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Henry Stimpson’s PR and Marketing Tips
Spring 2008

Press Releases Should Be Well Written—or Don’t Bother

Every so often a client asks me to send out a press release. Do you want any editing? I ask. Sometimes the answer is no, please just send it out.

Sadly, the press release often is so badly written that there’s no point in distributing it. Yes, putting out the release via a wire service ensures it gets posted on the Web—but pity the poor reader who stumbles across it and tries to make sense of it.

To avoid a waste of time and money, have a professional writer—either an outsider or a staff person—write your releases.

Unfortunately, some PR “pros”—including some at some of America’s biggest and most prestigious PR agencies—write god-awful releases stuffed with unreadable jargon.

There are many ways to go astray in writing news releases—and only a few ways to get on the right path.

Lack of clarity is the biggest offender. Anyone should be able to read the first couple of sentence and know what the story is. But too often you’ll find a long jaw-buster about the wonderfulness of the issuing company. It’s hard to figure out what’s going on. And the lead sentence is a 60-word voyage into the obscure, with buzzwords aplenty.

Not knowing your audience is a big pitfall. What’s in it for your potential readers? Why should they care? Sure, the people in your own company may (or not) be interested in reading 900 words about the subject, but is anybody else? All releases don’t have to be short, but no release should be a word longer than necessary. If there’s 250 words’ worth of news, a 750-word release will just hide the story.

Boring writing is all too common. Ironically, straining to make releases exciting often produces the opposite result: boring buzzwords and superlatives that strain credulity.

So, how can you tell if your release is well written?

Apply the journalism test. Can you imagine the release appearing as a news story in a newspaper or a trade magazine? Does it read like a story you’d see in print or online?

Don’t call it a press release. Call it a news release, with the emphasis on news. That may help with the first point.

Step back from it. Pretend you’re a reader who’s never heard of your organization. Would you be interested? Could you make sense of the story at a glance?

Thanks to the blessing and curse of email, it’s very easy to distribute news releases. There are more and more of them.

If you want yours to have a fighting chance of getting noticed, make sure it’s well written: lean, mean, well honed and ready to do battle.

copyright Stimpson Communications


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