Everybody likes a good story. Stories can take you on a journey, open your eyes to a new idea or concept, or encourage you to fix something in the world. Why, then, are most press releases so boring and phoned-in?
Part of it’s due to the process. At many companies, press releases take on high importance because investors, financial advisors and other number-loving types will be sure to read them. And we can’t forget the lawyers — they want to make sure everything is said just right so nobody gets in trouble. No wonder most press releases are as exciting as reading a tax return.
They don’t have to be, though. In fact, they shouldn’t be. Instead of focusing inward, you should focus outward. The desired result of a press release is press coverage, right? Journalists are looking for stories. Your press release should give them a story, or show them how your news relates to a story they’re already working on. A rote recitation of facts doesn’t help anybody.
Here are six ways to reinvigorate your company’s PR efforts:
1. Have Real News
It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised and saddened by how many press releases are little more than obvious or dull pronouncements that nobody cares about. It’s one thing if the head of R&D says your new toothpaste is amazing. It’s something else entirely if the American Dental Association says it’ll prevent cavities forever. It’s important to consider who has more credibility with your audience.
To help, ask yourself, “Is this really news?” before you start writing. If the answer is an honest “no,” then congratulate yourself on your keen common sense and treat yourself to something wildly unhealthy in the breakroom.
2. Start Strong
You only have one chance to make a first impression, so you need to knock it out of the park in your opening paragraph. Answer all the questions: who, what, when, where and, most importantly, why should the world care?
Superman’s Hot Sauce to Eliminate Baldness
Supersauce, a new line of hot sauces from crime-fighting superhero Superman, will line the shelves of Publix Supermarkets throughout the Northeast in May 2018. Unlike other hot sauces, all proceeds from Supersauce will go directly to Hairier Than Thou, a nonprofit organization that has developed a patented process for restoring hair.
“Nobody needs to be bald,” Superman said, speaking from his Fortress of Solitude. “Supersauce will change that.”
Sounds a lot better than this:
Superman Announces Line of Hot Sauces
On Monday, June 4, Superman announced that Publix Supermarkets will carry Supersauce, his line of hot sauce, this spring. All proceeds will go to a nonprofit organization.
Both examples cover the basics, but which one has more zing? More importantly, which has more facts and context?
3. Speak Like a Human
Just because press releases have a standard, often formal, format doesn’t mean they need to read like the warranty for a humidifier. Use a conversational tone and avoid buzzwords. If you find yourself using phrases like “best practice” or “disruptive,” then you might be addicted to the type of corporate jargon that you should avoid.
This is doubly true for whomever you’re quoting. If you want a soundbite from the CEO, talk to him and get an honest soundbite that he actually said. Robotic recitations from CEOs and other higher-ups sound canned and don’t fool anybody.
4. Stop High-Horsing Around
Nobody likes to be talked down to, and that’s especially true for journalists. It’s their job to be informed, so avoid using a condescending tone. They know the big players in your industry, the key trends and leading products. So why bother with sentences like “Company X, one of the world’s largest and most innovative tech companies?” If you really are enormous and innovative, then you shouldn’t have to announce it. It’s the marketing equivalent of walking around with sunglasses on all the time. Don’t be that guy.
5. Practice Perfect Pitch
Your pitch letter (OK, your pitch email) is just as, if not more important, than the release itself. This is your opportunity to let recipients know why you’re sending the release to them and why you think they’ll be interested or care. This is not the time or place for boilerplate text. Show context and relevancy to personalize your pitch. And make sure your recipient’s name is spelled correctly.
6. Get In and Get Out
A press release should never have a required word count. Some issues and announcements are more complex than others, so they may run longer than a single page. On the other hand, don’t pad a press release just to make it seem longer. Don’t worry — your phone will ring if the topic is newsworthy.
Follow the rules of a good presentation: Say what you’re going to say, say it, reiterate your statement by putting it in a larger context and get out. Done.