Companies that are new to PR (and some that aren’t so new) often find it difficult to write a lean, straightforward press release. They fall victim to BRS—Bloated Release Syndrome.
They may start out with a clear bit of news to report but, before they know it, they’ve jammed the release with too many ideas that compete for the reader’s attention … or they’ve littered it with outright sales pitches … or they’ve whipped up phony-baloney quotes that add no value to the release. Sometimes this is a result of too many cooks, i.e., five people are involved in approving the release and every one of them has her/his own agenda to push. Other times, actual news is being watered down by marketing and sales messages—a temptation many companies find impossible to resist.
Whatever the cause, the next time you’re struggling with a press release that’s spinning out of control, here are three tips to help you clear away the clutter:
- Avoid the perils of puffery. A press release is intended to share news with journalists and other key audiences. Cut out anything that isn’t news or directly related to the news you’re sharing. Journalists are busy people who want you to give them information in succinct, lucid terms and in the shortest form possible. Send them a couple of overblown press releases and they’ll ignore everything you issue after that.
- Backspace over those rote quotes. You know the ones. “We’re excited to …” and “This is a true win-win for …” and “No other company in the world …” The quotes in your press releases should actually contain information that helps tell your story—just like the headline or the opening paragraph. Steer clear of inanities. Quotes are an opportunity to “humanize” your company and the news stories you’re telling, and they give readers a sense of the people behind your brand.
- Load up on those bullets. Bullet points hit their targets. That’s because today’s readers (from journalists and analysts to buyers and investors) like to skim. Blame it on shorter attention spans, sheer laziness or the breakdown of modern society. Any way you slice it, bullet points stand out and draw readers in. Even when you don’t seem to have an actual “list” of items to share you can often create a list by breaking the information in the release’s second or third paragraph, for example, into bullets. You might have to do a bit of editing or adjust the wording slightly but it’s worth the effort, as it will make your release more scannable.
Here’s a bonus tip for those who are in the habit of sending their well-constructed releases to journalists more than once: don’t. That’s a definite no-no, even if you never receive a response. You’re far better off sending your releases once and then following up with emails or calls, depending upon the reporter’s preference, which you can discover with a little persistence and a search engine.
About the Author: Michael Civiello is a communications strategist and senior writer at fisher VISTA. He collaborates with clients every day to develop messaging, content and PR campaigns that build brand awareness and marketplace credibility.