRAL. I’m not a stupid person. There was no news here. There was no groundbreaking ceremony, no advance sales of tickets. There was no news. It was a shameless bit of self-promotion, and it served no purpose but to fill space.

Don’t be that business. Ensure that your news is news. Run it by a friend, or run it by me. I’m a brutally honest person; I’ll tell you if your story is worthy of the editor’s time. Don’t waste your own time or money to construct a press release which will do nothing for your business but alienate customers.

Press Release Pitfall #4: Giving your customers TMI

You’ve got approximately three sentences to make your news stick. After those sentences, your target consumer will turn the page.

Don’t waste that space at the top of your press release giving your customers the entire history of your company. Instead, keep it short and sweet.

• Sentence one: Who are you writing about?
• Sentence two: What is that company doing?
• Sentence three: Why is the company doing it, and how does it benefit the reader?

The first three sentences are all you’ve got. The rest of your press release simply fills in the details, letting your consumer know how they may participate and when the event or product will be available for consumption.

Finding yourself in need of a press release for your business? Feel free to reach out to me. Together we can ensure that your press release is truly newsworthy. Your consumer is smart; avoid these 4 press release pitfalls to keep him engaged and interested.

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