The following report is edited from a post made by Joe Vitale on the old PMA-L discussion list. It covers five of the major
mistakes that many companies make in writing news releases.
The 5 Biggest News Release Mistakes
I've been writing press releases since 1972. I've also been reviewing releases, and writing new ones, for several
people on this list. Some common problems keep reoccurring. I wrote them down and thought I'd share them here.
The following seem to be the five biggest mistakes in writing news releases.
1. Focusing on your book, and not the news.
Face it, books are not news. Not when there are 2,000 published every week. What you have to do is sniff out the
news story, create a news story, or tie your release to a current news story. A press release is not a book review.
It is also not a flyer or ad for your book. Nearly everyone writes releases from the angle of
“new book,” and that ain't news. Editors trash anything that even resembles an ad. You have to play the role of reporter and find the NEWS.
Often what I do is find the news angle and then plug the book within the story. Sometimes I quote the author, and
mention the book as evidence of the author's credibility. I rarely focus the release on a book.
2. Boring editors, rather than helping them.
Most releases written by authors are long, wordy and boring. They write the release as if they are writing a chapter
in their book. A good news release usually starts with a grabber first line. The next paragraph contains the essential
story and the key facts. Following lines reveal added detail and offer quotes. The whole thing is short, direct,
interesting and to the point. Give the news and get out. Help the editors. Make them read your words and say,
“I didn't know that!”
3. Showing friends, rather than professionals.
Getting opinions about a news release from your family and friends won't cut it. They don't know what a release
looks like, let alone what should be in one. When I complete a release for a client, I show it to my media contacts
before I give it to my client. If the press says, “I like this,” I know I'm on to something. Sometimes I show
releases to my cats, but you don't want to know how they respond. In short, get feedback for your releases from
pros, not friends.
4. Using a weak headline, rather than a grabber.
Headlines on news releases are THE most important part of the release. Most of the wire services I use list
releases by headline only. That means if your headline doesn't engage the editor, you're out the door. I often
spend more time creating a riveting headline than I do on any other portion of the news release. Again, saying
“new book published” ain't news.
5. Writing with narrative only, and not using quotes.
My rule of thumb is to have a direct quote from a real person every other paragraph. Too many people send out
news releases that are straight narrative, as if they were writing a business letter or a scholarly article. Add
color and life to your release by offering witty or informative quotes throughout the release. This is a great way
to safely plug your book, because you can write, “blah blah bah,” said (your name), author of (your book title).
I'm sure there are many other mistakes being made when it comes to writing news releases. Those are the ones
that jump out at me right now. Hope these red flags help you write better releases---so you get the media attention
your books deserve.
Joe Vitale - Direct response ads,
sales letters & news releases.
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