When you’re first starting to write press releases, it’s difficult not to make a few mistakes.
Unfortunately, many of these blunders come from simply not having experience in the field. Most journalists have come to notice these, so they will automatically know you’re a rookie.
To avoid looking like a total noob, do your best to avoid these five damaging goofs.
1. Your title is messy.
Because the title is the first thing a journalist will see, it can be the beginning or end of everything. If your title is great, the reader wants to keep reading. If it’s terrible, you’ve damned the entire thing to the recycle bin.
Press release rookies will often make the mistake of making a long, overly detailed title. Perhaps worse, they write a pun or joke as a title that gives no description of the actual piece. Experienced press release pros know that a concise, straightforward title is the way to go.
2. You don’t follow the inverted pyramid.
Journalists learn about this on Day One of journalism school, and successful press release writers learn about it the day they start trying to woo journalists.
Basically, the inverted pyramid is a plan to follow when writing news. The important stuff goes at the top of the pyramid. For instance, if the story was about an event, this would cover name, date, and location. As you move down the pyramid, the info gets less important.
A rookie often fails to follow this basic structure. He or she will throw facts and quotes in at random. This makes the journalist trying to read it confused and angry. Follow the inverted pyramid, and you will have a leg up on the competition.
3. You forget to include contact info.
Yes, we’re all online now, so we all use email. But as strange as it may sound, some people actually want to call you on the phone and talk to you. Rookies may not realize this. Because of this, they forget to include phone number info on the release.
This could be important for another reason: Journalists are busy. If it’s 3 a.m. and they need to get in contact with you about a question on your press release, an email isn’t going to work. So if there’s no phone number, they will more than likely just skip your story and run something else.
4. You don’t include an ‘About’ section.
If you read the same type of document over and over every day, you would want a section that gives you a quick rundown of who sent it. Perhaps this section could be called an “About” section. Too bad there’s not something like this for press releases—wait, there is!
It has fallen out of vogue for some reason, but it’s still important. Keep the poor reader in mind at all times. Provide any excuse to not run your story, and they absolutely won’t. One reason could be having to do extra work to find out about your company. Write up a short bio, and you’ll save time and headache.
5. You didn’t put an ‘end of content’ marker.
Way back when, wire services would use special characters to mark the end of the release. Often, this was “###.” There were others, but this is the one most press release writers learned in school.
Of course, in today’s world there’s no reason to include it—except that some journalists and scanner software will look for it. I know that for me, a press release doesn’t look complete unless those three little pound signs are at the bottom.
Go ahead and include them to forgo any unforeseen problems!