PR pros sometimes dial in press releases. Blame it on crushing deadlines, client demands to push announcements despite weak news hooks or even outright laziness.
The result? Fewer and fewer releases are getting picked up beyond wire feeds.
Here are the three most common reasons releases are dead on arrival—plus tips for breaking the cycle and seeing more ink the next time you send one out:
1. Bad ledes. The lack of creativity when it comes to crafting a lede is appalling, says Tripp Frohlichstein, founder of MediaMasters. Here’s a real example: “XXX today announced a new product. This product will be able to download movies at 1gb a minute.”
One way to bring such a lede to life is to pinpoint a core customer problem your product or service resolves—and start with that.
Here’s a rewrite using this approach: “One of the most frustrating parts of our digital lives is waiting for a movie to download. All that changes today. XXX’s new product will download movies at a gigabyte a minute. So instead of waiting 23 minutes to download ‘Mission Impossible,’ it will take just 90 seconds.”
2. Navel gazing. A vast number of PR writers talk about how the organization they represent is “excited to announce” (insert news item).
“Who cares if you are excited?” Frohlichstein asks. His advice is to focus instead on the “What’s In It for Me?” element.
“Tell the audience exactly what problems you solve for them—or what opportunities you offer. Then phrase the release around that, instead of around what the company thinks is important.”
3. Alphabet soup. Be cautious with acronyms and abbreviations, Frohlichstein advises. For example, a hospital’s recent release headline was, “The Benefits of a Patient Centered E.D.”
“While they were thinking ‘emergency department,’ most readers were thinking ‘erectile dysfunction,’” Frohlichstein says. Similarly, while many PR people know a PSA is a “public service announcement,” they forget older folks hear “PSA” and may think “prostate specific antigen”—while people in Colorado may associate it with the group “Pot Smokers of America.”
So, knock off the navel gazing, and save the alphabet soup for lunchtime. You’ll get far better results through clear messaging that identifies and solves consumers’ problems.
Brian Pittman is a Ragan Communications consultant and webinar manager for PR Daily’s PR University. Tripp Frohlichstein, who helped create the concept of message mapping, shares more insights in thePR University webinar, “PR Message Maps: The key to a powerful PR strategy, copy and results.”