One of the most mishandled, misunderstood and mis-constructed tools in the hands of businesses today is the press release. Business owners have a dizzying variety of opinions about how a release should be written, what the release should do and how it should be received.
For a long time, the general thought was that newspapers were constantly going begging for material to fill space in their columns. All you had to do was give them a whiff of your brilliant business offer and some editor would send a reporter and photographer running to get the scoop on you, driving customers to your door.
Every form of media has its own procedures, challenges and quirks. (For the purposes of this article, we will talk about local newspapers as a classic medium. These rules apply, with only minor variations, to websites and blogs, magazines, television and radio, etc.) Every writer or editor has to weigh what comes across her desk to determine how it will fit in the context of the material her outlet usually publishes. But, more than anything else, these people are busy. If you want them to take a little time out of their day to give you free publicity - and that's exactly what you are asking for - you have to make them want to.
One website we saw published a list of ten tips for press release writing. Some were handy; some were a bit fuzzy. But first let's skip to the bottom of their list, to item number ten.
"Make it as easy as possible for media representatives to do their jobs."
Friends, I am here to tell you that this is absolutely wrong. The fact that this item ended up at the bottom of the list is laughable. This is Item Number One. It should be the first thing you think about and your North Star throughout the entire process. Make it your desktop wallpaper. If you hope to do any regular release writing at all, print this on a banner and hang it in your office.
Make the Writer's Job Easy
Every other tip you read, every brilliant turn of a phrase you concoct, every grand promoting scheme you hatch will be for naught if you make a writer work too hard to get that story done.
Writers and editors have a whirlwind of material around them at the click of a mouse. The trouble is, sometimes much of it is unusable. They develop a quick sense for sniffing out relevant material in a press release, knowing what would be useful and what is chaff. The more useful material you give them, the more of it they will likely use, unchanged. You want that.
Your unspoken goal should be to make a writer want to copy and paste your entire article as-is right into the publication, dust off her hands and smile as she moves along to the next order of business for the day. A good writer will not usually do that - though there is no such thing as "plagiarizing" a press release - because most releases don't sound like real writing. And therein lies your first big clue. If you succeed in getting a story written as a result of your press release, you should score yourself based on how much of your original material and wording made it into the final article without sounding stilted and unnatural.
Notice that this is not the same thing as writing material that you wish the writer would say. We'll talk about that more below. It is writing material that they would be happy to call their own. In order to achieve this Holy Grail of press release writing, there are certain things you can do, things you can avoid, and best practices for how you treat the writer from a distance. It is increasingly unlikely that you will develop a personal relationship with a writer nowadays, but you can certainly make them want to bookmark your site for regular perusal for material. That is a relationship. If you can do that, you score.
One of the first tips that traditional press release writing primers will give you is to make sure your information is "newsworthy". Let's be honest here. Your grand opening is not the same kind of news as a house fire, auto accident, election coverage or even celebrity "news". But local papers will commonly run business and entertainment stories. If your kind of "news" usually runs there, go for it.
Just remember, make the writer's job easy. Give them a story that they can run without having to worry about defending that choice to a reader or editor. Put a twist on it, a connection to something national, a human interest angle or other unique twist. Don't appear to be "selling". If selling is all you have to offer, do the right thing and call the ad department and pay for space like everyone else. But if you have something that will inform, amuse, titillate or enlighten readers, go ahead and let a writer know.
Grammer and speling.
It should go without saying that grammar, spelling and overall flow of the release must be impeccable. Unfortunately it can't go without saying. Understand this: if a writer sees even one typo in your material, it will make her nervous. She will feel that she must fine-tooth-comb the whole thing just to be sure you won't embarrass her.
Of course, writers always proofread everything before publishing. But part of making the writer's job easy to to put her at ease. Don't give her the added difficulty of cleaning up your copy. That will quickly become a factor in deciding whether to just skip your material, if not this time, then the next. The kiss of death.
Here is a real press release, believe it or not. I apologize in advance that you have to see this. I've put obvious errors in bold.
Elite Pressure Washing and Painting is a full service residential and commercial property maintenance firm that is based out of The Woodlands, TX. Known for quality work, Elite Pressure Washing and Painting offers businesses and industries throughout The Woodlands, TX area the highest quality services.Through out the period of time both your interior and exterior windows need to be cleaned. We at Elite Pressure Washing & Painting, Inc offer Interior window cleaning services and exterior window cleaning services. As the Woodlands, TX premier window cleaning contractor, Elite Pressure Washing and Painting specializes in the interior window cleaning and exterior window cleaning trade. Elite Pressure Washing and Painting offers contract and maintenance services to fine residential homes and commercial properties in The Woodlands, TX. The professional staff of Elite Pressure Washing and Painting uses only the finest cleaning solutions available in todays market. We use all bio degradable eco frinedly cleaning detergants; this ensures that customers get the best quality work while being eco frinedly at competitive prices from the entire Elite Pressure Washing and Painting team. At Elite Pressure Washing and Painting, we stand behind our window cleaning services 100%. All interior window cleaning and exterior window cleaning jobs are supervised throughout the duration of the job and cleaned up upon leaving each working day.
Elite Pressure Washing and Painting has the window cleaning solution for any size commercial project in The Woodlands, TX, from a single story building to a large commercial complex or a high rise. window cleaning services on commercial buildings must serve two purposes: protect the glass from weathering and decay; and look great. Elite Pressure Washing and Painting specializes in the art of interior window cleaning services and exterior window cleaning services. We use silicone protective coatings that are extremely resistant to the elements and make routine window cleaning maintenance done easily, yet still provide a sharp look. Elite Pressure Washing and Painting has served the interior window cleaning and exterior window cleaning needs of numerous commercial customers in The Woodlands, Tx. We specialize in cleaning and applying various types of protective coatings, from interior perimeter windows, exterior perimeter windows, partitions, skylights and vestibles. You'll find Elite Pressure Washing and Painting is a great contributing eco friendly window cleaning company when you need to create an environment that feels as good as it looks.
If your home exterior is looking depleted? A good window cleaning job is one way to sharpen up the image of your house from the inside and out. Elite Pressure Washing and Painting's streak free window cleaning services will leave your windows looking refreshed. Our Window cleaning customers in The Woodlands, TX normally have their windows cleaned two or three times a year. When comparing our professional window cleaning services to those of other window cleaners, our commercial window cleaning services are often considered to be superior by our clients. Where other window cleaning companies in The Woodlands, TX fail to get it done, we at Elite Pressure Washing and Painting rise to the occasion to meet you window cleaning requirements. Give us a call today in order to get a free residential window cleaning and commercial window cleaning estimate where we will provide our window cleaning prices.
I wish I could say that a slew of writers had printed this thing out for dart practice. But what really happened was much sadder than that: they stopped reading by the third sentence and round-filed it, hit delete. And, why not? There's nothing here but an ad with misspelled words, grammar that has to be fixed, repetitive claims of superiority.
Where's the news, even a little bit of it? Are some people replacing windows because of pollutants etching the glass? That happens. Tell how that happens. Are you doing the windows on a local charity office for free? Tell about that. Did you just do your ten thousandth window? Shoot, that would be something. As it is, they are saying: "Hey, we do windows in The Woodlands, TX, and we're better than anybody else." And they took 536 words to say it!
Here's another to chuckle along with. This is from 2010. Hold your nose.
Highly Touted Social News Site to Officially Launch on August 23rd
AllTopics.com, which has been touted as the next big social site by industry experts, has officially announced a launch date of August 23rd. AllTopics.com promises to deliver the very best articles, videos and images on any topic that you can think of, making it an industry leader in the online social news world.
With so many news' [sic] sites currently in the market, you wouldn't think there would be a need or even room for another one to come along. While the market may be saturated, there are still needs to be filled, and one site is promising to close that gap forever.
AllTopics.com has been planning for months on how to build the perfect news website, and their finished product is expected to take the online world by storm. Backed by a large advertising budget and a large staff of highly trained researchers, they are promising to deliver the very best stories, videos and images from all over the Internet on all of the topics that you can think of.
While that may not seem like a big deal, most sites do not even attempt to cover this many categories. Even the most popular of news sites only cover a small portion of the news, and they never bring you the very best of every single subject. It takes a large, dedicated team in order to pull something off like this. That is where AllTopics.com claims they can close the gap and create the best social news website around.
AllTopics.com is a hybrid of a news site and a social bookmarking site, meaning that users can submit their own stories, videos and images in addition to the ones added by the staff of AllTopics.com. This will help to insure [sic] the highest quality of news and information in one place, as the staff will be able to see exactly what interests the people and find information that will be of value to them.
So, will the industry experts be right in predicting that AllTopics.com is the next big thing, or will it be the next big flop? Only time will tell I guess, so go decide for yourself and check out AllTopics when they officially launch.
This is a classic example of writing a press release full of things one wishes a writer would say. It is insulting to a writer. Putting grandiose words in someone's mouth is not the same thing as giving him material he is happy to claim as his own.
There are different variations on rules for press release writing for each media form (radio, television, newspaper, blog, etc.). You can find tons of tips for each online. But remember, above all else, don't make the writer have to jump through hoops to get your story. It shouldn't take a research grant and a team of proofreaders to find out what you are up to or if it is even worth talking about. Make it easy on the writer.