How not to write a press release

In previous posts, we’ve looked at straightforward ways to improve press releases. But there are also some pitfalls to avoid, some obvious, others not so, that regularly feature in the media releases we see at Fuseworks.

So, here’s our top 14 list of things to avoid.

Don’t push the product down the reader’s throat. This is a news release not a sales pitch. Leave that to the advertising department.

Don’t play around with the font. It’s hard to read. And anything that distracts the reader from your release is bad news. Keep the same font the same size and leave the colour palette, the bold, in fact everything else well alone.

Don’t bombard your release with keywords. SEO is a great way to attract audience to your website. However, copy overloaded with keywords may not make sense to a reader or a search engine. Though I’ve yet to find research suggesting a ratio of keywords to copy words, I recently read a suggestion that one keyword to 100-150 is a good balance. That’s one keyword every four to six sentences, which feels about right.

Don’t break the standard article format, by, for example, inserting media review quotes or images in the middle of your release.

Don’t capitalise every word you think is IMPORTANT, like your COMPANY NAME. It looks like you are SHOUTING AT THE READER.

Don’t litter the release with exclamation marks! Journalists don’t need exclamation marks to see an exciting angle, and never use them themselves. It makes the release like an email exchange between over-excited teenagers!! Like so totally annoying!!!

Don’t bury bad news under Mount Puff. If your release is explaining bad press, or fronting up to a mistake, front up and explain it. Spending hundreds of words telling media what a great company you are before mentioning the 1,500 customers whose power you cut off by accident wastes your time and the reader’s.

Don’t repeat yourself. One mention of the billion-dollar donation to a worthy cause is enough. No, really. And just send it the once to each recipient, too.

Don’t copy great chunks of news articles (or links to them) into the body of the release. If it’s important, mention it briefly and add links under ‘Further information’.

Don’t send out a release without having it proofread, ideally by more than one other person. Spell checks are not foolproof and there’s almost always a d’oh! moment in a release that the writer hasn’t seen, even in the 10th draft. A single article often appears on multiple media platforms, which makes correcting them all a pain.

Don’t put your contact details, or anyone else’s, on a release if you don’t expect them to be used. Label contacts clearly: who they are, what their role is, their details and what they can be contacted about.

Don’t bother with trademark and copyright symbols. It’s probably a stipulation handed to you by company lawyers, which you can’t get around. But, for the record, media will just strip them all off.

Don’t insert tables and forms that can’t be copied and pasted. It makes cutting and pasting the release fiddly and time-consuming.

Don’t forget to show clearly who the release is from – attribute from the first sentence, like a news story.