As a journalist, I come across a lot of press releases to process on a daily basis and I noticed quite a lot of these releases are, well, too full of fluff. I have recently written press releases for a buyer as a freelance writer and with years of experience of choosing press releases to use, I could safely say I know roughly what most newspapers want in a press release.
However, instead of listing down what should be included in a press release, I will list down all the no-nos which I feel makes the press release less attractive to a newspaper editor / journalist.
1. Start with a sensationalized headline with no substantial backing to it - this will only serve to alienate the editor/ journalist looking through it as he/she will definitely feel cheated and annoyed that they have wasted valuable time reading through a release which does not live up to its claims as per the headline.
2. Use too much purple prose and flowery language - if you read the daily newspapers, the news are all about facts in good simple English. Nothing too complicated and definitely no flowery words fit for a poet. So, stick to the format and use good simple English, the journalist/editor will thank you for not complicating the whole press release with unwanted flowery words.
3. Write as if you are writing a marketing piece - a press release may be used to market your product / business but please, do not write the press release as if you are selling your product / business to the newspaper. It will certainly put off the journalist / editor and the press release will end up in the bin. Do it subtly by merging it into the whole storyline.
4. Assume that the newspaper know about the industry you are writing about - it is always wise to add your company background at the end of the press release and pepper the whole press release with facts about the industry you are writing about. This will save the journalist / editor time from having to do thorough research on the industry before using the press release. It is true that they will still check out the facts you presented but at least your efforts in putting in the facts will put you in a better light with them.
5. write a thesis - a press release is suppose to present facts and news of an event / product / business and not a whole book about it. So, keep it to the point and as brief as possible but make sure all the facts are there such as the who, what, where, why, when and how.
6. make any grammatical / spelling errors - though newspapers do not expect press releases written in perfect English, it is always good to ensure your press release is clean and clear of mistakes. It will only endear the journalist / editor to you.
7. write a press release on a non-newsy event - many people make the mistake of sending a press release just for the sake of sending one so they make up topics to write just to promote their business/ product. Many journalists/ editors can see right through them and these often end up in the bin too. So, make sure when you do send a press release, it is about an event that may interest others, or a new product that may interest the readers or even a discovery that may interest people. Do remember, the newspapers or magazines have readers and their articles target their readers. So ask yourself objectively, as a reader, if you are interested to know about this event / product you are writing about in your press release.
These are but the main few no-nos. There are actually more but I guess these few should suffice. Writing a press release is not that difficult. You just need to be more targeted and careful.