I'm stunned at how many awful press releases there are out there...

Yes, they were really this bad!!!

Yes, they were really this bad!!!

Out of 60 press releases I looked at today, only two were good enough to make the cut...

I'm working on a new blog project where I need some content on financial services. So in order to get some news, I registered myself on ResponseSource to receive news and press releases on new products and services. I wasn't really sure what kind of response I'd get. Well I've been inundated with the things.

I saved them all to a folder and put some time aside to have a read to see what could make good stories for my project. Well, I have never read such appalling releases in my 20+ years of working in the PR world. I'd say out of 60 releases, there are two which make the cut. So, now I've seen things from the 'other side' as it were, here's some tips if you want to make it into my new blog project.

  1. Don't write a release if there's no news. I'd say over half of the releases I looked at today had no news content whatsoever.
  2. Make them easy to read. I discovered today that when you have a lot of releases to look at once, I want to be able scan read down the page to assess what story has potential and what doesn't.
  3. Break up large blocks of text with sub headings - again it makes it easier to scan, and helps the reader gain a sense of what's going on in much less time.
  4. My old boss, Bill Penn always said that you have 5 seconds to grab a journalist's attention with a press release. He was right. I clicked, took a quick look, then deleted anything that didn't instantly grab me in seconds.
  5. Put the contact details at the top of the release, not just the bottom. I have to say that was something I always did: It makes a difference. It has to be a really good story to make me want to scroll down to the bottom of the story to find out who to contact.
  6. I'm amazed how few people offered pictures. Even now, when I do a release, I provide a link where they can be downloaded.
  7. Think carefully about writing quotes on behalf of your client or company 'big wig'. Make sure they add value to the story - I loathe what I call the 'naturally delighted' quotes - e.g. "We're delighted to be partnering with XYZ Widgets Limited on this amazing opportunity to bore everyone to death." I used to tell my graduate trainees (back when I had a proper job) to use the quote as an opportunity to say why this story is significant to the company/market/consumers etc.
  8. Where has the 'who, what, why, where, when & how' concept gone? It's old fashioned maybe, but in my opinion it's still very relevant and important to a good story.

That's my twopenneth worth. If you are ever in doubt about what makes a good release, just read those of other companies and I guarantee that about 80% of what you read will inspire you to try and do better.

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