5 Signs Your Online Press Release Stinks

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Here's the scenario we dream about…

After writing a sizzling press release that fires on all cylinders, you hit the “submit” button to publish it online. The first few calls from excited editors arrive within an hour. By the following day, reporters from the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and Newsweek have gotten in touch. And that's just the beginning. Soon, your phone starts to ring off the hook and your email inbox begins to fill with interview requests. You can't help but smile, knowing good times are just around the corner.

Now consider what usually happens…

You send your press release out to the world only to hear the sound of crickets. Your phone doesn't ring (you check just to make sure the line isn't being hogged by your kids) and your email box remains eerily empty. You convince yourself that something huge must have happened in the news industry. Some momentous event must have stolen attention away from everything else, including your PR.

But suppose your press release itself is the problem. What if it stinks? Today, I'm going to cover 5 signs that suggest your PR needs more work before you release it into the wild.

#1 – Your Press Release Never Gets To The Point

Have you ever listened to someone who never seems to get around to his point? Aside from being polite, there's little reason to keep listening.

Your readers feel the same way. If your news announcement doesn't deliver the goods – and deliver them quickly – your audience will stop reading. You have 400 to 500 words to get your point across. Don't waste them. Put the juicy details in your first paragraph, and flesh them out in the body. You need to hook your reader quickly and then keep them reading!

#2 – Your News Announcement Is A Re-run

Because online press release distribution is an easy way to build links, a lot of people use it to get the word out about their business. It's a great marketing tactic that belongs in the toolbox of every business owner.

But there's a dark side. A lot of PRs are written that are little more than a rehash of previous releases. Little thought is given to writing something worth reading. Instead, the marketer's focus is on getting the links, even if that means rehashing old information.

That's a great way to turn people off. If you're tempted to go down this road, consider: what good are backlinks if your audience learns to ignore you?

#3 – Your PR Is Over-Optimized For Google

We're the first people to advocate optimizing your press releases for the search engines. That's what SEO copywriting is all about! But it is possible to push the optimization lever so far that Google starts to ignore you. That doesn't do your business any good.

Sprinkle your primary and secondary keywords throughout your news release. But don't overdo it. To use a food analogy, one (small) slice of chocolate cake is delicious. Eating the whole cake is bound to make you sick.

#4 – Reading Your Headline Makes You Drowsy

Your headline is the best chance you have to grab a prospect's attention and pull her into your press release. To do that, it needs to promise something your prospect will value.  For example, look at the following press release headline:

“Texas Small Business Accountant Launches New Website Redesign”

Yawn. How many small business owners in need of accounting advice will care about another business's site redesign? Answer: very few.

Now consider this headline:

“Texas Small Business Accountant Releases Free Report Showing 7 Tax Loopholes”

If you're a small business owner and want to find ways to lower your tax liability, wouldn't you click on that link? Most people in that position would. Your headlines should not put your prospects to sleep. Ramp up the excitement factor by promising something of value.

#5 – Your PR Doesn't Ask The Reader To Take Action

Unless you're trying to improve your brand, every marketing effort you make should be geared toward getting your audience to take action. That could mean buying your product, signing up for your newsletter, or registering for your webinar. It can also be as simple as visiting your website.

The key is to tell your audience what to do. That's your call to action, and it belongs in every press release you publish. If you want the reader to call you, don't expect her to intuit your intent. Tell her to “Call 1-800-111-2222 today for more information.” If you want to drive people to your site, tell them to “Click here to learn more about product XYZ.”

If your press releases are failing to generate excitement among editors, reporters, or your customers, take a close look at the manner in which you're writing them. They might stink. The good news is that you can make whatever changes are necessary to produce better results down the road.

Your Turn!

Have you ever looked at one of your press releases and thought to yourself, “I should rewrite that part”? If so, what did you change, and how did your modifications work out? Let us know in the comments!

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11 years ago

Boy, isn’t that the truth!

Iain Ferguson
Iain Ferguson
11 years ago

Point 4 is not just about the headline. Too many articles and press releases are focused on the company releasing the information, not on what is interesting to the reader and potential client. You’re right, I think my own website redesign is the most interesting piece of information in the world, but no one else does. What they care about is whether I can solve their problem.

Reply to  Iain Ferguson
11 years ago


Kim Garst
10 years ago

Excellent point, Richard!

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