There’s no doubt about it, press releases are effective. Good press releases inform people of important business, like a new location, a change in executive management or the addition of an important staff member, details about a company-held event, or when the company is in the news.
PR is vital to the success of a company’s branding, but done wrong, it can mean trouble, and that includes sending out bad press releases.
The Good Press Release
These will contain unique information the public is interested in. The keyword, however, is unique, which means the reason for the release isn’t common.
EXAMPLE 1: Perhaps your company is running a sale, which itself is not unique, but if the proceeds benefit a local charity, it’s newsworthy.
EXAMPLE 2: If you’ve got a new product release, it’s typically not news unless the product is disruptive to your industry. When Apple introduced the first iPhone, you bet the press release was newsworthy, albeit we recognize now, 12 years later, just how disruptive the iPhone became.
Your press release should contain:
- A catchy, but concise headline
- Details about the newsworthy event you want released to journalists and the public
- A quote from a relevant spokesperson
- Event details like venue location or ticket pricing if that’s the subject of your press release. If your business opened a second location, details about the new building or expanded services offered are a good idea.
- A brief, one or two sentence description of your business, and contact details if the public would like to know more.
In some cases, particularly in technological, scientific, or other highly-specialized industries, two versions of a release wouldn’t go amiss: a shorter one for general public attention to summarize why this development is relevant to everyday lives, and another, longer release for industry insiders, where some of the information requires a higher understanding to parse.
Anything more than that, and you risk losing your audience.
Keep in mind, what’s news to you or your business or your industry may simply not be immediately newsworthy to the public (or they may not yet understand how it is). A good press release sticks to the point, has something newsworthy to say, is well written, and doesn’t overburden the reader with detail. Like this one (that has the added bonus of the email pitch this release was sent with).
READ NEXT: Two Quick Tips For Better Press Releases
The Bad Press Release
A bad press release can really screw up the public’s perception of your company.
Sticking with our Apple iPhone press release example, there are flaws. That press release is a whopper, describing everything the new iPhone could do better than previous mobile phones. Now, we understand the language, like multi-touch screens include pinch-zoom, swiping, and scrolling. Back then, not so much. Autocorrect, visual voice mail, SMS messaging, all of that was not part of the average consumer’s lexicon. So for an average person to read that press release, particularly with the length of it, half of the information included was likely over the average person’s head.
Simply put, bad press releases waste people’s time.
Press Release Mistakes: How to Avoid Them
Mistake #1 The Godawful Headline
Actual Example: New Evidence Links BP to the Controversial Elimination of Protected Wild Mustangs From Federally Mandated Land in Several Western US States
Analysis: Holy Mouthful, Batman! For the most important part of the press release, this does a spectacular faceplant. It’s long-winded, poorly worded, and took three tries to understand it. If your headline puts your readers to sleep before they finish the sentence, it’s too long. 70-80 characters is the recommended standard. Beyond that, make the subject catchy. If it’s newsworthy, and the title grabs attention, you’re halfway there.
Mistake #2: The Non-Newsworthy Message
This actual example boasts a truly innovative way to lose weight, and a website that will tell you so. From the release:
The website “Lose Weight Naturally,” provides information about weight loss and solutions to help take the weight off. Stress, work, chores, and the availability of unhealthy food leave many people frustrated in their desire to lose weight.
The website http://www.gitw.org is designed to provide up to date information about weight problem. … the manager of the website, says this site is useful for those who have weight problems. They can find useful information on this site.
Analysis: Oh, the manager of this website, in a sea of similar websites, says it’s useful to people who have weight problems. That the website contains useful information. Not only is this headline terrible—because how many times have we heard about weight loss innovations?—the subject is not newsworthy. This press release said nothing more than the site is bland, bland, bland. And probably has a beige background.
Mistake #3: The Great American Novel
Actual Example: The Apple iPhone press release above is a perfect example of this, so let’s not make this post a novel by repeating ourselves. Approximately 400 words in a press release should do it.
Mistake #4: The Incoherent Sales Pitch
Actual Example: Another weight loss one. From the release:
The main rule of this diet regime solution method is to maintain your blood sugar typical; therefore one’s body will never pace down its weight reduction fat burning capacity. Should you stick to this diet plan solution then you are going to be guided with the appropriate meals stuff to have and by not ravenous yourself.
Analysis: Um, what? Not only is this press release full of “buy our product now!” flashy language, not all of that flashy language is strung together in word combinations that mean something. That was actually painful to read.
TL;DR: Press releases can be a quick, effective way for your company to get word out about important events related to your business.
If your restaurant won an award, by all means, shout it out to the masses. Press releases are a way to steer the public narrative surrounding your brand and future plans, and they have a wider reach than your website or social media might enjoy. Just remember: a good headline along with concise and well-written information about a newsworthy event will keep your press release from being picked apart, or worse, ignored entirely.