why your press release stinks

Why Your Press Release Stinks

I’ve been on both sides of the coin: the director of communications for a company seeking positive press and the account executive hired by a company seeking positive press. I’ve worked with CEOs, CMOs, vice presidents of marketing, business development and compliance, general counsels, etc… and at the end of the day they all want the same thing: the press to write or say something good and accurate about the company. When that doesn’t happen, they have expected me to explain (and rectify) the situation.

There’s no easy way to explain to a confused business leader why their news isn’t, well, making news. As public relations professionals, we usually know or at least have an idea why the story isn’t gaining any traction but from time to time we may be just as befuddled as our clients and superiors. So I’ve tried to compile a list of reasons that alone or bundled together can be the root cause of why you aren’t getting any press.

This is why your press release stinks.

  1. It’s not news. The whole idea of news is that it is new information. If you’re sharing information about an event that happened a week ago that has no tie-in to today’s date, chances are your message (email or voicemail) will go unanswered. If your client or boss asks you to do this, be sure you push back. This is a waste of everyone’s time.
  2. Wrong audience. If you’re a business that operates in a business-to-business model like a CRM company, most of your news is for the B2B community. This means consumer-focused media outlets (with the exception of the business page in a daily newspaper) aren’t likely to run your story. Think of it this way, what do your customers read, watch or listen to? That’s where you want to be.
  3. It’s too complicated. If your announcement is nothing but a bunch of technical or legal jargon, only technical and legal writers will understand it. Be sure press releases are written for the intended audience in a manner they can easily digest. The KISS method (Keep It Simple, Stupid) is key in a press release.
  4. Bad timing. Unfortunately, we often have no control over this one. There were plenty of companies who issued press releases the day Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was sworn in, but you never saw it because it was under a pile of articles regarding the new speaker and changes in Washington since that was the big story of the day. Mondays tend to be busy days for reporters (just like they are for you and me). Distribute releases on Tuesdays or Wednesdays to increase your odds of getting the attention of targeted reporters, bloggers and columnists.

An integral piece of the services Field Public Relations offers our clients is PR consulting and strategy. It’s our goal to make sure a press release never stinks and our clients are able to maximize their news for longer than 24 hours. We pride ourselves in honest feedback (like, “We can’t understand this announcement. The press won’t either.”) and content development that fits the targeted audience(s) of our clients.

What are some other reasons why a press release stinks? How have you broken the news to a supervisor or client that an announcement won’t be successful or why it isn’t gaining any traction? We’d love to hear your war stories!