Don’t Be Too Excited About Your Press Release

“I’m so excited, and I just can’t hide it / I’m about to lose control and I think I like it.”

With apologies to the Pointer Sisters, I’m not excited about most press releases. Neither are the media who get about thousands, if not millions, per day, says Forbes.

By their format and nature, press releases can be dull. Sometimes informative, often promotional, they serve best as official documents to catalog new hires, new products, events, plants closings and openings, and the like. Most are not novels and Stephen King and J.K. Rowling have nothing to worry about. Still … the PR industry can do better. Much better.

Some general rules are noted in this previous example on the basics of writing a press release. With that in mind, let’s examine Three Major Mistakes that annoy journalists and reflect badly upon publicists.

1. Mistake #1 – Dance Around the Subject.

With emails, you have a few seconds, at best, to grab a reporter’s attention. Without a strong, specific, relevant headline, your story will be deleted. In other words, GET TO THE POINT. Here are some professional tips from Karen Chase, Anchor for ABC News Radio.

“One gateway is the subject line of your email,” Chase notes. “The most-likely-to-get-trashed emails have the following subject lines: ‘story idea,’ ‘interview opportunity,’ and ‘press release.’ ”  In other words, Guess What?  Here’s a Press Release! It’s a release for the press, in case you didn’t get it.

As Chase notes, don’t state the obvious. Next, place your most important information at the top.  “If you want to get your message out, first and foremost, DON’T BURY THE LEAD! The words in your subject line should grab me by the throat and shake me: Heart attack-preventing fitness bracelet!’ or ‘Cure for cancer could be unlocked with a new app!’ ”

What’s the story?

Why should I care?

Why should I care NOW?

2. Mistake #2 – Using EXCITED for almost every release.

One of the reasons for the lack of enthusiasm from journalists and others who read them are the self-serving quotes, many of them using the same hackneyed term.

“I’m excited to join this law firm.”

“We’re excited to offer this new product.”

“I’m excited about our upcoming season.”

“I’m excited about the offseason.”

“I’m excited about this new opportunity.”

“We’re excited about opening a new office building in Tacoma.”

I’m not the first person to notice this. However… this process continues today. Every day. It needs to be repeated. Puff quotes where corporate spokesman break their arms patting themselves on the back are bad enough, at least make them relevant or interesting. Or if you don’t have anything original or meaningful to say, don’t insert a quote into your press release.

“5 Alternatives to the Most Overused Word in Press Releases” – blog post by Delightful Communications.  The post recommends using thrilled, delighted, elated, jubilant or tickled instead.Of course, journalists would probably love a little more honesty if someone said, “This opportunity is kind of interesting, I didn’t have much else going on and I needed the money, so I took the job,” but that probably won’t happen.

3. Mistake #3 – Sending News to the Wrong Reporter.

I write about public relations. For some reason, some employed in the PR industry, or maybe it’s a group of rogue bots, suspect these Forbes columns cover dental hygiene.  Each week 30-40 press releases fill my in box with subject headlines such as the following (the names have been changed or removed to protect the guilty)

Cast of Hit Sketch Comedy Show Opens Up for the First Time

Emotional Literacy: Newest & Nicest Trend in Business

Insurance Merger Creates America’s Fastest Growing Brand

Last Minute Guest for National Women’s Month

Malama hele…to take constant care of

O Wop Bop a Loo Bop, A Wop Bam Boom

OK, I made that last one up, but you get the idea. Don’t waste your time, and don’t annoy the recipient by sending news items to the wrong reporter and get your emails blocked, you might need that reporter another time when you have a more suitable story idea.

Now its time to put down the keyboard and check my email. Can’t wait to read something exciting! Or thrilling.

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