As a writer, I’m constantly trying to learn from my own mistakes and the mistakes of other writers. That’s why I like to occasionally visit some of those free press release distribution websites. It’s unfortunate, but the majority of press releases on those sites flat out suck.
Why? Because they usually make one or more of these common mistakes:
1. It’s exploding with keywords
First, let me say that I’m a huge proponent of search engine optimization. Optimizing your online press release is an excellent way to increase your search engine presence and gain a few keyword-rich back links to your website. But optimizing your press release doesn’t mean you should cram so many keywords in it that it becomes unreadable.
If your headline reads, “Houston Bicycle Company Launches New Website About Houston Bicycle Repair and Houston Bicycle Maintenance,” do us all a favor and never write another press release again.
2. Did Billy Mays write this thing?
Although he’s no longer with us, we all remember Billy Mays, the greatest (and loudest) pitchman of our generation. As soon as Mays popped up on the TV screen, you knew he was trying to sell you something. After all, that’s what commercials do. However, press releases are not commercials, so they shouldn’t read like one. Ditch the sales speak, and get rid of the hyperbole. It’s a news release—stick to the facts and avoid bias.
3. You focused on quantity instead of quality
Thanks to free press release distribution websites, the press release has slowly gone the way of the ezine article. As everyone begins to learn of the internet marketing benefits of press release distribution, they start to pump out as many press releases as they can. The result: Their internet presence consists of hundreds of poorly-written, keyword-stuffed and non-newsworthy press releases.
4. Get to the point already!
Here’s a little tip: Someone should be able to know what your story is about by reading only the first paragraph of your press release. Press releases are written in the “inverted pyramid” format. This means the most important information (who, what, when, where and how) is at the top of the press release, followed by all of the minor details. Get to the point quickly, and don’t drag out your press release for three pages.
5. A translator is required to interpret the jargon
Have you ever seen the Web Economy BS Generator ? It’s a funny little tool that allows you to instantly create meaningless jargon and corporate-speak, like “generate ubiquitous mindshare” and “monetize frictionless technologies.” Unfortunately, some companies must be using this tool to write their press releases because I can’t understand what the heck they’re talking about. Save the jargon for your shareholder meetings; it has no place in your press release.
6. The headline is boring
I hate to break it to you, but no one cares if you updated your website or started a new blog. Sure, you can create news from doing this, but you have to find a different angle than “XYZ Company Updates Website.” Find a solid news angle that focuses on some unique function of the new website that provides a tangible benefit people might be interested in. Then, craft your headline around that news angle. Be careful not to make your headline too salesy or cutesy, as it will come off like a cheap advertisement rather than a newsworthy press release.
7. You forgot to proofread it
I hate proofreading. It gives me a headache, but it’s a necessary evil. Without proofreading, you risk sending out a press release that’s riddled with typos and grammatical errors. Needless to say, that doesn’t exactly command respect from editors and online readers. I find it helpful to set aside the press release for a day or two before trying to proofread it. This allows you to view it with a fresh set of eyes, helping you identify overlooked mistakes.
A version of this article originally appeared on PR Fuel.