Bad Press Release 101: How to Kill Your News pt 3

I see a lot of bad press releases that seem to have been designed to make sure people searching for related news won’t see it. Some common mistakes are easily avoided before the release is ever sent out.

It is true that publishing a press release on a wire service is important, and pitching news with a creative angle to relevant media outlets and influencers is likely the main goal in writing a release in the first place. People often ask what else they can do with their release to get the maximum ongoing benefit from it, and often, they just haven’t imagined ways to go about it.

One way to extend the useful life of a news release, garnering ongoing exposure beyond the initial media relations and outreach, is to keep in mind a primary keyword as the press release is written. This keyword should appear in the headline, lead, and at least once more in the body of the release. Avoid jargon – the keyword should be something people looking for this type of information are likely to search on. For example, “paradigm shift” is not something any human being actually searches for unless they’re writing an article. Not that anyone uses “paradigm” much these days, but it’s a good example of something to avoid using as the keyword. I won’t say there’s no room for important industry jargon in the release, but unless it is a search term people actually use it will limit the press release’s useful lifespan.

Writing compelling headlines is a topic that entire books are written on, but here’s a short way to ratchet up the effectiveness of your otherwise well-written headline – make it short, and front-load it. The headline should be short enough to fit in a tweet, along with link and hashtags. Make it work for Twitter. To front-load it, clearly state the news in the first half of the headline, and double-check that the chosen keyword is in that first half.

Anchor text in press releases is an under-utilized feature available on wire services. While most releases might include a link to the company website in the boilerplate, include one more: link the keyword in the lead to a highly relevant page of your website. Don’t go overboard, though, as the one link is enough for our purposes, but the temptation is to over-do it. If you do use more than one link in the press release – for example, to also link to a multimedia presentation – they need to go to different web pages.

Avoid hyperbole. Spam filters may well trigger on words like “amazing” or “biggest”. Find less common synonyms if you must use such terms, and try to use them only in the quote. (You do have a quote, don’t you?) Also, kill off the adverbs unless absolutely necessary to make the meaning clear, to both tighten up the writing and make the news easier to read. These are usually words that end in -ly. One doesn’t “run quickly,” one “sprints”.

My last bit of advice here is going to be this: “Use SEO techniques sparingly”. Yes, it is important to make content accessible to search engines that might index it, but it is just as important to make the press release readable. Over-optimizing can have the effect of making news sound wooden and unappealing, or worse, comical. Instead, aim to keep the language concise and informative, focus on one subject only, and use the keyword effectively in the headline, lead and body of the release.

Following these tips will help to make sure that yours is not a bad press release that kills your news.


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