Pet peeves about press releases – #2

When you are writing a press release, watch your words. They can do just as much to harm your case as they can to help it. Your goal is to be persuasive, not annoying. Here are some classic mistakes:

Too many words. If you can’t explain your story idea or request for coverage in less than one page, you’ve already lost me. I have to look at hundreds of these requests each week. I can’t afford the time to linger.

Subjective words. I think it can be assumed that if you are sending the press release you believe the source/subject/story to be important/valid/meaningful. So just give me the facts and let me decide for myself. Language that is gushingly enthusiastic or accompanied by numerous exclamation points is a red flag. It means the real message isn’t interesting on its own.

Words that promise more than they can (or should) deliver. In a recent example we received, a private school promised to teach 2-year-olds to read. Aside from the sad, developmentally insensitive aspects of that (so now even a 2-year-old has to feel academic pressure?) it smacks of luring parents with the false premise that their offspring will become super-achievers if they just cough up the tuition each month.

No “who,” “what,” “when,” “where” and “why” words. You’d be surprised how many press releases we get that are missing one or more of these essential elements.

Words like “famous” and “celebrated.” If the person you are promoting is already getting that much attention, especially in the national arena, they certainly don’t need anything from me. Double demerits if you apply those words to someone I’ve never heard of before.

The words “must have.” If the moms and dads who read our magazine really had all the “must have” stuff that is routinely mailed to our office or described in emails stuffing my in-box, they could audition for one of those “hoarder” reality shows.

Insincere words. One press pitch that started out, “I hope you are having a great Wednesday.” Um, no you don’t.

Insulting words. I seriously got one story pitch that started out like this: “I am not sure if you are currently working on anything specific at the moment….” Are you kidding me? Like there is ever a moment when we are not working on something? Maybe I should try sitting around twiddling my thumbs to see what it’s like.

Out of touch words. These typically accompany those “blanket the universe” releases that don’t bother to consider the specific needs (or climatic conditions) of a particular media outlet. A release I got for a brand of children’s boots from Australia started like this: “As the winter months are rapidly approaching, it is time to bundle our little ones up in all their winter gear.” I got that one last summer–when it was 110 degrees in Phoenix.

Tomorrow: The ones who get it right.

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