September 25, 2022

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

4 simple rules to help avoid ridicule with your next news release

4 simple rules to help avoid ridicule with your next news release

There is a press release circulating among my PR professional friends that is generating considerable discussion for a variety of reasons. I won’t link to it here because not only am I not about shaming people/firms, I’m also just cynical enough to think that it could be a weird attempt to draw traffic to the company’s website (which is yet another reason that website hits devoid of context should not be considered a strong measurement metric).

Instead of highlighting the firm here, it’s probably more useful to examine the issues with the release from a level or two up, because a lot of firms and PR pros make these same mistakes. (Although usually not all of the mistakes appear in one release.)

Here are four rules to follow when issuing a press release:

Please don’t issue a press release with no news in it. This is an ongoing problem that likely has many causes. From a client desire to see every small change as potentially newsworthy to a PR firm’s desire to secure coverage for a client, the compulsion to issue news releases on topics that are not newsworthy is strong. Resist it.

Stay on message. The news release is ostensibly about the re-launch of the firm’s website (see rule 1 for how I feel about that subject matter), but of the 248 words in the release, only the first 54—the opening paragraph—are about that topic. The rest of the release is about the agency in general. If the reason for your decision to issue a press release only manages to make up roughly 20 percent of the release itself, you need to either rework the release to say more about the subject, or scrap it altogether.

Have a proofreader (or even two). The release that sparked this post is so riddled with errors that some of my PR cohort were speculating that it was either converted to English by a translate program, or that it was “written” via voice to text. There are missing commas, singular/plural confusion, and some of the sentences simply are not clear or are poorly constructed. We ALL make mistakes when writing. Before any piece of writing is released out into the wild, it really is important to have someone available to read through it prior to hitting ‘publish’ or ‘distribute.’ (One more point: proofing is also important for the website. I noticed that the contact email address on the firm’s site has a typo in it too, which could cost a business a potential lead.)

Your reputation IS your product and most important asset, so protect it. A PR firm’s product is its ability to communicate clearly and effectively on behalf of its clients. When a firm puts forth something that appears to be sloppily thrown together, it is sending a message that it might treat your work that way too.

News releases are a tough sell to journalists in the first place. Journalists are busy, and generally speaking they hate being inundated with worthless releases. Take the time to develop relationships with key reporters, and be helpful to them. Earned media takes time and effort—and, every release should be polished and have purpose.

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About The Author

Jennifer Zingsheim Phillips is the Director of Marketing Communications for CARMA. She is also the founder of 4L Strategies, and has worked in communications and public affairs for more than 20 years. Her background includes work in politics, government, lobbying, public affairs PR, content creation, and digital and social communications and media analysis.

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