Though there are many, many ways to get news coverage without issuing a news release (for some ideas, see my seven-part series on ways to earn good media coverage), press releases still work. That said, it’s also all-too-common for companies to make fatal errors in the way they write and distribute news releases. Here are 10 common problems.
1. It doesn’t include any news. You’ve sent out a news release that provides information that your target media outlets don’t consider newsworthy. Things that news outlets don’t consider newsworthy, most of the time, include:
- Sales and promotions. Reporters and editors will usually think you should buy an ad instead.
- Announcements of a new website or a new marketing campaign.
- Promotions and hires of non-senior executives. (Though there are places in some print publications where these sorts of listings run, so you can target your news release for those. Just don’t expect a big splash.)
- General background information about the company. Reporters read it and think “nothing new here.”
- A release done solely to satisfy disclosure requirements.
A good guideline is if you wouldn’t be very interested if another company sent out similar news, then chances are the media are not going to be very interested when you doing it.
2. You sent it to the wrong media outlets, or to the wrong people at the media outlet. Reporters have beats, and the bigger the news outlet is, the more reporters there will be with more beats. Take the time to figure out who is most likely to write about your news and then send it to that person first. Likewise, not all news outlets are interested in all news, so don’t indiscriminately send the release to every news outlet that you can find an email address for.
3. You sent it at a bad time. Late Friday afternoons? Most working journalists are probably thinking about getting home and the weekend – just like you – so unless your news release is incredibly compelling, it might get overlooked. Come Monday morning it will be at the bottom of the pile and may never see the light of day.
4. You stuffed it full of incomprehensible jargon. It doesn’t matter whether people in your industry use these terms (or you think they do), if the news release isn’t written in plain language that allows journalists to quickly understand it, your industry prose may never be seen by anyone in your industry.
5. You buried the lead. If you’ve got three paragraphs about how great your company is, the context for the news release and general background before you get to the actual news, a reporter may simply stop reading. Start with the news, or your release won’t make the news.
6. After sending the release, you called up the reporter and demanded that it be run as is, or made some other request that comes across as arrogant and unreasonable. Don’t make the people who (still) buy ink by the barrel mad with you. They’ve got plenty of other news they can use.
7. Your news release arrived when another big story was breaking for your target media. Unless you knew the news was happening, you can’t control this, but it does happen. If it happens to you, wait for that to die down and then politely follow-up and try again.
8. You failed to explain why your news is important to the publication’s readers. A new CEO at Apple is generally considered more newsworthy then a new CEO at a local insurance agency. You’ve got to explain why your news is relevant to the publication and its readers.
9. You wrote the news release for SEO value, and as a consequence it reads poorly and contains little newsworthy information. If you’re doing SEO releases with no other news value, don’t inflict them on them reporters – it will only hurt your reputation.
10. Your news is highly technical and difficult for a lay person to understand. Not only will many reporters, editors and producers simply not understand what the news is, they’re probably not too willing to make the effort to understand it if you haven’t made the effort first to make it more understandable. Scientific, technological, health care and financial news releases, especially, can all run this risk.