On any given day of the week, you can be sure that at least one sports star, movie star or singing sensation is having their dirty laundry aired on the cover of a magazine or in a tabloid newspaper. Usually though, there is a well-oiled publicity machine ready to grind into action and rebuild that person’s particular brand.
If you’ve been tasked with carrying out your own online PR, you’ll know the value of building a reputation online through the use of news and press releases. Even if your company has been fortunate enough not to have to deal with bad press, regularly issuing favorable press releases and news items is quickly becoming a cornerstone of online marketing activity. However, it’s entirely possible that the press releases themselves are giving you a bad reputation with common mistakes or press irritants slipping through the net. Before writing your next PR, ask yourself if you’re committing either of these crimes against press releases …
1. Is Your Press Release Too Pitchy?
Perhaps the most common problem with online press releases put out by businesses looking to up their internet profile is that they become overrun with sales talk. Often, what should be a news announcement gets swallowed up by an unnecessary sales pitch. Of course you do need to communicate what you do and how you do it to your reader, but there is a place at the end of the release for that in the ‘About Us’ section.
A press release is first and foremost a formal communication, issued because you have something of interest or importance to tell the media and the public at large. Using that space as an arena for selling a product or service does the medium an injustice and can have exactly the opposite effect to the one you intended by actually turning off readers and dissuading press from covering the topic.
Finding the right balance between giving enough company information and avoiding coming on too strong can take some practice, but can be achieved by following a few rules of thumb –
a) The first paragraph should be purely factual and convey the who, what, where, when, why. You don’t want to sell your product, you want to convince the reader that the piece is interesting enough for them to continue reading so pique their curiosity with an overview of the story, much the same way you would if you were writing a book jacket or film review.
b) Follow up the first paragraph with a quote from someone senior at the firm, giving more detail about the significance of the news.
c) Give additional supporting information and background detail in the following paragraphs
d) Finish with an About Us section
2. Do You Have Too Many Keywords?
Writing an online press release well calls for multi-tasking. You must be a writer and convey an interesting story, but at the same time, you have to play the role of search engine optimizer and ensure the PR contains the SEO elements necessary to increase your website’s online profile.
A press release filled with keywords can be quickly identified as nothing more than an SEO vehicle and will make little impact online. Using too many keywords can also make the PR difficult to read and hard to make sense of. This type of PR is better off not being written, since a piece created purely for keyword reasons can be easily identified as such by the search engine spiders.
If you can look back over the last few PRs you created and pick out too many keywords, it can be worth going the other way entirely and creating a PR with no keywords in mind. Avoid using them throughout the drafting process and only when you have created a piece that reads well and is interesting, return and fit in a handful of core phrases. You’ll find that it is easier to overdo keywords than do them well so changing your entire workflow on its head can help to place you in a different mindset.