Publicity: Press Release Mistakes That Could Hurt Your Media Publicity

Need to know how to write a press release? Free publicity is worth its weight in gold, but these 8 mistakes people make when writing a press release could cause yours to find its way to the trash instead of the front page.

You’ve done it. Gotten that press release written. Now you’re ready to send it out to your carefully chosen list of media contacts.

But before you hit that “send” button, take a moment and run your press release through this checklist. Remember, you only have a few seconds to catch the attention of busy journalists and editors — don’t blow it over an easily corrected mistake.

Some of these may seem painfully obvious. Alas, even the obvious gets overlooked from time to time (even from professionals – I know, I’ve made my share of mistakes) so it’s always a wise idea to take a few moments to double check that your release is up to snuff before sending it out into the world.

1. Is your release newsworthy? In other words, does it answer the question “Will this interest my readers?” Remember, media people are interested in one thing – keeping their readers happy. Make sure your idea is something that will do just that.

2. Is the headline compelling? Will it encourage media people to actually read the story? If the headline doesn’t interest them, chances are they aren’t going to take the time to read the rest of the release. And you’ve just missed your opportunity.

3. Is the first sentence (the lead) compelling? Like the headline, if the first sentence doesn’t grab their attention and persuade them to keep reading, chances are your release will be headed to that famous circular file. (Otherwise known as the trash can.)

4. Is it written in third person? In other words, use “he/she/they.” No “you” or “we.”


5. Is it less than a page? Media people don’t have time to read long press releases. Unless you have a darn good reason, keep it less than a page. For that matter, even if you do have a darn good reason, still keep it less than a page.

6. Are there grammatical or spelling errors in your release? Trust me, these are professionals. They’ll catch your errors. And those errors won’t leave a very good impression. At the very least use your word processing’s spell checker, but hiring a proofreader is an even better solution. Or you could simply have someone you trust read it. But definitely do something.

7. Do you have your contact information on the release? Media people are on deadline. They don’t have time to search for your contact info if they need clarification or a quote from you. Make it easy for them – put your contact info in a prominent place.

8. Do you have any sales copy in there? Reminder: Press releases don’t go to the advertising department – they’re for editorial. And editorial doesn’t look very kindly on sales pitches. Nix the promotional copy and just focus on content – if they use your story, they’ll put your contact info in there.

While there are no guarantees with publicity, making sure your release follows this checklist will go a long way to garnering you publicity.

Copyright 2005 Michele Pariza Wacek

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