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Press Release Errors that will Doom Your News to Failure

October 02 2018

I’ve written about press release errors to avoid – below are more PR failures that are all too common:

3 Times When You Shouldn’t Write a Press Release

Here on the PR Fuel blog, we spend a lot of time offering tips for press release writing, covering everything from how to hook editors with strong openings to fact checking your press release. Today, I want to go in a little bit of a different direction. I want to talk about not writing press releases. More specifically, I want to discuss the situations when you shouldn’t write a press release because it’s a waste of your time.

Bad news #3There are three times I can think of when publishing a press release is a bad idea. If you can think of other situations, leave a comment and add to this list.

1. You’re only concerned with SEO – I’m probably going to get some flak for this, but I don’t think your main reason for writing a press release should be to score some backlinks and increase your search engine presence. Yes, optimizing your press releases is important, and yes there are a lot of SEO benefits to be gained with press release distribution. But when you start publishing press releases just for SEO, you almost always end up sending out high volumes of low quality, poorly written press releases. And they almost always end up on “free” press release websites where they get no attention.

2. You have nothing to say – A while back, PR Fuel published a collection of press release topic ideas. If you ask me, there’s almost always a story to be told. But some businesses don’t know how to find those stories, and they don’t have anything important to say. As a result, they end up sending out a boring, lifeless press release that stands no chance of getting picked up. It’s a total waste of time.

3. You don’t have a plan – The main reason PR campaigns fail is because there isn’t a plan. You can’t haphazardly send out press releases every few months and expect to suddenly end up on a couch across from Oprah. You need to have a plan and goals. Every press release should serve a specific purpose, and you need to be committed to long-term press release distribution. That’s how you get results.

Avoid Being a Press Release Horror Story

Press releases can be a great way to spread the word about your company’s exploits and news. However, they also have the potential to backfire horribly if you’re not careful! Most bad press releases get ignored or tossed in the trash, but occasionally one makes it through the gates. In this case, you may have gotten in over your head!

Why? Because not only was the press release bad, the information contained within is either misleading, TMI, or just plain wrong.

Misleading

Your current promotion involves a big treasure hunt for your loyal customers. It sends them all across town in a fun game that also offers them free items and discounts on future purchases. So you set about writing up a great press release about it.

Unfortunately, you finish writing the press release before all the details have been finalized. As a result, it has several places mentioned that may or may not participate now.

This confusion will cause some major headaches down the road for everyone involved – especially those customers roaming around town looking for clues! While some are still able to solve the puzzles and get the promotion just fine, others are angry they were misled by the whole thing.

Always make sure the facts are backed up on your press release. Verify everything before it comes out or it will cause big problems!

TMI

Ah, the classic overshare. Now, TMI (or Too Much Information if you didn’t know) doesn’t have to be something degrading or awful you put out to the world. It can simply mean you’re just putting way to much info in the press release and it may damage the overall message.

For instance, your company just suffered a major economic downturn and is letting several members of the staff go. You don’t want to let your customers think the company is going to fold, however, so you try to come up with a good angle.

To take pressure off the company, you try to include as many good things that have happened over the years. But instead of giving confidence, it comes off as a cheap ploy or desperate grasping at straws. The customers leave anyway because you were giving out way too much information. Try to be more succinct in your press releases – if it seems extraneous, it probably is!

Wrong!

Giving out wrong information in a press release can not only damage the relationship you have with customers, it can land you in court!

Say you’re running a promotion soon that gives great discounts for certain items. Unbeknownst to you, those sales items have similar item numbers to other products. As a result, you accidentally print the wrong numbers.

Come sale time, quite a few people are going to be more than a little miffed when they come in to your store and can’t find the items listed. They may even report you for false advertising, which will really land you in hot water!

Again, always be sure your press release is accurate in every way, shape, and form. Otherwise, there could be some very real consequences.

5 Incredibly Annoying Press Release Writing Habits

There’s no glamour in writing press releases. It’s not sexy. It’s not terribly exciting, either. And there’s no fame and fortune waiting for a press release writer. But make no mistake, there absolutely is an art to writing great press releases. And when you’re competing against hundreds of other press releases trying to grab a reporter’s attention, you’d better hope you didn’t make any of these annoying mistakes when writing your release:

  1. Bad Habits! written on multiple road signTaking way too long to get to the point—There’s not a reporter out there who isn’t pressed for time. So if your press release takes 3 or 4 paragraphs to get the point, your story has zero chance of getting covered. You need to be able to explain the key takeaway of your story in the headline and first couple of sentences before diving into the specifics.
  2. Not explaining why the news is important—Context is incredibly important when writing a press release. You can’t just assume the reporter will understand why your news is so significant, because it may not necessarily fall under his or her main area of coverage. You need to make it clear not just what the news is but also why it’s important and needs to be covered.
  3. Using hype words to oversell the story—While I just mentioned that it’s important to sell why your story is important, you still have to remain unbiased and factual when writing a press release. Avoid overselling your press release with buzzwords like “revolutionary” and “groundbreaking.” You’re writing a press release, not an advertisement. And if a reporter sees your press release is littered with sales speak, he’ll roll his eyes and trash it.
  4. Speaking to everybody while appealing to nobody—When writing a press release, it’s best to pretend you’re writing to one specific person. Every press release has its own unique audience, and the better you can speak directly to that audience, the more effective you’ll be at getting your story out. So rather than trying to tailor your release to everyone, making it so generic that no one cares, put some thought into it and focus on speaking to a specific audience. In other words, take the sniper approach over the shotgun approach.
  5. Leaving out key information—While your press release doesn’t need to include every possible detail remotely related to your story, it should be thorough enough that no key information is left out. The reporter needs enough information to determine if the story is worth digging deeper into. Include the most important details, link to more info on your website if necessary, and for the love of all things holy, make sure to include your contact information at the end so reporters can reach you!

5 Grammatical Mistakes That Will Make Your Readers Shake Their Heads

I’ve spent some time on here in the past discussing why I think proper grammar matters in press releases. It matters in all of your writing, in fact. It even matters in blogging, I’d argue. Sure, blogging is less formal, and it’s okay to bend some grammar rules here and there if it helps you communicate more effectively. Heck, I’ve certainly bent and broken my fair share of rules on this blog, intentionally and unintentionally.

However, there are certain grammatical mistakes that you simply can’t break. When you break them, it makes you look just plain stupid, to be quite honest. It causes you to lose credibility with your readers – whether that reader is a guest on your blog or a reporter you’ve just sent a press release to.

So, which grammatical mistakes do you have to avoid at all costs?

1. Using of  instead of have

This one drives me a little bit insane whenever I see it. The phrase is could have, not could of. It’s should have, not should of. And it’s would have, not would of. I understand that when you hear it said aloud it sounds like the person is saying of, but they’re (hopefully) saying have.

2. Getting your yours, theres, and its mixed up

I’ve gone over these mistakes a few times in the past, so I’ve combined them all into the #2 spot on this list. Let me just repeat what I’ve said in the past to make this easier:

Their indicates possession, such as we are going to their house.

There refers to a place, such as place the bags over there or there is a bookstore on Main Street.

They’re is a contraction of the words they and are. For example, they’re coming over for dinner at 6 tonight.

Your indicates possession. For example, do your homework or clean your room.

You’re is a contraction of you and are. For example, you’re going to get in trouble if you don’t clean your room.

It’s (with an apostrophe) means it is, like it’s going to be a good dayIts (without an apostrophe) indicates ownership, like the dog chewed its bone.

3. Mixing up loose and lose

Loose and lose are two totally different words with completely different meanings. It’s not: Why did you loose my wallet? It’s: why did you lose my wallet?

And it’s not: My pants are lose because I lost weight. It’s: My pants are loose because I lost weight.

Got it?

4. Using the word irregardless

Regardless of what you might see all over the internet, irregardless is a word used by ignorant people who should be simply saying regardless.

5. Using the word supposably

I have to wrap up this list before I throw my laptop across the room (by the way, it’s throw, not through). Supposably isn’t a word. That’s all there is to it. The correct word is supposedly.
 

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (https://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download your free copy of 7 Cheap PR Tactics for Success in Any Economy here: https://www.ereleases.com/free-offer/cheap-pr-tactics/

Avoid these Fatal Press Release Errors

September 18 2018

I’ve maintained for years that most press releases simply go nowhere, but this fate is completely avoidable. Below you can review the main reasons press releases fail, some horror-show headlines, and a great example of a headline makeover!

Why Most Press Releases Don’t Matter

Inject any reporter with truth serum, and they’ll tell you that 99% of press releases they receive don’t matter and get deleted. Most press releases suck, and they’re a waste of words and a waste of everyone’s time, from the person who wrote it to the reporters who get bombarded with it.

But the fact still remains that press releases can be your ticket to landing the media coverage you desire. So instead of abandoning the idea of press releases altogether, let’s focus on the mistakes you might be making that are causing your press releases to be ignored.

  1. There’s no real news — Here’s something most people seem to forget: press releases are for announcing news. Wow! What a concept! But seriously, if you don’t have anything newsworthy to talk about, you shouldn’t write a press release. Yes, I’m an advocate for the leaky faucet approach to PR, which is steadily dropping press releases over a long period of time with the hopes that one sticks. However, I’d never suggest to write a press release just for the sake of writing one. You must always focus on finding a creative news angle. Otherwise, what the heck are you writing about?
  2. It’s irrelevant to the audience — Different reporters cover different topics, and different publications have different audiences with different interests. What I’m getting at is that you have to make sure your press releases are actually relevant to the people you’re sending them to and to their audiences. You may need to tweak and customize your press releases for different reporters to make them more tailored to their interests.
  3. It’s filled with blatant self-promotion — A press release is supposed to share a news story from an unbiased perspective. It shouldn’t read like an advertisement for your product. Rather than focusing on selling your product, spend your energy finding a solid newsworthy idea backed with good information. If your only goal is to promote yourself, buy an ad. You’ll have more success.
  4. You’re telling too much of the story — The point of a press release is to get the reporter interested in your story. You don’t need to share every single detail about the story. Just give them enough information to pique their interest and get them to contact you for more information.
  5. Your press release isn’t unique and fresh — Reporters get bombarded with press releases all day long, and most of them are pretty much the exact same. They follow the same format, use the same meaningless buzzwords, have the same stale quotes, and carry the same level of importance — none.

Stop Playing It Safe!

If you want your press release to matter, you have to do something different. You have to do something that gets you noticed. Sticking to the same old tired press release format and rehashing the same old storylines just isn’t going to cut it anymore. You have to start thinking outside of the box.

Instead of sending a regular press release, use an infographic to tell your story. Add some video or photos to get your message across. Instead of including a generic quote from a company executive, get a quote that actually adds to the story and makes the press release more interesting.  Instead of trying to promote your product blatantly, tell a real story about real people.

Be creative. Be daring. Be unique. That’s how you’ll create a press release that matters.

Press Releases that Have Little Chance of Making it

Look, I’m not saying press releases that meet the criteria on the list below are GOING to fail. If you’ve written up one of the following press releases and you feel like taking a chance, go for it. The funny thing about press releases is they can be fairly unpredictable – just like the average day in a newsroom.

hiding covering crazy dogHowever, it’s all about increasing the odds. You don’t wear a seatbelt because you’re 100% sure you’re going to be safe in a wreck; you wear it because it increases your chances up towards that 100%.

What I’m trying to say is writing one of these press releases is like riding in a car without a seat belt. Just don’t do it!

Minor Staff Change

Did you just hire Bill Gates as your CEO? Has Warren Buffett signed on as a financial advisor? Is Christian Bale quitting acting and joining your team? Then you should definitely write up a press release, because those are big changes and each one is big news.

Did Bob from accounting move up the ladder to VP of Sales? Did Janet from tech support work her way up to CIO? While these stories are interesting to you, they are not going to be interesting to 99% of people who read newspapers or other media. The #1 rule of a press release is to make sure it’s interesting to the public. If it isn’t, it’s dead in the water.

Spinning Bad News

Two years ago Citigroup fired a significant portion of its staff. The ensuing press release was an absolute nightmare. It used the word “repositioning” over and over instead of discussing why it had to fire employees. It wasn’t until several paragraphs in that it was clear what they were actually saying.

Even worse, they tried to spin the news into a “new step forward” story. This was a terrible time for their former employees and Citigroup decided to focus on how great it was for the company instead.

Of course the story became about how bad the press release was rather than what Citigroup wanted. If you have bad news, be up front about it. Journalists will sniff out the real story if you don’t.

Shameless Plugs Hidden as Stories

Your company is about to release the Vacuumatic 5000, the most impressive vacuum cleaner ever. You’ve already sent a press release about the actual product, but you don’t think it got enough coverage. So you set out to write a brand new one that talks up the vacuum but is disguised as a story on how dust bunnies have exponentially increased in recent years.

Not only is this obviously a shameless attention grab, journalists will see through it immediately. It has very little to do with your product and you’re just trying to sneak your product into the public’s eye. It might work for a white paper, but press releases need to be direct and up front with their intentions. Wait for some actual news to come from your company and try again.

Read This Post To Discover The Secret To Becoming the Richest Person On Earth!!!

I lied. I’m not going to tell you how to become the richest person on earth. Sucks, doesn’t it?

Pinocchio noseBut what I did is no different than what I’m unfortunately seeing on a regular basis with other press releases, blog posts, emails, and so on.

A great press release headline sucks the reader in. It grabs the attention of the reporter and makes him (or her) want to find out more about your story. And if the rest of your press release delivers on the promise of your headline, you’re golden. Of course, that’s a big if for some people. See, some of you reading this are headline liars.

That’s right, I called you a liar.

Look, we live in an age where our audiences are bombarded with more content and more distractions than ever before. We need any edge we can get to stand apart from all the noise, even if just for a moment. So, sometimes, some of us stretch the truth a little bit in our headlines with the hope that it will get the story noticed and earn some coverage. It’s just a little white lie, right?

The problem with making a promise in your headline that you don’t deliver on in your story is that it instantly kills your credibility. Fool a reporter once and you’re done forever. Anything you say going forward won’t be believed. So is it really worth trying to pull a fast one when you’re running the risk of ruining your reputation and burning bridges permanently?

The fact is that if you have to come up with a misleading headline, then your story isn’t that good to begin with. So instead of trying to put a pile of garbage in a nice, pretty package, try to come up with a story angle that’s so compelling your headline will practically write itself. That’s how you’ll get the kind of attention you really want.

Worst Press-Release-of-the-Week™

And the candidate for Worst Press-Release-of-the-Week™ is actually a media alert:

Media Alert: Willis CEO Plumeri Appears in Video on Willis.com

The headline tells nothing about the importance of this media alert.

— Why does this video matter?
— What is Willis?
— Why is this announcement important?
— There is no company boilerplate in the alert.
— There is no mention of a specific industry.

I can’t help but think this was a true opportunity lost. Very few journalists are going to bother researching a company without a strong foundation.

Press Release Headline Makeovers

After writing headlines for press releases for quite some time it can be difficult to come up with brand new ones. You increasingly need new ways to hook readers in, especially in this hyper-fast digital world. If your headline doesn’t hook the reader immediately it’s likely it will get lost in the shuffle of everyday life. 

To help you out, here are a few cases where a “meh” headline turns into something more noticeable and enticing. These “makeovers” should help you get some ideas on how to rope readers in quickly.

snowman_news“SuperCo Announces Their New Line of Edible Coffee Cups Called YumYumBeenz” 

Headlines work best in press releases when they’re easily digested. Your initial reader, the reporter or editor at the newspaper or magazine, has to go through a ton of these things every day. If they glance at your press release and the title is super long it’s just one in a long list of things they can use to ignore you.

Short, concise, and informative as possible is best. Try to get your point across quickly while also giving readers something to grab onto. Try these instead:

“YumYumBeenz Lets You Eat Your Caffeine”

“Don’t Wash Your Coffee Cups – Eat Them!”

Readers likely don’t care about the company making an announcement, so there’s no reason that’s there. Just get to the point – you can now eat your coffee cups. That’s the story, and it’s a great one.

Find Some Relevant Data 

People love numbers, whether they realize it or not. A good percentage or other relevant data can give the something to hold onto, something that gives them perspective on the story. They understand the “world” of your press release a little more.

If you don’t have any data, it might be worth gathering some. For instance you could run a poll on your Facebook feed to find out what people think about edible coffee cups. Then, you could use this in your press release headline.

“75% of Coffee Drinkers Want Edible Cups”

“Edible Coffee Cups Keep 10 tons of Waste Out of Town Landfills”

Right away readers not only have an idea what the announcement is about but also have some data to latch onto. You accomplished two things at once.

Bring in Some Emotion

But let’s take it a step further. More than just being informative you want your press release to inspire emotion in readers. Finding out new info is fun, but feeling something will make them remember the press release.

You figured something out with the 90,000 pounds example above – saving the Earth and being green is a big deal. Now it’s time to really take it to the next level with something that makes readers feel how important it is to buy these edible cups.

“Edible Cups Save the Earth One Coffee at a Time”

“Save the Planet of 90,000 LBs of Waste with Edible Cups”

These types of headlines don’t just inform, they instill a sense of urgency with readers. Anyone who cares about edible cups will likely already be concerned with saving the planet. They’ll immediately take notice of the headlines and at least check out what you have to offer. And that’s really all you can ask of your press releases.

How many times do you rewrite a press release headline? Let me know in the comments!

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (https://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download a free copy of the PR Checklist – a 24 point list of Press Release Dos and Don’ts here: https://www.ereleases.com/free-offer/pr-checklist/

Improving Your Press Releases – It’s This Simple?

September 04 2018

Yes, you can greatly improve your press releases, it’s simple to get more media coverage and engagement. I didn’t say easy, it surely takes work and focus. But the basic principles of great PR are simple, because they’re based on common sense. Here are some great tips, thoughts about bosses and clients, and even the challenge of a one-sentence release:

5 Ways to Become a Better Press Release Writer

Writing just might be the most important skill you can have. It doesn’t matter how many reporters you know or how unique your story angle is, if you can’t write a compelling press release that instantly sucks readers in, everything else is meaningless.

businesswoman_writingUnfortunately, too many press release writers never improve their writing skills. As a writer, it’s easy to fall into a trap of writing everything the exact same way, using the exact same layout and the exact same buzzwords time and time again. But like the saying goes, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result.”

Simply put, if you’re tired of your press releases not getting results, you need to try something different. What you need to try is writing them differently.

Here are 5 ways to become a better press release writer.

1.     Don’t fall into the template trap – Is it just me or do 9 out of 10 press releases read exactly the same? It’s always “ABC Company, the leader in the (insert name of industry), recently announced their (insert buzzword)…” It’s all the same , and it makes all the press releases blend together. Remember, reporters and buyers both have seen a lot of press releases. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you have to break free from this template, plug-and-play style of writing. Dare to be different and creative. Just make sure you still get to the point and answer all the main questions.

2.     Get to know the product and company inside and out – Whether you’re writing press releases for your company or you’re a PR pro writing them for someone else, you need to spend time getting truly familiar with the subject you’re writing about. Try to steer clear of the common buzzwords and slogans that sometimes get attached to products and companies. Instead, focus on the problems it solves, the pain points it alleviates for customers, who the customers are, and other important details. This will allow you to create a more detail rich, less generic press release.

3.     Know what your audience is looking for – Recently, we talked about how there are many different press release audiences today. Your press release could be for traditional media, new media, buyers, investors, affiliates, or search engines. Know your audience, and understand what type of information and style is important to them.

4.     Cut the fluff – No matter who your audience is, they share one thing in common: They’re starved for time. They just want the most important information delivered to them as quickly and clearly as possible. In the past, we’ve talked about press release length, and the point is that there isn’t necessarily a specific word count you should be aiming for. But instead, you should be focusing on finding ways to deliver your message as succinctly as possible without losing clarity. Try printing out your press releases and slashing through fluff (unnecessary words and info) with a red pen.

5.     Practice daily – The only way you can get better at writing press releases is to practice every single day. Even If you’re writing press releases you’ll never send out, it’s still important to get that practice in. When practicing, try out new writing techniques and work on your improving your weaknesses.

Press Release Basics You’re Ignoring

With so many press releases flying out there in the world, the smallest mistake can cause a huge problem. Reporters and interns have to look at thousands of press releases every week and they’re just BEGGING you to goof up so they can knock your press release out of contention for that particular edition.

Boy closed her earsSo you have to perfect, and you probably already know that. What you don’t know is some of the mistakes you’re making right up front and didn’t even know it! Let’s look at some of the most common you can avoid to have a more perfect press release.

Pretending Your Announcement is the Biggest Ever 

You’re not going to fool anyone pretending your new product will save the planet. Everyone who reads it in the paper will know your TurboWind 5000 vacuum isn’t going to create peace in the Middle East. So why are you writing your press release like it’s going to be the best thing since the wheel?

We all like to be excited about the news we’re writing about. We love our company and want everyone else to be as pumped about the news as we are. However, it’s important to keep it all in check. What’s huge news to you is likely going to be “that’s nice” worthy to others.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t be excited so it comes across in your writing. But don’t let it overtake you to where you’re throwing in forty exclamatory phrases to describe your new vacuum.

Simple, Simple, Simple 

Think of the last time you pitched to somebody in person. They walked up to you, asked what your company/product was all about, and you started talking. How long did you go on? Did you ramble forever or did you say what you had to say and got out of there so the product could do the talking?

Your press release should be nice and succinct as well. Too much info will lead the person reading it to be overwhelmed and likely gloss over the story entirely, just like they would if you were blabbing in their ear for hours on end.

Make sure you get the who, what, where, why, when, and how in there, but if you want any extra information make very sure it adds to the narrative. If it’s extraneous, cut it.

Blow Them Away Right From the Start 

99 times out of 100 writers will spend lots of time crafting a great press release only to stumble when it comes to the very beginning. Unfortunately for them, that’s arguably the most important portion of the press release.

If you don’t hook readers right away, they’re going to ignore you. The headline and opening sentence/paragraph is like a trailer for a movie. How often do you see a crappy trailer and think “boy, can’t wait to see that movie!” Once in a while you might go just to see the train wreck, but most of the time you just skip the film. It’s the same with your press release – don’t waste anyone’s time by having a poor opening.

After you’ve perfected the rest of your document, go over the title and opening paragraph a few more times. I promise there’s always a better way to approach both of them. Try a few ways you never would try otherwise to see if it works. You may be surprised.

Stop Writing Press Releases to Make Your Boss Happy

There’s nothing wrong with it. After all, it’s natural. We all want to please our bosses. Doing so will often lead to raises and promotions. Not to mention, there’s just a deep down good feeling when praised for a job well done. In fact, one study cites that 78 percent of workers say being recognized motivates them to do a better job.

PrintAnd like I said—inherently, there’s nothing wrong with it.

You’re waiting for the “but,” aren’t you?  Here it comes…

BUT, such people pleasing behavior can become a problem when you lose sight of why you’re doing what you’re doing. Case in point: press releases.

What Are Press Releases For?

I know, we’re beating a dead horse here. But the reason we are writing press releases is to get media coverage. We want that spot on the local news. That article in the city paper. That post on the top trending blog. Hell, even just a tweet from someone with the right followers. That is why we write these press releases.

But when we’re trying to please a boss it’s easy to lose sight. Easy to lose purpose.

If You’re Writing a Press Release to Get a Pat on the Back—STOP

You aren’t writing a press release to make a quota. You’re writing to share a story reporters and their readers will care about. However, in an attempt to please the boss, often press releases get written exactly for the purpose of just filling a quota.

Does it matter that you meet quotas at work? Sure. Does it matter if your boss likes your press release? Sure. Does it matter that you’re doing a good job? Of course it does. But if you’re delivering a release just to deliver, you are ultimately doing more harm than good. The press release will not be relevant, and it will not get call backs.

Remember, a press release should never be self-promotional. Yes, it’s getting your news out there, but it’s not screaming “look how awesome we are!” A good press release sticks to the facts. Let the reporter build it up and add opinion. Your opinions shouldn’t be in there at all, save maybe for a quote or two from someone important to your story.

But What if That’s What Your Boss Wants?

Well, you’re in a bit of a dilemma, aren’t you? If your boss is hung up on producing endless press releases that scream “Look at me! Look at me!” you aren’t left with much choice. You have to deliver. Right? And if that’s the case, then you just have to do your best to get creative and uncover real news to write your press releases on.

Can’t do it? Maybe it’s time you stood up to your superior and let them know. Let them know that writing releases just for the sake of doing so is useless—a waste of time. Not only that, it can prove counterproductive, as people will begin to ignore the good ones along with the bad ones. And Google isn’t going to take too kindly to them either.

Are Your Clients Preventing You from Writing Good Press Releases?

I have a new theory I want to share with you. We already know that most press releases suck, but I think that the reason they suck so bad is because of the pressure most clients put on their PR reps. PR guys are so busy caving to the demands and expectations of their clients, that by the time they get through tweaking the press release to fit their needs, they’re left with a steaming pile of garbage.

The simple truth is you shouldn’t be writing press releases to please your client. The client isn’t your target audience, and quite frankly, most clients wouldn’t know a good press release if they were staring right at it. That’s why they hired you to write it, because they don’t know how to do it themselves.

Look, I’m not saying that you need to ignore your clients. Their feedback is important, and at the end of the day, the press release isn’t going out without their stamp of approval. But there are times where you absolutely have to stand up to clients and educate them on what makes a good press release. Clients need to understand that putting a bunch of hype in the press release isn’t a good idea. They need to understand that reporters don’t really give a hoot about every trivial detail regarding their company and executives.

Here’s one thing you can do to help your clients “get it.” Show them a bad press release next to a typical story from a newspaper or magazine they’re targeting. Point out how different the stories that get picked up are from the type of press release they’re trying to get you to write for them. When they see just how big the differences are between the two, hopefully, they’ll begin to understand that press releases need to tell compelling stories, not be full of hype and self-congratulatory BS.

Of course, we PR people do share in the blame for the bad press releases that get sent out. We’re the ones who are supposed to be the experts, and it’s our job to educate clients on the process. We need to set realistic expectations, so that they understand things don’t magically happen overnight. They need to know that there is no magic bullet press release, and they need to understand the things journalists hate to see.

Now, if you’ve done your best to educate your client and they still insist upon turning your press releases into garbage, it might be time to set them free. Remember, your name is on the line too, and if you’re sending out low quality work, reporters will start to ignore you and potential clients won’t be impressed enough to work with you. So, you have to know when it’s time to fire a client.

What You Can Learn From This One-Sentence Press Release

A few years back, the popular rock band Stone Temple Pilots made a major splash in the news when they announced they were firing their lead singer Scott Weiland. The group announced this shocking news in a one-sentence press release that simply read, “Stone Temple Pilots have announced they have officially terminated Scott Weiland.”

Now, we’ve debated the topic of press release length on this blog in the past, and while I’ve always believed that short and sweet press releases work best, I’ve never tried to argue that press releases should be just one sentence long.

But the truth is this single-sentence press release was incredibly powerful, and there are a few valuable lessons we all can learn from it.

  • Leave reporters wanting more—The point of a press release is to get reporters interested in your story. You want your press release to pique their interest so they contact you to learn more about your story. That means you don’t need to include every single detail related to your story in your press release. You want to include just enough to give them the main story while leaving them asking for more.

The Stone Temple Pilots certainly left reporters and fans wanting more. Everyone was speculating about why the band fired their singer, what it meant for their future, and a host of other questions. How many reporters do you think have tried to reach out to the band since this press release was issued? I’d say quite a lot.

  • Timing is everything—This press release had perfect timing in two different ways. First, it was issued on a Wednesday morning. Issuing it in the morning gave people all day to talk about the story, and issuing it in the middle of the week helped ensure it would have a few days of life before the weekend arrived.

Another interesting thing to note is that this story was announced just as the singer Scott Weiland was preparing to head out on a solo tour. Think this is getting fans interested and driving ticket sales? You know it is, and while that might just be a coincidence (conspiracy theorists would probably say otherwise), the timing certainly couldn’t have been better.

  • Your news should get people talking—While you might never have news that gets as much attention as the recent Stone Temple Pilots announcement, the idea is that you should always strive to issue stories that get people talking. If no one outside of your company cares about your story, you probably don’t need to issue a press release about it.

What tips would you give to press release writers trying to polish their skills? Leave them in the comments!

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (https://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download your free copy of 7 Cheap PR Tactics for Success in Any Economy here: https://www.ereleases.com/free-offer/cheap-pr-tactics/

Press Releases, SEO, and Google’s Ever-Changing Search Algorithm

August 21 2018

If you are worried about how Google’s latest search algorithm will affect your press release, and exactly how to change your writing technique(s) in the face of Google’s SEO changes, stop right now. Many people obsess about this and spend loads of time adjusting their practices to fit what they read is Google’s latest change. Most of this time is completely wasted. And Google is tweaking their search results constantly!

First, no one outside of Google really knows the details of their search algorithm.

Second, since Google is constantly adjusting their results, any sort of practice that you might follow in response to your supposed knowledge of Google’s search algorithm can only be considered a technique (as opposed to a principle), and as such will only work (if it works at all) for a short time.

I have long believed that instead of spending (wasting) effort chasing down the latest SEO techniques, you should instead concentrate on publishing press releases with great content. You will create higher quality content over time, and Google will figure that out.

Here are some of my thoughts from years past:

Is Panda – or any other Google change – the End of the Press Release? (Spoiler Alert: No)

It seems that Google is doing more than just keeping us on our toes these days. Many of the changes they are making to the algorithm are making it seemingly impossible to climb search rankings (although, there’s still no substitute for good old fashioned hard work and content production). After all, article syndication is basically dead, guest blogging took a huge hit, and keyword usage and link building as we know them have changed forever. What next?

panda updateWell, with the recent Panda update, many people believe that Google has targeted press releases as their next “victim.” Post Panda, many well-known press release sites found themselves buried alive in the search rankings, seeing their good names essentially disappear.

So Are Press Releases Done For?

Does this mean press releases are no longer valid? Should you quit writing them altogether and remove them from your marketing plan? Well, not so fast there, Chicken Little. The end of press releases is not upon us. The fact is, they’ve been around for over a century and they aren’t about to go down without a fight.

And truthfully, they don’t need to. See, Google isn’t targeting press releases in and of themselves. What they’re targeting are press release distort sites that are responsible for producing a high amount of spam.

In other words, Google is fighting against crappy press releases, which represent another form of crappy, thin, spammy content.

Don’t believe me? Well just check out this link here. Google still puts out their own press releases on a regular basis. Why? Because they have their purpose.

It’s Time to Get Back to the Press Release Basics

I don’t think Google is the big bad dictator that some people think. I also don’t think that they are trying to penalize people who have legitimate businesses that wish to promote them in legitimate ways. They just want to make sure they are providing users with the best content possible.

Where does that leave press releases? Well, I think Google wants to make sure they are being used for their original purpose—to get REAL news in the hands of people that will share it with the general public. Reporters, bloggers—you know.

In order for that to happen, you need to make sure that you are only writing press releases when you have real news to share. You’d think that would go without saying, but I know for a fact that there are still people out there who have a plan to write a certain number of releases per week, regardless of if they are newsworthy, to try and use them solely for link building. If that’s you, stop it!

Here are some examples of when you might want to write a press release:

  • You’re putting out a new product
  • You won an award and want to announce it
  • You hire a new employee
  • You are hosting an event
  • You’re sponsoring an event
  • You’re running a special sale

Remember, press releases have been around forever. They’re a tried and true method for sharing news. Don’t let Google scare you—but do let them make you a bit more cautious and thoughtful about your marketing and content efforts!

Is It Time To Rethink Keyword Targeting In Your Press Releases?

Unless you’ve just woken up from an incredibly long sleep…I’m talking a Rip Van Winkle sleep that’s lasted for years…you know that the face of SEO has changed greatly in recent times. Google is constantly making changes to improve its user experience.

For those of us who have to consider SEO in the work we do, we’ve had to stay on our toes to make sure we’re still doing the right things to maintain our search engine presence. Needless to say, a lot has changed over the years, and if you haven’t kept up, your search rankings probably aren’t so great. In fact, if you’re still using outdated SEO methods, you might actually be getting penalized for your tactics.

How SEO Used To Be

It wasn’t all that long ago that SEO was all about keywords. Whether you were creating content for your website or writing a press release, you always had keywords in mind. You’d include specific keywords in the title, subtitles, and throughout the content wherever it made sense to fit them in. By doing so, you’d hopefully turn up in the search results any time someone searched for that word or phrase.

But times have changed, and no longer does the old method of keyword targeting gets results. These days, if all you’re focused on is keywords, you’re wasting your time. Creating tons of keyword-stuffed content won’t do anything besides send a huge red flag to Google that you’re trying to manipulate your rankings, and that will do much more harm than good.

A New Approach To Keyword Targeting

After the Hummingbird update, Google made one thing clear: it’s not about keyword matching anymore. Instead of producing search results that only match the phrase the user entered, Google is now trying to produce results that focus on the user’s intent.

For example, if someone in Los Angeles enters the search query “Italian food” Google won’t just turn up websites that use the phrase “Italian food.” Instead, it will provide results that include local Italian restaurants in Los Angeles, because chances are, that would more likely be what the person is looking for.

What does all of this mean for keyword targeting, particularly in press releases? It means that rather than saying, “I need to create press releases that have these specific keywords in them,” you should be saying, “I need to create press releases that give my audience the information they’re searching for.”

This article at Search Engine Land really puts it best, “Instead of: How do I rank for this query? Think: How do I best answer the questions my users have?

In other words, don’t obsess over keywords. If anything, obsess over creating interesting, unique content that meets your target audience’s needs.

The Importance of Diversifying the Anchor Text in Press Releases

Once upon a time, choosing anchor text was easy enough. You simply chose the keywords you were targeting, and linked them. How much easier could it get? However, it has become clear over the last few years that Google is penalizing link builders who use the same anchor text over and over.

With that in mind, it’s important that you vary anchor text in all of your link building endeavors. That includes press releases posted on the web.

colorful artistic crayonsWhat if You Aren’t Using Your Press Releases for Link Building Purposes?

Maybe you view press releases in a more traditional sense. You compose them and post them on the web in hopes of attracting a reporter or a blogger who will put your news out for the world to see. And that’s fine. However, whether you like it or not, the links you put in your press releases will affect your site.

Maybe you don’t care to try and raise your rankings. That’s fine. But do you really want to purposely hurt your rankings? I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone openly admit to this. It would be foolish. But if you don’t diversify your anchor text, that’s what you’re doing. In other words, by using bad link building techniques with anchor text, you can actually drop in Google searches. So it makes sense for you to follow good anchor text practices, regardless of your purpose for posting press releases.

How Can You Vary Anchor Text in Your Press Releases

So you know you need to diversify the anchor text, but the question is how? Here are a few tips to help you out.

  1. Forget the keywords. It’s time to deprogram ourselves to keyword usage. Not only do we need to stop cramming them in all areas of our press releases (titles, summaries, etc.), but we also need to disregard them when choosing anchor text. The idea is to pick anchor text that makes sense. It’s all about what flows naturally.
  2. Go long tail. If you are intent on keywords, go long tail. Let’s say your keyword is flower delivery. Well, if you go long tail, then you get more specific. So instead of making your anchor text flower delivery, you might choose flower delivery for an anniversary. Something longer and more specific. This will inevitably bring you more targeted traffic anyway, as you will rank higher in searches for terms more specific to what you actually do.
  3. Use the actual URL. Sometimes you may just want to actually type the URL out. After all, that probably makes the most sense, especially if you’re telling reporters where they can go to get more info in a press release. However, if you’re looking to link to a specific page deep within a site, you likely have a messy URL that you don’t want to waste space with. In that case, choose something else.

Keep Up with the Link Building Times

Bottom line, you need to keep up with all the changes that are being made with the search engines. And with just a little tweaking of your anchor text, you can get the most out of your press releases.

Keyword Research Has Value in Press Release Writing

So the days of writing a press release for the sole purpose of SEO have come and gone. Easy come, easy go, as the saying goes. No longer is it advisable to craft a press release for the simple hopes of getting a little link juice out of it. For shame.

Typewriter KeywordsBut I would argue that it was never advisable to do so.

The truth is that, even when Google may have been giving you something for those links, just churning out garbage releases to get a backlink always was a shortsighted plan. In my opinion, it did more harm than good. Not only did it help pollute the internet with so many crappy press releases that it’s gotten difficult to sift through the garbage, but it also watered down many companies’ messages and strained relationships with reporters (who would take a company seriously that posted weekly press releases dealing with the same non-news topics?).

But of course, that doesn’t mean the press release is dead. It just means we need to get back to the basics and write solid, newsworthy releases for their original intention—to get the media to pick up on the stories and share them with the world.

However, be careful to note—that doesn’t mean we throw all the SEO best practices we have learned out the window when we write press releases. We’ve acquired some tools and tricks over the last few years that still have merit. Tips and tools that can help us.

Case in point—keyword research.

If You Aren’t Researching Keywords Before Writing Your Release, You Should

I know, I know. It sounds…contradictory. In one breath I say you should not be writing press releases for SEO, but then I say you need to do your keyword research first, a fundamental step in writing for SEO. Understand this—just because SEO isn’t your goal for press release writing doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be following best practices. And current best practices still dictate that keyword research is important.

However, keyword research, the way we should be going about it, has changed over the years. This Moz post does a great job of explaining that. In short, the days of finding an individual keyword and optimizing all around it are over. Google now targets concepts more, ideas surrounding keywords. So a keyword is simply a starting point. Google wants to try and figure out what sort of content a person might be looking for when searching for a particular keyword.

So for example, if you search “fix drainage issue in backyard” Google may think you are looking for a local company that can handle that for you, so they may send back a list of them. Or perhaps you are looking for info on installing French drain systems (a common fix), so they may send back info on those. They are trying to match search with intent.

What does that mean to you? Well, you really need to think about long tail keywords that make sense for the story you are providing. What phrases and terminology would someone use who is searching for information like your news event provides?

Once you figure that out, make sure you use those terms in your release.

Does that mean searchers will come across your release? Probably not. However, it will help focus your writing and in turn will help those writing about your news focus their keyword terminology. Then their articles about your news will get found, giving you the media attention you want.

Does Keyword Density Matter in Your Press Releases?

Once upon a time, search engine optimization used to be all about keywords. Pretty much all you had to do to get something to rank was pepper it with the right keywords, and you were all set. This applied to press releases too. You’d simply put the keywords you were targeting in the headline, body, and backlinks, and you could fairly easily grow your search engine presence.

Back in those days, the term “keyword density” used to get thrown around quite a bit. The theory was that you should use the target keyword on a page a certain percentage of the time in order to get the best results. You wanted to make sure you included your keywords in your content, but you also had to be careful not to include them too much or else your page might be considered spammy.  SEOs would claim there was a magical keyword density (usually around 3%) that would get you the best search engine rankings.knowlege & research

Of course, times have changed. The fine folks over at Google saw how easily people were gaming the search engine, and they took steps to improve their algorithm and thus improve the quality of their search results.

These days, SEO is about far more than just keywords. Keywords have taken a backseat to a range of metrics, including social cues, like trust and authority. That’s not to say that you should ignore keywords altogether, but the point is that there are a lot of other things to consider in your overall SEO efforts.

All that being said, it shouldn’t surprise you to read that keyword density doesn’t matter in your press releases. You shouldn’t give it a second thought. Yes, you can include keyword-rich anchor text in your links or even include a target keyword in your press release headline if it fits logically, but other than that, there’s no reason to fret over making sure to include a certain number of keyword mentions in your releases.

Instead, focus on what’s really important – telling good stories that people care about. If your press releases are newsworthy , feature interesting angles, and get sent to the right places, they will eventually get noticed. And as your stories get spread around naturally, your web presence will begin to grow in a way that’s more sustainable in the current search engine landscape.

Changing the Way You Think about Link Building with Press Releases

For years, we’ve been talking about how press releases are a great tool for link building. By including a couple of backlinks with keyword-rich anchor text in your online press releases, you could easily build a nice link portfolio which would be very helpful in boosting your search engine rankings.

building puzzleThis was an effective tactic for years, but like every other SEO and internet marketing tactic, it got abused and ruined by spammers. The quality of most press releases declined drastically, and the internet was littered with crappy, unimportant press releases that were filled with links.

Of course, Google responded by updating its algorithm to crack down on websites using manipulative link building practices. As a result, many free press release directories went by the wayside and using press release distribution solely for link building purposes became futile.

That brings us to today. Are press releases still useful for link building? Should you even bother distributing press releases online anymore?

The answer to both questions is a resounding yes. That is, of course, if you go about it the right way.

The fact is that you have to change the way you think about link building with press releases. In the past, it was all about making sure each press releases included a few backlinks with keyword-rich anchor text to various landing pages on your website. Whether or not those links were actually relevant or added value to the press release didn’t matter. It was all about just getting those links.

These days, stuffing your press releases with links isn’t going to cut it. Now, you should only really put links in your press releases if they are relevant and useful. For example, if you mention a study in your press release, linking to that study would be useful and it would add value for the reader.

A good rule of thumb when placing links in your press releases is to ask yourself, “What’s my main reason for adding this link?” If your reason is strictly to drive traffic and to increase your search rankings, that’s not good enough. If the link doesn’t make the press release better, it probably doesn’t need to be there.

Now, you might think this means that press releases are no longer good link building tools. I wholeheartedly disagree. Keep in mind, the whole point of Google’s algorithm updates is to reward sites creating quality content. So, if you’re creating high quality press releases that naturally earn links because people find your stories useful, you will be rewarded with better search rankings. The key is to make your press releases worth sharing. It’s all about quality.

The days of taking shortcuts for link building with press releases are gone. But with the right approach, you can get better results than ever before.

3 Reasons You Should Still Build Links with Press Releases

Some people shy away from link building via press releases. Others don’t even realize the opportunity is there. But the truth is press releases offer a great opportunity for getting some decent links. Here are three reasons you need to use your releases to build links.

LINK BUILDING Tag Cloud (search engine optimization seo)1. Other News Sites Often Pick Up Press Releases.

What’s the fundamental purpose of a press release? To get media attention. Quite frankly, this is easier than ever nowadays. Why? Because the internet has created so many news outlets with blogging networks and the like. Write a good release with real news and someone is bound to pick it up.

The result? More people hear about you and your news, and you earn a lot more links in the process. Makes sense, right?

And once these reporters and bloggers learn who you are, you have your foot in the door to contact them later about other interesting story. Your release could be the first step to a long, fruitful relationship.

2. Achieve Greater Link Diversity.

We have all heard the old saying, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” As trite as it may be, there’s no denying the validity of the statement. It applies to all walks of life. For example, you certainly don’t want to pour all your investments into a single stock. Sure you could make big money, but the risks far outweigh the benefits. Such is the case with link building.

SEO guys who put all their eggs in one basket typically did so with article marketing. They identified their keywords, composed thousands of articles around them, and spread them over scores of article syndication sites. And it used to work. But like most investments, it eventually took a turn for the worst. Google devalued the links and rankings plummeted. Those who put all their eggs in that one basket suffered—and some are still suffering.

That having been said, it’s crucial that you diversify your “link portfolio.” And one great way to do this is to use links from press releases. Now, there are some detractors that claim press release links no longer work. But it simply isn’t true. In fact, in one recent study, Jon Hogg proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that these links can have a very real and positive impact.

So don’t listen to the detractors. Press release links are still valuable. The key is to get your releases on reputable sites.

3. Press Release Links Can Drive Traffic.

Of course, links aren’t all about rankings. What you really want is traffic to your site. And anytime someone reads a press release by you that they deem interesting, they are compelled to click links to learn more about your company. But guess what? If you aren’t posting press releases, you lose a potential avenue for those interested in your company to find you. Worse yet, if you are posting releases but not taking advantage of the opportunities to link, then you have missed opportunities.

Let me know how you use SEO when writing your own press releases in the comments!

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (https://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Grab your free 160-page copy of the Big Press Release Book – Press Releases for Every Occasion and Industry here: https://www.ereleases.com/free-offer/big-press-release-samples-book/

How to Write a Press Release that Gets Journalists’ Attention

August 07 2018

Want to get journalists inquiries and responses with your press release? You should do the following:

  • Plan the release with a written outline.
  • Craft a great headline.
  • Write the release first, edit it later.
  • Keep the release looking good with solid writing and formatting.
  • Edit, edit, edit.
  • Proofread.
  • Ask for peer feedback.

Never Write a Press Release Without a Plan

I’m busy. You’re busy. We’re all busy. It’s a busy world we live in, right? We all have more tasks to accomplish each day than we actually have hours on the work clock. It’s stressful and frustrating. So what do we do to compensate?

  • We learn to multitask.
  • We learn to prioritize.
  • We learn to work more efficiently.

All good things, right? But there’s something I left off the list that we all tend to do from time to time. We rush. And as you have probably experienced, when you rush you tend not to put out your best work.

When it comes to press release writing, it’s easy to see it as just another task filling up your to-do list. And it’s tempting to sit down at your computer and slop out whatever is on your mind and be done with it. But it’s not a wise decision. There’s a better way to streamline the process.

Take a Few Moments to Plan

Did you ever consider the possibility that rushing through a task can actually lengthen the time you spend on it? Let me give you an example. You sit down to rush through your press release. As you’re attempting to fly through it, you hit a roadblock. What should you write next? The problem is that your thoughts are all jumbled. The ideas are out of order in your busy mind and are getting clouded with all the other things you have to do.

In actuality, if you take a few moments to plan out your release before you actually write it, you’re going to save yourself time during the writing process. Why? Because an outline will tell you where to begin, where to go, and where you want to end up. You have a full road map, which lets you avoid all those pesky writing detours. The result? You’ll fly through the actual writing process and have a much more sound press release as an end product.

Tips on Planning Your Release

So how can you effectively plan out your release before you get going? First, I recommend you write out a main idea sentence. What is the main point you want to get across? If you’re unsure how to narrow this down, try this:

  1. Decide what is the most important person, place, or thing you’re going to talk about.
  2. Now, figure out the most important thing you want to say about the topic you identified in #1.
  3. Write them together in 10-15 words.

Now, once you have your main idea, you can start planning out your map. There are plenty of ways out there to do it. You just have to pick what works best for you.

  1. Bubble map: Write your main idea in the center. Now draw branches off the bubble representing different paragraphs. Off each branch, write the main idea you want to get across in each paragraph.
  2. Traditional outline: You know, Roman Numerals and stuff. This is a little stiff for me, but to each his own.
  3. BME—BME stands for beginning, middle, and end. Simply write a big B, M, and E going down the side of a page and make notes next to each. Then write following the sequential order.

Why Press Release Outlining is Vital

I’ll admit it: I used to be firmly against outlining. I preferred the edge-of-your-seat thrill of winging a blog post, press release, or even a story I was writing. Why be restricted to an outline you’re probably going to break anyway, right?

PlanningMy tune changed over the years, though. After a while I got tired of feeling like I was two words away from losing total control over the piece I was writing, and I embraced the outline. Now I spend almost as much time outlining as I do actually throwing words down on the paper.

If you don’t outline anything else, I highly suggest you use the process for writing a press release. This is because as opposed to a blog post or other more creative piece, a press release is highly dependent on form. Since breaking from that form will likely get your piece ignored, it’s important to plan ahead of time.

Following Form

I suspect one reason why so many press releases fail to get placed is that their writers strive to make them something they aren’t. You want to be interesting and creative to keep readers’ interest, sure, but at the same time the press release form has been around for a long time for a reason.

The main purpose of a press release is to relay information. It’s not necessarily to entertain, or to amaze, or to expand someone’s horizon; it’s to get across that a thing is happening or has happened at a certain place, time, and who it concerns. If they don’t have this necessary info they’re not fulfilling the basic duty of a press release.

You have to keep in mind releases are for news outlets, and they primarily use the “top down” form. This is why you have to get all the necessary info ASAP – the who, what, where, etc. If you don’t, readers will have no idea why the story is important.

Keeping Eyes Moving

Your main job as a press release writer is to get eyeballs on the page and keep them moving. Once your reader gives up midway through the piece you’ve failed. Something about the story turned them off and they mentally checked out, which means nobody comes into your store and the whole company goes out of business.

Ok, while it’s not that dire (maybe), it’s still vital you figure out what went wrong. One likely source is the lack of format, which outlining can help you with. Is your title amazing? Do you have a killer one, maybe two sentence opening? Did you include the absolute most vital pieces of info up top?

Make sure to take a look at the rest of the piece. Again, you don’t want anyone to lose interest midway through – even if they get through all the important bits, you could still lose them for good if they get bored reading the rest. So is what you’ve included totally vital… or at least interesting enough to include?

If not, cut it out of the outline entirely. The more of these you do, the more ruthless you become at omitting extraneous details that don’t move the football forward. Soon enough your outlines will be razor sharp, which will make your press releases impossible to pass up.

Why Your Press Release’s Success Depends on Just a Few Words

You’ve written perhaps the best press release of all time. Your company, Teddy Bear Clothes Incorporated, is announcing the release of their brand new Harry Potter tie-in line of teddy shirts, and you were tasked with getting the word out to the papers and television stations. You pulled your hair and smacked your head and stayed up all the live long night and finally chiseled the thing down to perfection.

Bleary-eyed, you realize right before you turn it in that you’ve forgotten the headline! What to call it? Crap, you’ve only got five minutes left. You throw one together and quickly send it along before press time.

After a brief nap, you wake and read your press release again. You gasp in horror as you see the headline: “Harry Potter Teddies.” Images of confused women with Daniel Radcliffe’s face on their nightwear dances through your head as you try to correct things. But it’s too late. The papers and stations have all rejected the piece. Sales plummet, you lose your job, and the company folds within a year.

Is It Really That Important?

It may be a bit of an exaggeration, but only a little bit. The headline of your press release can and will make or break the entire page. It’s guaranteed to be the first thing anyone reading it sees. And when a tired, grumpy journalist at the Townsville Journal is looking at his 800th press release that day, if your headline is less than 110% awesome, he will skip over it without a thought.

The headline is your first impression, like a handshake with the journalist. If you have a great headline, it’s like a nice strong friendly handshake that makes them want to know more. If you have a “limp fish,” they are put off and fail to read any further. If you have a bad handshake, then you’ve basically just kicked the reporter in the shin and walked off.

The good news is, the art of the great headline can be learned! There are a couple good tips to follow if you want to make sure your hard work isn’t completely skipped over along with the thousands of other press releases that go unread each day.

Make it a Flashing Neon Sign

What is the absolute core story of your press release? Say you were in the situation of that writer in the opening paragraph. Should the focus of his press release have been that the company has started selling teddy bear shirts with Harry Potter on them? Or was it more important to your audience to note that the company was awarded official merchandise capabilities which might lead to further expansion for the business?

Another important point is to get across the most amount of information with the least amount of words. The less time an exhausted reporter has to spend reading your headline the better. Get in, wow them, get out. For the above example, the writer could maybe consider, “Teddy Bear Clothes Inc. Announces Partnership with Harry Potter.” Harry Potter merch is big news, and that’s sure to grab some attention.

If you’re still having trouble after tons of edits and redos, try seeking further help. Hire a freelance writer until you get the hang of it. There’s even a website you can try: ereleases offers a headline tune-up service for FREE as long as you limit it to one a month. There is simply no excuse for a bad headline anymore, so get out there and put your best handshake forward!

Better Press Releases – Write First, Edit Later

If you follow this blog at all, you know I spend a lot of time on here offering press release writing tips. Over the years, I’ve shared a number of tricks and tips that can help you improve the quality of your press releases so they get noticed and increase your chances of getting media coverage.

Today, I’m sharing another tip. It’s one tip that I’ve found to be more helpful than anything else. It’s the one tip I always follow, no matter what, when writing press releases…when writing anything, actually.

So, what is it?

Write first, edit later.

See, I used to have the nasty habit of trying to edit as I was writing. I’d write a sentence or two, go back over it, change things up, rewrite it, repeat the process, and eventually move forward. This approach killed my writing flow, and it made writing even the simplest thing take forever.

Then, I came to the realization that writing everything out first and editing it later just worked better for me. It allowed me to get my thoughts down on the paper more clearly and effectively, and it helped improve the flow of my writing.

That’s not to say that my first drafts are great. They’re not. They’re often riddled with mistakes. Like Ernest Hemingway once said, “The first draft of anything is s**t.”

But when I take the approach of writing first and editing later, it helps me avoid getting stuck. It prevents me from constantly second-guessing myself. It keeps my brain from being interrupted every few seconds. I just start writing, without too much worry, and I keep writing until I have a first draft. Then, I let that first draft sit for a while before I come back to edit.

I’ve heard someone compare trying to write and edit at the same time to trying to drive a car with one foot on the gas pedal and the other foot on the brake. It forces you to start and stop all the time, making for a long, jerky ride. It’s a beautiful comparison that I’ve taken to heart.

Why Your Press Release Might Seem Longer Than It Really Is

A good press release is tight, to the point, and doesn’t waste any words. If your press releases don’t meet this criteria, there’s a better than average chance that reporters will take one quick look at them and move on to the next one. Why? Because reporters are busier than ever before. Every day, even reporters working for the smallest publications get bombarded with press releases, and there’s simply not enough time to read them all. So, if your press release is too long, you’re out of luck. Even worse, if it just looks long, despite having an average word count, you’ll lose the reporter’s interest immediately.

Oops signThe last point is one I want to focus on today. Sometimes, it’s not about the actual word count of your press release; it’s about how long it looks to the naked eye. In other words, sometimes a press release that’s only 300 words may look like it’s 500+ words because of the way it’s laid out and vice versa.

Presentation matters. Here are some common writing and formatting mistakes that make press releases look longer than they really are:

  • You use long sentences—While your long sentences might not technically be run-on sentences, they often drag on, contain too many ideas, and cause you to lose the reader’s attention. Keep your sentences short and punchy. Toss too many commas into a sentence, and it’s going to make your press release look long and tiresome.
  • You use jargon—Technical jargon and meaningless buzzwords don’t usually have a place in press releases. Not only are these words often long and intimidating, but many times, the journalist might not even know what they mean. Try to keep the language in your press releases plain and simple.
  • Your paragraphs are huge blocks of text—Nothing will turn off a reporter faster than opening your press release and seeing one huge block of text. Long paragraphs just aren’t reader-friendly. Keep your paragraphs to 3-5 sentences so your words have a little more room to breathe and the content is easier to scan.
  • You aren’t using bullet points—Bullet points and lists are excellent tools for delivering key pieces of information in an easy-to-digest format. Rather than spreading the information over several paragraphs, use bullet points to quickly highlight the main points. It will make your press release look shorter and tighter.

Cleaning Up Your Press Releases

Time for some spring cleaning! Yeah, it’s the middle of winter, but it’s never too early to get your scrub brushes and dustrags to spruce the place up. I’m talking, of course, about your press releases! They need just as much of a sprucing up as the rest of your business, office, and home, and there’s no sense in waiting until it gets warm outside.

scopa e palettaWhat’s wrong with them you ask? Nothing – until you take a closer look. There’s always a reason why your press releases haven’t been picked up, and it’s often from tiny mistakes that need to be cleaned up. Here are some of the more common problems you should get rid of as soon as you can.

Spelling, Grammar and Syntax

All it takes is for one tiny little spelling error or egregious grammar error to put your journalist contact off. Remember when that journalist or their intern goes over to the press release slush pile to find a good one to fill space, they aren’t necessarily looking for the best one. They’re simply eradicating possibilities until a winner emerges.

This means they’re actively looking for reasons not to print your press release. If they get to the first paragraph and you’ve majorly goofed, then you’ve just blown all of your credibility. Why go to the bother of editing your mistake when there are stacks of flawless press releases right behind yours?

Check your document thoroughly. Send it to someone who can look at it from an outside perspective. I guarantee you’re missing something.

Shorten It Up

Again the poor intern looking through all these press releases just needs one excuse to nix yours. If the press release is so long their eyes cross, they will move on without a second thought.

So it’s time to get out your proverbial scissors and snip away! Try trimming the document down to the bare necessities – the who, what, where, why, and how. Be brutal with your cuts – you can always go back and add stuff later. Once you’re down to the bare bones, think what actually makes it exciting and readable. If it doesn’t fulfill one of those two criteria, leave it out!

While you’re at it, shorten the title as well. Its job is to get the point across as quickly as possible. I guarantee there’s a way to make it even more succinct than it already is. Try taking another approach from a different angle – for example, instead of “Brand New Croissant Business Opens In Rising Toontown Financial District” try “Croissant Café is Latest Toontown Success.”

Quotes

It’s true a good quote can really knock your readers’ socks off. It’s a quick way to make them see the world through your eyes. However, it is very important to keep it succinct as well. More importantly, though, is the quote serving a purpose?

I don’t know how many times I’ve done this in the past: I get a great quote and think, much like the Dude’s rug in the Big Lebowski, that it will totally tie my release together. Upon introspection, though, I was totally wrong – the quote had little to do with the message and it stuck out like a sore thumb. Make sure all your quotes actually fit in and you’re not trying to cram them in because they look cool!

5 Things to Check Before Sending Your Press Release

Getting ready to send out your press release? Hold on a second. Don’t hit “Send” just yet. Before you send out your press release, you need to check these 5 important things:

  1. Names — It’s one of the first things reporters are taught: always get the name right. I’m not just talking about making sure the person’s name is spelled right, either. I’m talking about making sure you’re citing the right name in the first place. Sometimes, we get people confused or we just have a brain hiccup and type one name when we mean to type another. It’s vital that you check those names when writing a press release. Names are sacred. Get them right.
  2. Links — Including links in your press release can be a great way to drive traffic to your website and to increase your search engine rankings. But if you link to the wrong page or include a broken link, you’re not going to enjoy any of those benefits. Before you send your press release, click all the links to make sure they work and are directed at the right pages.
  3. Contact information — At the bottom of every press release, you need to include the contact information of the individual that reporters can contact if they want to follow up on your story. Double check to verify that this contact is right. Otherwise, you’ll be sitting in silence wondering why your phone isn’t ringing or your inbox isn’t filling up.
  4. Facts and figures — Read through your press release and make sure that everything is factually correct. Double check those statistics to make sure you got them right. Make sure any statements you make are substantiated. Providing the media with misinformation can kill your credibility with them.
  5. Spelling and grammar — Finally, go through your press release, looking for misspellings and grammatical mistakes. Nobody expects you to be Pulitzer Prize worthy writer, but you don’t want to come across like an idiot either.

Why You Should Get Peer Feedback Before Sending Your Press Releases

Tell me if this sounds familiar—you write your press release, give it a quick read through, and then fire it off to your media list. For a lot of you reading this, I’m willing to bet that’s exactly how you go about it. You’re the only one to see your press release before it gets distributed. For you, press release writing is a one-person process.

Today, I want to encourage you to rethink that approach. While you might think that you have the hang of writing press releases, I propose that it’s best to involve your peers in the process. Before you send out your next press release, show it to a few other people to get their feedback.

Why should you get peer feedback before sending your press releases?

  • Multiple sets of eyes are ideal for proofreading—Proofreading your own work is a tough task. When you’ve been staring at the same press release for a while, it can become incredibly difficult for you to view it with a set of sharp editing and proofreading eyes. Our minds have a tendency to read things the way we intended them, not necessarily the way we wrote them up. By showing your press release to a few other people before you send it out, you’ll have more people to help with proofreading, helping to ensure that any little mistakes get caught and corrected.
  • You can make sure your story is clear and easy to follow—The point of a press release is to communicate a story clearly and quickly. Sometimes, as a press release writer, you can be a little too close to the story. In your head, you know all of the details of the story, so when you go to type it up, you assume that everyone else understands it as well as you do, but that might not be the case. Having other people read over your press release can help you gauge if you really have done a good job at communicating your story.
  • Your peers might suggest an improvement you didn’t think of—Collaborating with others when composing your press releases can open the door to new ideas and new story angles that you wouldn’t have been able to come up with by yourself. Be a good listener and encourage people to provide their honest feedback when you show them your press release.

Let me know what you’ve done to get journalists’ attention in the comments!

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (https://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download a free copy of the PR Checklist – a 24 point list of Press Release Dos and Don’ts here: https://www.ereleases.com/free-offer/pr-checklist/

Tell Your Story Like You Speak, Keep Pitching, and Earn Media Coverage

July 24 2018

PR success is really pretty simple. I did not say “easy”… because most people don’t commit to the discipline. Below we quickly cover these elements which lead to PR success:

  • Make your news a story
  • Tell your story simply and naturally
  • Keep trying, learning each time
  • Accept that media coverage is most likely to come when you’ve earned it

“Telling Your Story” Is the Real Trick to Small Business PR

How many times have you clicked the “About” page on a website, only to read the few short paragraphs there and then promptly forget them? Most small business descriptions include information like who the founders were, when and where the business started, and perhaps a few sentences about the company’s mission and vision. Yawn. The real trick to small business public relations is to tell your business story just like well… a story. Here’s how:

1.   Narrow it Down – You work in your business day to day, so chances are you don’t always see the forest for the trees. But take some time to look for that forest. What is the “theme” of your business story? Try to narrow it down to one sentence and then extrapolate from there.

2.   Plot it Out – A paragraph detailing our business history has no plot, but a small business story does. Determine the chronology of your business story before writing it. Did your business start when you got laid off? Or maybe it really started when you opened that first lemonade stand at age six.

3.   Use Tried and True Storytelling Techniques – Establish a clear beginning middle and end, use details to “show” your story and not “tell” it, and build suspense to keep the reader scrolling down or flipping pages. You want your business story to be an actual narrative, not just a list of dry facts.

4.   Be the Protagonist – The best stories are built on conflict. Identify the challenges you had to overcome (i.e. the antagonists in your business story) and make sure the audience sees how you overcame those challenges.

5.   Be Personable – Remember sitting on grandma’s knee listening to a story? You didn’t want her to sound like an encyclopedia, so don’t fall into the formality trap when telling your business story. Instead, communicate your story as if you were telling it to close friends.

6.   Know Your Audience – But which close friends? This is why it helps to know your target audience. The language, idioms, and examples you use in your business story will likely vary depending on whether you’re writing for million dollar home buyers or Kindergarten teachers.

7.   Add Images, Audio and Video – How many times have you read a story and wondered, “Hmm… I wonder what she looks like?” Satisfy your readers’ curiosity by adding images, audio, video or any other relevant multimedia to your business story.

Don’t throw a list of facts at your target customers. Instead, engage their imaginations with your small business story.

Simple Advice: Write Like You Speak, Reporters Will Listen

The average person doesn’t speak in sound bites. The average person doesn’t use annoying jargon like “over the wall”, “out of pocket”, and “synergize.” And the average person doesn’t constantly pepper in superlatives like “leading”, “best of breed”, “top of its class.”

Yet, these are all things we see in well over 90% of all press releases. It’s like the people writing the press releases suddenly forgot how to speak plain English, and instead decided to write a legal document so confusing nobody can understand it.

Relax!

Press releases don’t have to be complicated. Yes, they need to be well-written, but well-written does not mean complicated and wordy. To me, a well-written press release (or anything else for that matter) is one that clearly communicates the message in a way the intended audience can easily understand. It’s all about making a connection with the reader. It’s that simple.

So why do people insist on making press releases so complicated?

My best guess is they think that adding jargon and unnecessary words makes their news sound more important. Let me just stop you right there. IT DOESN’T. In fact, it makes your story worse. It obscures and confuses your main message, and it makes your press release blend in with all the other garbage reporters are being bombarded with all day long. And what’s worse, it prevents you from making a good connection with the reader.

Remember, the average news story is written at about an 8th grade level. And since you’re pitching news, doesn’t it make sense to follow the pattern set by the publications you’re targeting?

What’s the solution? It’s pretty easy really. Just write like you speak. Pretend you’re talking to the reporter (or whoever the intended audience is) at a bar. Use everyday words and phrases, and focus on telling a story. That’s what regular people do. They tell stories. They don’t speak in this absurd language that’s so prevalent in today’s press releases.

Here’s a good exercise. Read your press release aloud or have someone else do it for you. Pay attention to words and phrases that just don’t sound natural. Focus on creating a press release that flows and has almost a conversational feel to it. There’s nothing wrong with having personality and a distinct voice in your press releases. I promise you a press release that sounds like an actual human being will get better results than one that reads like the fine print on your home loan papers.

As a general rule, you can easily eliminate 1/3 of the words in the typical press release. Start with the jargon, move on to the superlatives, and end with anything that just sounds unnatural. I bet that when you’re done you’ll have a clearer, tighter press release that sounds the way you speak.

Every Pitch is a Learning Experience

With today’s journalist shouldering more responsibility than ever before, it’s essential that you master the art of pitching stories. Your pitches must immediately grab the attention of the targeted journalist if you want to get noticed and get coverage.

You will make mistakes,learn from themOf course, not every pitch is going to be successful. Truth is that a lot of your pitches are going to be met with radio silence. And that’s okay. It’s inevitable. However, that doesn’t mean you wasted your time crafting what you hoped was the perfect pitch. Even if you don’t get any bites, it’s important to remember that every pitch should be a learning experience.

Here’s what I mean. Over time, you’re going to be pitching dozens and dozens of stories to just as many reporters and bloggers. Some of those pitches will get responses; some won’t. The key is to analyze every pitch to try to identify what’s working and what’s not.

For example, if you send out a pitch and it gets a good response, take note of all the different characteristics of your pitch to try to pinpoint why it worked. For example:

  • What channel did you use to pitch the reporter? Email? Social media? Phone?
  • If you emailed the reporter, what was your subject line? What was it about your subject line that made it attention-grabbing and click-worthy? Find ways to incorporate those elements into the subject lines of future pitches.
  • When did you send the pitch? Sometimes, it’s all a matter of good timing. Remember, reporters are often up against tight deadlines. Getting your pitch in at the right time could make all the difference.
  • What type of story did you pitch? There are so many different kinds of stories you could pitch. From company milestones to results of a sponsored study to human interest stories, there are countless angles to pursue. The key is to take note of which stories get you coverage and which don’t attract attention.

Simply put, there are many different elements involved in every pitch. Over time, it should start to become clear what works and what doesn’t work. Study your pitches carefully so you can get better with every one you send.

Earning Media Coverage Always Beats Wanting Media Coverage

The big difference between people who get media coverage and those who don’t is that those who do have something to say that others (their target audience) are interested in. There is a very common tendency – we all suffer from it – to assume that if we’re interested and excited about what we have to say, others will certainly be too. Well, sometimes they’re not.

Man Reading NewspaperFor business people, consultants and entrepreneurs it can be very difficult to step outside what you have to offer, and know so well, to critically consider whether anybody else is likely to be interested. The key is to take an “outside in” perspective. If you were just Chris Consumer would you think what you have to say is interesting?

A couple quick – and common – examples may help illustrate:

  • The company that receives an award and wants to get media coverage. The award may be very important to the company (inside out thinking), but is highly unlikely to interest anyone not involved with the company unless there’s something in it for them. And usually there’s not. You may be able to interest your local media in a brief mention, but you’re not likely to land a feature story and you’re certainly not going to see your name in the Wall Street Journal.
  • The company that is introducing a new product. Again, obviously very important to you (hopefully important to some specific target market you serve), but often not likely to be that interesting to the masses.

As always, there are some exceptions and those exceptions can be important and fruitful for you. Suppose the award you received comes with a large grant of some sort that is going to allow you to add jobs to stimulate the local economy – or cut costs and consequently pricing for your product or service. Or, suppose that your new product really is the equivalent of a better mousetrap – something that will have a significant and widespread positive impact on the masses.

Having an outside, third-party perspective to help you critically consider whether you really have a newsworthy message, or just a self-serving advertisement, can be helpful.

But, you can take an outside in perspective yourself by simply being brutally honest and obsessively skeptical about the likelihood that anyone will be interested. You will be basically playing devil’s advocate with yourself and then trying to convince yourself why what you have to say is valuable from the outside in.

And then, putting yourself in the position of the audience you hope to interest/reach (not the reporter or the journalists, but the media consumer), keep asking and answering the question:

“Why should I care?”

As you go through this internal monologue, jot down the responses that seem most likely to resonate with “the outsiders.”

But, if you find this outside in approach simply too difficult to do (you are, after all, an insider), give us a call. We can help.

Tell me about your experiences with telling stories in you pitches in the comments!

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (https://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download a free copy of the PR Checklist – a 24 point list of Press Release Dos and Don’ts here: https://www.ereleases.com/free-offer/pr-checklist/

Incredibly Common Reasons Most Press Releases Don’t Make It

July 10 2018

Public relations is a fast paced world not for the faint of heart. Before you start email blasting press releases and spinning molehills into mountains, consult this list of the 6 most common PR mistakes: Read More

Why a List Press Release Might just Give You the Best Bang for Your Buck

June 26 2018

There are many different formats you can use when writing your press release. The type of story you’re sharing often dictates which format makes the most sense. However, there’s one format I like to use whenever possible because it just seems to work – the list press release. Read More

Making the Most of Your Time: 5 Ideas for Marketing Time Savers

April 16 2018

“There is not enough time in the day.” How often have you said that to yourself? If you are anything like me, it’s pretty often. Between work commitments, time for family and friends, and all those other necessary things, we are usually in a time crunch. Your marketing efforts should not be one of the things putting a dent in your free time. That’s why we have created this list of five easy ways to reduce or eliminate the time suck that marketing can be. Read More

How to Create an Action Plan for Your Content Marketing

March 12 2018

As more and more companies turn to content marketing to reach new clients, the time has come for existing marketing plans to get reworked in order to stay ahead of the competition. Creating an action plan for your marketing doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it could be as short as one page. A simple action plan lays out the goals for your company, your target audience, and where you plan to focus your efforts. Read More