Big Mistakes Small Business Owners Make in Writing and Distributing Press Releases

Are your press releases being ignored? Find out if you’re doing something wrong with your publicity efforts.

Getting noticed by the media via a press release is a great way to promote your small business. Not only is it free publicity, but it is also more effective in building a positive reputation for your product or company simply because people trust the news more.

However, not all press releases get published. And while some companies resolve this by hiring their own publicists or getting the services of public relations firms, the costs of doing so can be too expensive for small businesses.

If you’re thinking of writing press releases, here are some of the biggest mistakes small business owners should avoid to keep from having their publicity efforts go to waste:

1.      Writing a Sales Pitch.

If you want journalists and editors to pick up your press release, avoid writing pieces that sound too much like a sales pitch.

A press release that sounds too much like an ad is irrelevant for editors. So even if your goal for writing the press release is to increase sales for a product or to promote a business, you should still keep it newsworthy. Make sure it addresses issues that pique the interest of readers or provides solutions to problems.

Remember, not everything is news. So check if your press release has news value.

2.       Weak Opening.

Even with a newsworthy story, editors will ignore your press release if you blow it with a weak opening.

The headline, lead sentence, and subtitle (if you have one) are the most important parts of your press release. They tell your audience that the information is for them and convince them to continue reading. If you don’t catch your reader’s attention immediately, don’t expect any results. So take the time to develop a strong opening.

3.       Too Much “Fluff” and “Flash.”

When writing press releases, be concise and straight to the point.

Being concise however does not necessarily mean short and incomplete. Instead, it means telling the complete story using the fewest words possible, making each word count.

You should also avoid jargons, exaggerations, unnecessary adjectives, and embellishments. Keep it simple and informative, and use an objective tone. Stick to the facts and support your claims. Remember, you’re writing a potential news item.

4.       Using the Passive Voice.

To keep your stories lively and interesting use strong verbs in the active voice. It not only sounds better, but it is also easier to read and more convincing. So instead of saying, “A groundbreaking product was developed by Company A," write, “Company A developed a groundbreaking product.” Remember, every word counts, so choose your verbs carefully.

5.       Bad Formatting.

When it comes to writing press releases, form is just as important as substance, so always make sure your press release is presented in the correct format and contains all the important parts. In formatting paragraphs, always use block formatting, with double spaces in between them. You should also avoid using all uppercase letters and exclamation points.

6.       Spelling and Grammatical Errors.

Among the press release mistakes already mentioned, spelling and grammatical errors are the easiest to avoid. Unfortunately, they are also among the most common. So do yourself a favor and proofread your copy before sending it on to editors.

Don’t get tempted by just doing an automatic spell check on your document, though. Even if it’s as simple as pressing the F7 button on your keyboard, doing just that will not guarantee an error-free press release. Instead, print out your document and proofread it offline. If possible, ask someone else to proofread it and get a second opinion.

So you’ve written the perfect press release and it’s just a matter of sending it to editors, right? Well, not quite. Writing it is just half the battle. How and when you distribute your press release is just as important as its writing.

If you’re distributing your press release by yourself, here are a few more mistakes that you should avoid:

7.      Not Doing Your Homework.

Unless you have a comprehensive media distribution list, always do your research to find out where, to whom, and how to send your press release.

It is vital to send your press release to the right people, working for the right publication, and within the appropriate geographic area. Blindly sending them to every available publication will only lead to wasted efforts because your press release will appear as irrelevant and end up in the trash.

Also, since publications have different protocols when it comes to press release communications, find out what their editors want and comply with it. They’ll appreciate you for it.

8.       Bad Timing.

If you send a press release too close to a major news event that is unrelated to your product or company, editors will just ignore it. On the other hand, if you wait too long before sending your press release, it will just end up as old news. So always choose the best instance when your press release is most newsworthy.

Also keep in mind that editors have deadlines. Never send a press release too close to the deadline. Instead, find out the appropriate “lead time” for each publication you’re distributing the press release to.

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©Copyright, 2006, John P. Hayes, Ph.D. See my site at Hayes Worldwide.

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