How to Write a Press Release That Doesn’t Suck

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Don't waffle. Make it newsworthy.

I’m going to be totally blunt with you. Your press release blows and, honestly, it’s probably not going to get you any media coverage. Brutal advice, I know, but it’s coming from a place of love, because I don’t want you to waste any more of your time writing, distributing and pitching sucky press releases. It’s sapping your energy, draining your time and probably feels a little bit like it’s destroying your soul.

So how can you make sure your press release doesn’t totally stink? Avoid these pitfalls.

1. No-one cares about your business

Your press release cannot be about your business or your products – even when it is. If you’re announcing a new product or event, your release must be about the impact and/or benefit of the announcement to your audience. The purpose of a media release is not to push a bunch of sales spin about your product or your brand, it’s about informing and educating your audience.

2. Marketing copy dressed as a release

This is such a pet peeve for journos and a sure-fire way to make sure your release never sees the light of day. Remember how I said it’s about “informing and educating”? That means no sales-y language, no direct “buy now” calls to action and no over-played motherhood statements (you know those things you say that sound nice, but aren’t qualified, and don’t really mean anything substantial, like “world-class service” or “our proven systems deliver results” or “we support world peace”).

The purpose of a media release is not to push a bunch of sales spin about your product or your brand, it’s about informing and educating your audience.

3. There’s no “why”

The what, how, who and where are important aspects in a media release; yes, people need to know the details, but you mustn’t forget to include the “why”. Your why, the inspiration, cause or belief, that is the driving force behind your business, is what draws people closer to you and helps them know, like and trust you. Without a “why” your release will be surface level; it’s not going to help you connect with your audience beyond informing them of your news.

4. It’s not newsworthy

This one is a close relative of mistake No.1. Something that is big news for you may be totally irrelevant to a broader audience. Unless it’s the first time it has ever been seen/used/rolled out in any business anywhere, no-one cares about your new invoicing software. Big impact for you, and probably your existing customer, yet totally useless information for anyone else.

For something to be considered newsworthy, it needs to be relevant to the people you’re communicating with, the audience, meaning it’s of value to or impacting the media outlet you’re targeting and its readers/viewers/listeners (who are also your ideal customers).

To give you an idea of whether your announcement is newsworthy, filter it through this checklist: generally for a story to be considered newsworthy it needs to cover at least two of these items – the more boxes you can tick with each story, the greater the news value.

A checklist for newsworthy-ness

  • New-ness: never-seen-before, ground-breaking, new to your industry
  • Timeliness: relevant to a particular event or time of year
  • Topical: aligned with a current hot topic or specifically relevant/useful for a particular audience
  • Emotionally engaging: Heart-warming, exciting
  • Wave making: shocking, opinionated, against the grain
  • Local: happening in their backyard

5. Waffle overload

You’ve got approximately three seconds to capture the attention of a journo, so your email subject line, headline and the opening paragraph of your release need to very clearly tell them why they should give a damn. This means you need to be really clear on what is most important about your news – what is most relevant and impactful for the audience. Prioritise all the information you want to include and then write your release from the pointy end with the most important info straight up.

About the author

Niki Hennessy, founder of Conscious Communication, is an award-winning PR strategist and business coach. nikihennessy.com.au

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