13 reasons why your press release sucks

Earlier this week, I wrote a post titled Why Journalists Hate PR People. While I actually get along quite well with public-relations professionals, that article listed 10 ways that some of them annoy me and my fellow editors and reporters.

In order to help out the hundreds of PR reps who email us every day, I thought I’d write a follow-up post. So, here’s 13 ways your press release may be deficient—at least according to this journalist, who assigns stories to reporters and writes about news, technology, food, and other topics.

1. Your email subject line just says “Press Release”.

2. Your press release is attached as a Word or PDF document, but not pasted in the body of the email.

3. You haven’t included both a phone number and an email address for the main contacts.

4. You’ve only listed contact info for yourself, the PR agent, not the proposed interviewee.

5. You haven’t included a quote from your client for writers who don’t have the time or inclination to do an interview.

6. Your headline only makes sense to your client.

7. Your press release doesn’t fit on one or two printed pages.

8. Your press release doesn’t feature an “about” section, offering a few sentences describing your client, for writers who aren’t familiar with the organization.

9. Your press release is riddled with inaccuracies, poor grammar, and/or typos.

10. Your press release doesn’t contain links to high-resolution images of relevant people or products.

11. Your email comes with a useless, three-megabyte attachment of a company logo.

12. Your press release is for an event taking place in the next half-hour, or something that happened two weeks ago.

13. Your press release is only slightly different than the one you sent last week and the week before that.

Of course, some of these and other press-release deficiencies may be intentional. (Governments love to send out “bad news” on Fridays after 5 p.m., and companies often prefer to be vague about job losses.) In many cases, however, they’re just oversights.

That being said, I appreciate all the work that goes into press releases, and I look forward to receiving your next email.

Got any of your own gripes about press releases? Post a comment!

Comments (14) Add New Comment
terri murphy
Great info here - finally get to the point and do it so it works and serves the ENGAGEMENT factor instead of the EGO factor:-)
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DavidH
Wow. There are lots of good and productive reasons to constructively criticize, but most of these "13 reasons" are just silly.

The original post by the PR blogger was obviously an attempt to provoke reaction and stimulate traffic (that's what bloggers do for a living), but the reaction from the Straight has been - how shall I say - immature.

The PR blogger is now looking good. Mr. Hui, not so much.

As an editor once told me (gravely), "Humour is a very personal thing."
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NewsLady
Your press release cannot be cut and pasted into newsroom software.
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Martin Dunphy
DavidH:

In my colleague's defence, I will say that what might appear "silly" to someone not employed in either PR or journalism might be significant to someone who is.

And, in my opinion, the PR blogger provided more than ample evidence as to why he made the transition from journalism to the "dark side" in the first place (and as to why it was the correct choice).
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Bob Kronbauer
Loved this and the feature preceding it! As someone who runs a local blog I imagine I'm getting a similar smattering of press releases to the ones that you do. Might I suggest adding "14. After sending the same press release twice, then emailing a note to make sure that it was received, you and call to ask if we're interested in the story when clearly we're not".
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DavidH
@ Martin Dunphy - FYI, I started my working life as a news reporter, progressed to editor, abandoned the news media to move into corporate communications, and then abandoned both. I do have some sense of the subject I'm talking about.

The reality is that "good" PR/Communications people have been replaced by those who are simply hanging on to their sad, pathetic "contract" work ... you know, jobs that pay little, have no security and have no benefits.

By the same token, most reporters and editors are living on borrowed time in newsrooms owned by a-holes who could care less about real journalism, or even basic news reporting.

And that's why I'm not a big fan of these columns by Mr. Hui. Butting heads can be fun, but it's not a very useful exercise at a time when both the "PR People" and the "Reporting People" are in a survival mode.

Thus spake the One Who Knows. :)
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DavidH
@ Bob Kronbauer

If you're not interested in the story suggestion, here's a radical idea: Take 15 seconds out of your busy day and reply to the sender, "Sorry, not interested in your suggestion." Perhaps this would prevent multiple sends? Eh?

The whining on this subject is enough to give me a toothache.
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PR Student
4. You’ve only listed contact info for yourself, the PR agent, not the proposed interviewee.

As a student of PR, numerous professors have told us the reason we only list our contact information and not the proposed interviewee, is so we can measure our results.Otherwise evaluation can be difficult to track. Do you as a journalist have any suggestions?

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Stephen Hui
@PR Student:

You can measure your results by the quantity and quality of the stories that result.
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JSB
DavidH said:

"FYI, I started my working life as a news reporter, progressed to editor, abandoned the news media to move into corporate communications, and then abandoned both."

Obviously David you went on to a more fulfilling role as a full-time lurker and sniveler on blogs you hate. Hmmm...
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DavidH
@JHB: Quite correct. Thanks to the interwebs, I am now handsomely paid to lurk and snivel. Is that a problem?

But I don't hate blogs. I just think they're written by complete losers of limited intelligence who had no real emotional connection to their mothers and are desperate to prove their "value" to a society that doesn't care.

Is that wrong??

(Lurk,snivel ...)
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shelorafromvict
Received one today that mentioned that if we had any questions that the writer of the PR release (the only contact) would be away from today until the end of March and to try then!
Honey, I won't have clue who you are in a week, let alone a month. Sheesh!
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Casey
Interesting, I usually don't provide the spokesperson's contact details to ensure that the journalist, when they do make contact, is able to set up an interview time that meets their needs and their deadline. Nothing worse than a company executive not answering a phone call or email because they are caught up with other business at the time and a story opportunity is missed.
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Erin
I have to echo @Casey here - if I'm sending a release, my contact info is the only one on there. Spokespeople, usually senior executive, are not nearly as 'available' as journalists tend to want us to be. If I've got one shot at someone calling, I want to make sure the person who answers a) answers, and b) is ready, willing and able to schedule interviews and provide any supporting materials.

Also - PR people care about meeting your deadlines. That's a big one, I'd think.
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