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All Those Lousy Press Releases (Killing Us Softly)

We all deserve better (and fewer) press releases.

Cover photo by Jerry Silfwer (Instagram)

I hate lousy press releases just as much as anyone.

“The press release is dead,” you say. Well, calm down, killer.

Today and tomorrow, businesses will still have to issue official statements to the general public. Neatly packaged content marketing is often a great route, but businesses must also share not only their knowledge but their news, too.

However, I full-heartedly agree with the uncomfortable fact that there are quite a few poor public relations practices for press releases — and they drive me crazy, too.

Here are some of the worst practices for press releases:

Table of Contents

    Bad Practice 1: Spray-and-Pray

    There’s nothing wrong with creating a not-so-interesting press release and adding it to your online newsroom. Even though it might not be attractive to anyone outside the organization, these types of press releases add up to your brand’s timeline and progress, like milestone markers of sorts.

    However, if this is the type of press release you’ve created, why not just upload it to your online newsroom and be done with it? Do you have to send it to every journalist on your list even though you know beforehand that they won’t be interested in picking it up?

    Not only does promoting these types of press releases cost real time and money, but they also tend to irritate the recipients too.[note].Yes, publicly traded companies in most countries must distribute any new information via press releases to various news outlets.[/note] This spray-and-pray tactic is potentially causing more harm than anything else.

    Bad Practice 2: The Platitude Sickness

    Most press releases are infested with platitudes. And as all good writers know — platitudes are a sign of lazy writing.

    Make it your mission to find platitudes and to destroy them. Write fast, but more importantly — write well. As this becomes a ritual, you’ll develop an “allergy” to corporate platitudes — and removing them will become second nature.

    Bad Practice 3: Corporate Cringe

    Many press releases are written in bad taste. Unlike many other creative professions, corporate communications have somehow phased out the importance of having great taste as actual skill.

    These are some of the types of corporate cringe that anyone can find everywhere:

    1. Corporate communication that is exaggerated to the point of tone-deafness. “No, people aren’t that happy on account of your new piece of news.”

    2. Corporate communication makes ridiculous claims that no one believes in anyway. “No, you’re not a leading-, revolutionary-, innovative-, or game-changing company.”

    3. Corporate communication that is unintentionally dorky. “No, it’s not cool — and it never will be — cool to say that you’re cool. That’s not the way that works.”

    4. Corporate communication that uses a sleazy marketing voice. “No, you didn’t just save the planet, so please stop patting yourself on the back so furiously.”

    5. Corporate communication is telling people what they think. “No, everyone’s not loving your new products or services.”

    6. Corporate communication is simply trying way too hard. “No, screaming louder and making stronger and stronger claims won’t make me care more about what you’re saying.”

    7. Corporate communication with a bland tonality. “No, that reads as if it was written by uninspired middle-managers who somewhere along the way lost their passion.”

    Bad Practice 4: Weak Call-to-Actions

    Imagine someone seeing a link to your press release on LinkedIn — it could happen. Then imagine how that person decides to read your press releases through to the end. Such an individual are actively interested in what you have to say, which makes this person highly valuable.

    But here’s what’s driving me crazy: People who read your press releases from beginning to end are essential. So what call-to-action (CTA) are you offering to this exclusive group of individuals?

    “For more information, please contact …”

    I swear a kitten dies every time.

    Include a clear call to action at the end of your press releases. Tell your reader why they should get in touch and explain what’s in it for them if they do. (Anyone who reads your press releases all the way through deserves it.)

    Jerry Silfwer
    Jerry Silfwer
    Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.



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