The Number One Mistake Pros Make on Press Releases

When I was a producer at some major television programs, I would be deluged by press releases.  Unfortunately most of these press releases got thrown in the trash.  Yes, that was the day of hard copies being sent through snail mail or fax, but now, it’s even more difficult to cut through the media clutter.

Getting newsroom attention is not easy.  It’s harder and harder to get producers on the phone to give them your pitch even if you’ve developed those media relationships.  Now, everyone wants you to submit your pitch (aka press release and/or media alert) through email.  That is if they don’t just cut you off completely and put your emails into their spam filters.

There are also many outlets for press release distribution online but in most cases, they’re a waste of time.  Not because the services don’t do the job of distribution and getting your press release into the search engines, but because the press release is the problem.  So what’s the number one mistake even seasoned P.R. pros make on writing press releases?  The press release has a boring headline/slug line with no angle.

The headline is the most important piece of the press release and it needs to be strong enough to grab thejournalist’s attention so that he or she will actually read the rest of the story.

Think about it, what do news room assignment desks, producers and media decision makers see first?  The slug line or headline to your news release or media alert.  You’ve spent hours crafting every word of your press release and getting it approved by your client, but it’s never read because you’ve lost the decision makers before they read word one.   Here’s what I’m talking about. 

I’ve put together some good “bad” examples of headlines that I found at an online press release website:

SFR Company Gets New Home in Utah.

Sally Jane, Author of Crime Thrillers, Promotes Her New Book

R2D2 Company Concentrates on FANUC Echo Robot Sales

(NOTE: The names have been changed to protect the innocent)

Here are some good examples of headlines I found at that same online press release website:

Tiny Spacecraft Could Help NASA Find Unmapped Planets

Avoiding the Con in Construction

4AllPromos Saves Lives with Summertime Promotion Products*

(*although this could be better)

Your slug line should sound like a tease for a news cast.  The difference between the two sets of examples?  The good slug lines can almost be turned into a tease for a newscast and say, “details at 11,” whereas the bad slug lines say, “who cares?”  For example, “Tiny spacecrafts could find new planets?  Details at 11,” or “Tune into tomorrow at 6 and we’ll show you how to avoid the “con” in construction.”  Here’s how you might spin a better slug line from one of the bad headlines with something like, “She’s solved two crimes without leaving her office.  How’d she do it?  (Tune tomorrow and find out).”

Now there are definitely news releases that have certain restrictions where the SEC is concerned on financial reporting, but if you’re promoting a product, person, or brand, then start thinking how producers and news editors think.

With that said, do not resort to cheap tactics to make your story seem more interesting than it really is or use a marketing-hypefilled headline that reads like an advertisement instead of a news story.  Always practice good journalism ethics and craft a headline that reflect what the story is truly about.

Finally, if you do half their work for them (i.e. create their tease line or headline so they see how they’ll grab viewers or readers with your story), then you’re on your way to becoming a rock star in P.R.

Peace and coconuts,

Marianne Schwab, Executive Producer, CMP Media Cafe

Copyright (c) 2011. CMP Media Cafe. All Rights Reserved.

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