A press release is a staple of any public relations work. However, no matter how important press releases are to us an astounding number of them are never read. There are a number of reasons why this happens; a press release is unclear, journalist receive to many to read in a day, and most recently the rise of social media.
According to one PR practitioner, journalists are skeptical about PR-generated press releases because they may be bias. However, she feels it’s worth it to keep writing them as long as you have a good grasp of what is newsworthy and what isn’t coupled with knowing your target audience and journalists.
The CIPR put out a skills guide on writing a solid media story. Their clever acronym RUTH helps PR practitioners make sure that their press release gets read.
U- Unique or unsual
T- Trouble, tragedy or triumph
H- Human interest
It’s also important to take the time to personalise messages when contacting journalists with press releases. It takes time, but selling your story and why it matters to readers can make all the difference.
Mickie Kennedy of ragan.com created a list of subject line mistakes to avoid. The subject line is what makes the journalist take the next step towards reading your press release.
- Including “spammy” words like “free”, “opportunity” and “guaranteed”. These words have been so over-exploited that they’re virtually meaningless. At best they will be ignored, at worst they’ll inspire suspicion and annoyance.
- Using all capital letters (as we lovingly demonstrated above). It’s the email equivalent of those tax companies paying people to dress up like the Statue of Liberty and parade around in parking lots; it gets our attention, but not in a good way.
- Lacking clarity. Being creative may catch writers’ attention, but make sure your main point is clearly, concisely expressed. We want to know exactly what we’re about to read.
- Misleading the recipient. This is a no-brainer. Lie to us, and we’re likely to ignore your messages in the future. Don’t be the PR equivalent of the Boy who Cried Wolf.
- Failing to nail the length. This is tricky, but thanks to Twitter, we think people are getting the hang of being concise, to-the-point, and catchy in very limited space.
These tips may seem obvious, but they happen all of the time.