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How NOT to Write a Press Release

Writing effective press releases for all occasions is not difficult, once you've mastered the basics. To achieve the results you want, and to reach the widest audience, your press release skills can be divided into two categories;

(1) how to write an eye-catching press release and
(2) how not to write a press release and avoiding common mistakes.

If you're new to press release writing, it is very helpful to examine other releases and media kits written by experts in this area of specialization. Inexpensive books such as How to Write Powerful Press Releases by Judith Welsh (published by Eastern Media Network) are wonderful primers on the art of the press release, and well worth your time and money if you plan to do a lot of this sort of writing.

Below are listed the most common errors made in writing press releases, and suggestions for improvement.

Don't write a press release on a trivial subject. Any information contained in a press release must be newsworthy, important, and interesting. Once readers determine that the subject matter isn't valuable, they will stop reading.

Don't start your press release with "lead up" material. Begin the press release with not more than 15 words of hard-hitting facts to hold readers' interest and get them to read further. Make your point, don't lead up to it.

Don't use fancy language. All writers must be well versed in writing "fluff" material to make a piece sound showy. A press release is not a piece for fluff! Use only plain, simple, but professional and intriguing terms.

Don't improvise. Just state the facts. Not your opinion, not your viewpoint, not your commentary. A press release is a purely factual document; readers aren't interested in anything else.

Don't forget your audience. A crucial part of a press release is convincing readers that it contains information meant for them. Be sure you tell your audience why they should continue to read the press release, or you will lose them by the third sentence. People don't read things that don't pertain to them.

Don't issue a press release until you have something to say. Press releases should be issued when you have a significant amount of newsworthy information to draw the readers' attention. Every time readers examine press releases, they ask themselves "Why should I care?" Give them sufficient information to care about.

Don't provide the order of information incorrectly. Many writers make the mistake of announcing who is making the news, not the substance of the news itself. In press releases, what is more important than whom. Unless the press release deals with a very well known celebrity or public personality, the substance of the information is more important than who said it or did it. Check your press releases to make sure what comes before whom.

Don't write more than you need. A press release should be so concise and well-crafted that it takes only one page; rarely should it run into a second page. Make every word count. Readers' attention span with press releases is limited; say it, then end it.

Don't use a boring title. The title of your press release is the "hook" that grabs readers' interest and keeps them reading. Titles should be short, concise, and powerful, using active verbs. Failure to capture your audience through your title will result in your press release ending up in someone's slush pile.

Don't forget essential information. When reading your press release, media representatives need to have crucial details such as the individual to contact, address, phone, fax, e-mail and web site URL address. If you make their job difficult by leaving out this essential information, media representatives will not bother to find this information on their own.

Following these simple guidelines will make your press releases a success. Now that you're armed with the basics of common mistakes, watch for our upcoming article on how to format a press release.