Press releases tend to be written in a fairly uniform style and structure, to make things as easy as possible for the journalist who’s reading them. But finding the middle ground between getting a journalist to run with your story, and keeping it interesting and relevant to your readership, can pose problems. Having seen our fair share of bad press releases, and a few crackers too, we’ve prepared a quick list of the things you should absolutely NOT do when writing yours.
- Make it too long or convoluted. Journalists often work tiring hours sifting through press releases, so if you’ve used a jumbled structure packed with jargon, and the central message isn’t clear, yours is likely to end up straight in the bin.
- Forget the hook. For the same reason, press releases that lack an obvious hook – as early as the headline – end up bottom of the pile.
- Jargon your way out of difficult situations. Journalists aren’t stupid. If you try to disguise bad news, the media will be delighted to report it for you, in their own cutting words. A famously bad release from Citi Group referred to employees being laid off as ‘repositioning actions’ – this comes across as robotic and unsympathetic, and it actually draws attention to the fact that they’re embarrassed about what happened. It was never going to exact sympathy from the media.
- Forget your audiences – any of them! Of course you’re trying to snare journalists, but you may also want to address relevant stakeholders, potential investors, government bodies, and prospective or current employees. Be sure to include the information that each of your audiences needs clearly.
- Shy away from quotes. If you fail to include any tasty phrases that can be directly lifted, an interested journalist might be tempted to dig up their own, or interpret the release in a way that you hadn’t intended.
- Be passive. There are very few instances in which you’d want your company to come across as submissive, and your language should reflect this. ‘Company X achieves record profits’ is stronger than ‘Record profits for Company X’.
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