The rubber meets the road in the news release, because this single sheet of paper is the key nexus for all communications with the media. Copy has to be free of factors that will reduce or eliminate media interest and response. One fatal error, and it’s all over.
Identifying the problems and revising the news releases is crucial. When clients send me draft news releases, it often takes a long, long time to identify and communicate the problems, and then more time to explain and negotiate all the word changes, and still more time to finalize the news release.
So my motivations for doing this article are really selfish. I want to spend less time on revisions, and therefore I have drawn on more than 20 years of experience in dealing with the aftermath–the actual number and quality of responses generated by a news release–to identify the most common reasons news releases fail.
1. You wrote an advertisement. It’s not a news release at all. It sells product. It fails to offer solid news, valuable information, education, or entertainment.
2. You wrote for a minority of the people in the audience. Other news releases that are clearly written for the majority of this audience will win out over yours.
3. You are the center of attention in the release. You focus on your business and your marketing, instead of on things that the editors and their audiences will be interested in.
4. You forgot to put the five W’s up front–Who, What, Where, When, and Why this audience will be interested in this material.
5. You are too wordy and your text is too dense. You focused on details and minutiae instead of on the most important ideas, issues, factors, facts, and news angles.
6. You placed so much information on one page that the editor needs a magnifying glass to read it.
7. You included corporate logos and other nonpersuasive low-value graphics that distract the editor from your key message. You may have also used an unusual fancy font or a file format that turns to gobbledygook during transmission.
8. You supplied a personally biased article instead of pitching your idea in terms of objective reasons that the media audience will be interested.
9. You wrote about features and facts and forgot to explain what they mean to real people. Tell a story with human interest.
10. You showed how your news ties in to someone else’s fame and glory. Forget it. Never stand in the shadow of someone else. Make your own light. Tell your own story.
11. Your news release responds to something that just happened. You’re too late. You’re behind the eight ball. Get out in front of the news.
12. You included too many suspect testimonials, too much hype, self-laudatory praise, jargon, or gobbledygook. Get rid of all that.
13. You identified prior media coverage that indicates yours is no longer a new issue. Get rid of that too. Let each news release stand on its own feet.
14. You tried to impress and be clever or innovative, but you came off naïve, less than expert, biased, flippant, arrogant, or crazy. Tone it down. Play it straight.
15. You made vague and unsubstantiated claims, or wild and outrageous claims, or you included a statement that will rub the media the wrong way (maybe it runs counter to an editor’s personal experience or likes and dislikes). Don’t do it.
16. You are trying to be different, but you come off eccentric. Don’t create a false or inflated image. Be yourself.
17. You wrote a rant and rave, worthy of a letter to the editor, instead of a problem-solving tips article, worthy of a feature story.
18. You are not credible. Maybe your ideas aren’t well thought out or you’ve offered well-worn material, or you’re too extreme or controversial, or you’re simply not qualified in your field. You need to present information that qualifies you properly and adequately.
19. You provided poor contact information. Identify the best single point of contact so that interested media people can reach you and get the attention and response from you that will meet their needs. Your release should list one key person, one phone, no fax, one e-mail address, and one URL (with no long string addresses).
20. You did not include a clear media call for action. Tell media people what you want them to do with your news release and offer incentives, like free review copies, free quizzes, interview questions and answers, media kits with story angles and stats and data, relevant photographs, etc.
21. You did not set up a primary response mechanism by — for example — offering a free problem-solving report to people who call or email you. When you offer something unique and of special value to the audience, that motivates the media to mention your contact information, and the mention will generate calls, traffic, interviews, or requests for more information.
22. You sent the release to the wrong media. Target the media that your prospective buyers read, watch and listen to when they are receptive to hearing about your news and willing to take action when they get your message.
23. You rely on a single fax or e-mail to produce an avalanche of media calls. You conduct no follow-up. Get real. Follow up properly and you can triple or quadruple your media response rate. Better still, you can ask, “What can I give you to support a feature story and meet your needs?”
Next time you write a news release, please review it against these criteria to see if you’ve made any of these errors. Then fix each and every one of them. If you pay no attention to these issues, proceed at your own risk.
Paul J. Krupin is the author of Trash Proof News Releases and the creator of IMEDIAFAX–The Internet to Media Fax Service, which transmits news releases to custom-targeted media lists via fax and e-mail. For more information, visit www.imediafax.com; e-mail Paul@Imediafax.com; or call 800/457-8746 or 509/545-2707.