A press release is the foundation of any company’s successful PR strategy. While businesses distribute press releases to earn positive media coverage for their brand, they often fall short because of mistakes like not focusing on a newsworthy angle, writing a bad headline, or being overly promotional. Over the past decade, press releases have radically transformed along with technology. While in the past, PR generally followed a traditional format, with companies having to rely solely on media professionals to create stories, it has now shifted to allow companies to develop their own content and distribute it on their channels.
This article will look at some common press release mistakes and how you can avoid them regardless of whether you are a rookie or an expert writer.
1) Not having a newsworthy angle
A common mistake that companies make when creating a press release is thinking that news that is valuable to them is also beneficial to the audience or journalist they are targeting. However, that is not always the case, and you need to make sure your story angles are newsworthy. If they aren’t, journalists are very unlikely to cover the story, and you may actually damage their reputation. This is because media professionals are more likely to ignore your future press releases as well.
Decide on the goal for the press release and go from there. If there are multiple goals, either determine a hierarchy of goals or write different press releases for different audiences. The right story angle depends on the audience, so take the time to get to know all target audiences and what type of content will resonate with them more. Make sure the story is a story worth being told. In other words, it needs to be new or exciting and it must address something people outside the company will care about. If the answer is yes, the story is worth being written. If not, it is advisable to go back to the drawing board and develop a new story idea.
2) Not using proper writing style & format
With every type of writing, a certain style and format are recommended to avoid confusion. For press releases, experts have advised that Associated Press (AP) style is the best because it helps journalists easily absorb and cover a story without any confusion from unconventional formats. Given that the Associated Press is the world’s largest news organization and is the industry expert when writing a news-style piece of content, it is advisable to follow their insight.
A press release written in AP Style should be formatted consistently. If you are confused about how to do this, you should read and follow guides on how to write a press release and make sure it is formatted correctly. Using a template can also help you to keep track of standard formatting. Along with that, you can seek the expertise of PR professionals who have experience in creating press releases and other newsworthy content.
Pressfarm is a PR agency that helps startups and established companies create all types of content, from email pitches and press releases to guest posts and press kits that can be distributed to media professionals or on their channels. In addition, their media database of over 1 million media contacts gives companies the chance to connect with relevant journalists in any niche or industry.
With Pressfarm’s PR packages, you can also get a customized media list created by their account executive to gain the media coverage you desire. Ultimately, partnering with Pressfarm will boost your online visibility by helping your brand to feature in relevant search results across different search engines.
3) Treating the title/headline like an afterthought
On average, a media professional will only spend a couple of seconds reviewing your press release before deciding whether or not they want to cover the story. This means that first impressions are critical and it’s also why headlines/titles are essential. Since a journalist won’t go digging in your press release for the important details of your story, the ideal press release headline needs to be both concise and fascinating.
To make a title enticing, you need to:
- Answer a pressing question
- Keep it relevant
- Be intriguing
- Use an active voice
- Keep it brief
A journalist needs to know why your story would be valuable to their readers. For this reason, you need to highlight the most crucial part of your news article in this headline. This means that the title should reflect the newsworthy angle. After all, journalists want to publish newsworthy stories, and a newsworthy title will encourage them to do just that. Secondly, you should concentrate on a trendy or revolutionary angle in the narrative (solves a pressing problem). You can do so by using keywords currently trending in their industry, mentioning a critical industry issue, or mentioning the name of a current influencer involved in the topic/industry in which they specialize.
Finally, a headline/title should pique the interest of the journalist reading it while also letting them know that there is more to the story. It is perfectly all right to tease the reader by offering just enough information to pique interest, but not all of it. Along with that, your press release should use an active voice that is engaging and vivid to pull readers in and entice them to read more. Finally, you need to remember that you only have five seconds to grab a reader’s attention, so you should keep their title to 100 characters or less.
4) Using quotes that sound like clickbait
Providing quotes within a press release can offer a more human perspective to an objective news story. Ideally, they should present a positive image of your business and be authentic rather than self-promotional. A press release should offer quotes that media professionals can use in an objective publication. While they may reach out to you for such quotes, the absence of quotes might encourage a journalist to find a different story that is ready for publication. By providing accurate quotes, the chances of your press release getting covered increases, even with a more deadline-driven journalist.
When using quotes from executives, for example, always use inspiring words from these people without adding flattering adjectives or complicated jargon. Additionally, the quote you use shouldn’t rephrase the contents of your press release. Rather, it should be unique enough to stand out and capture attention. In other words, these quotes should consist of additional details that haven’t been covered yet. The ideal quote is conversational, genuine, and unique. Additionally, you can also consider including a quote from an unbiased source for a more journalistic style. For example, suppose the press release is about a new product launch. In that case, you can reach out to an industry analyst in the field who does not have a stake in the company and ask them to quote how the product can positively impact the industry.
5) Not including valuable links
While links within a press release rarely offer much search engine optimization (SEO) value, they provide benefits for journalists, businesses, and their target audience. For example, if your company is planning to publish a press release in response to a crisis in your community, you can offer a link to a website where you post updates about your response plan as it happens. Alternatively, if your release is about a new product launch, you can provide a link to a landing page that can help audiences learn more about the product. Other than offering readers more information, links in a press release can help you attract leads, track press release performance, and earn more media coverage.
When including links in a press release, it is essential not to go overboard with it. Ideally, the number of links should be around two to three. Secondly, the links should always offer value to the reader. Rather than only focusing on what benefits the business, you should include links that provide relevant additional value that your readers will appreciate. Lastly, the anchor text with the link should be chosen carefully and relevant to the subject covered in the press release.
6) Forgetting about the audience
A news release is not the same as an advertisement. Instead, it’s all about conveying information about something you believe your target audience (those most likely to be reached by the story) would be interested in. By making it about the end reader and providing assistance to journalists telling the story, companies can create a news story rather than an advertisement about the brand. Journalists are unlikely to write an ad but are more likely to cover an important story that their readers should hear.
A press release should explain to a journalist why their audience would be interested in your news. For example, for a new product launch press release, instead of simply telling journalists how awesome their product is, you should offer them value that they can pass on to their readers, such as a free product giveaway or demo. This encourages journalists to dig deeper into your story and report it objectively, rather than simply repeating a biased opinion.
7) Not including multimedia
Given the current information landscape, many journalists and media professionals know that to capture people’s attention and retain it, they need to include elements that can visually draw them in. According to PR Newswire, about 71% of journalists use multimedia frequently or consistently in their stories. Because of this, releases that include images receive 1.4 times the views than those without, and press releases with videos earn 2.8 times the views than text-only releases.
Most companies are more than willing to provide multimedia elements if asked by journalists. Even so, if you can provide this content without being asked, then you are more likely to get your story covered. To save a journalist’s time, you should add at least one or two relevant images to the release. Also, the multimedia provided should be original and offer value to the journalists’ readers.
8) Not targeting the press release
Sending out a large number of pitches without targeting the release is the quickest way to land your latest release in the spam folders of a journalist before they’ve even read it. What’s even worse is that all your future press releases might be marked as spam as well. Sending a single email to several journalists in bulk shows them they aren’t getting a personalized message ( which will encourage them to send it to their spam folders). This tactic can also cause email providers to funnel a company’s news into the spam folder automatically, before journalists have even read it.
To make sure that your press release is read, you need to send it out to one journalist at a time and personalize it. You need to start by doing research on each journalist’s work and audience. Look for trends in their stories so that you know what their readers value. You also need to note what industries and audiences they write for. From there, you can write a pitch to the journalist directly. Make sure you briefly describe why a journalist’s audience would value your news.
9) Not making the press release shareable
A press release that is shareable on social media allows readers and journalists to spread the word about your company’s story. Adding instant Tweet functionality, making quotes brief but meaningful, including multimedia, and including social sharing buttons are all things you can do to make your news more shareable.
Embed a Click to Tweet link to quotes that can stand on their own and still be valuable. This connection opens a box that highlights the quote and includes a “Click to Tweet” button. When users click the link, it takes them to their Twitter profiles. Here, a Tweet with the quote is automatically created. From there, it’s just a matter of posting. Secondly, you can make your content more shareable by using quotations or facts that can be posted directly on social media profiles. This means keeping quotes or figures under 280 characters to avoid readers needing to edit them before posting on social media sites like Twitter. Last but not least, you should add social share buttons to the press release. This both invites readers to share the content and makes it easier for them to do so.
10) Only using one distribution method
There are many ways to distribute a press release, each with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. For example, a delivery service may help a company get their news out to the general public without targeting key journalists who can help the business now and in the future. Since each method of delivering a press release via delivery service, social media, and customized email pitches has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, combining more than one method might yield the best results.
11) Not tracking performance
Analytics can help you learn if you have met the goals for your press release. Additionally, they can give you insight on how you can improve future press releases for better results. They can also give you audience information that helps you to retarget and better promote your press release.
You may set various business objectives for your publication such as enhancing brand morale, boosting brand awareness, or increasing website traffic. Similarly, press release analytics reports monitor metrics. Such metrics include how many shares your release received, which media outlets picked it up, how many clicks it earned to your website and brand sentiment. As a result, metrics assist businesses in determining if your release was worthwhile or whether you should tweak your approach in the future.
You should also pay attention to how people interact with a single press release if you are delivering one. If journalists clung to a single quote and used it in all of their reports about the release, you should take note of what set that quote apart from the others. Then, when sourcing quotes for potential updates, aim to match those characteristics. However, by distributing only one press release, you might not gain much insight into what works and what doesn’t. Once you’ve distributed a few releases, you can compare metrics and see what works and what doesn’t. Finally, many press release analytics reports provide details about the people who read the press releases. Age, wages, preferences (industry publications they read, for example), marital status, and location are all factors to consider. Use this data to help with retargeting your future campaigns.
A press release should assist a company in obtaining favorable media coverage. Instead of focusing exclusively on information solely about your company, you need to concentrate more on meeting the needs of the media and your audience. Meeting their needs can involve including links and multimedia in the article, avoiding promotional language, editing and writing it in a journalistic manner and properly targeting it. After the release has been distributed correctly, an analytics report can determine what worked and what didn’t. This way you can determine what you need to do for the best press release outcomes. You can then apply those lessons to subsequent promotional campaigns and launches.