By guest contributor Dan Janal
Do you make these mistakes with your press releases?
Good press releases can be worth their weight in gold. A bad press release is as valuable as Fool’s Gold. Be sure you don’t make these blunders when you write your media release.
1. Bury the lead.
People want to know what the story is about. Right now. A press release isn’t a suspense novel. Don’t save the best for last. Put the good stuff up front.
Would you read something that sounds like corporate speak or bureaucratese? Neither will a reporter. Neither will a prospect.
3. Too cute.
You might love puns but most people don’t get them. Punt the puns. See what I mean? Leave them out.
4. Incorrect keywords.
Search engines read press releases and code them on your keywords. If you don’t have the right keywords, your release will never be found on the search engines. Use a keyword tool to find out what people are searching for and put those words into your press release.
5. Too many keywords.
Search engines hate when you use too many keywords. How many is too many? As a rule of thumb, if the press release reads like the way people talk, you’d be fine. If you think people talk like this, then you need a good editor: If you need document management software, you should review our document management software because it is the best document software you can find, according to experts in the document software field.
6. Too salesy.
Press releases don’t have to have earth-shattering news but they shouldn’t be blatant sales pitches. No one likes reading those and that style won’t help you with reporters, readers or search engines. Tell your story. Hold the hype.
7. Unrealistic expectations.
The press release is one step in a marketing campaign. If you are in business for the long term, then you shouldn’t have any problem with this. Don’t expect your phone to ring off the hook. Don’t expect 100 reporters to call you on day one. Don’t expect your search engine rankings to go to page one on Google. Don’t expect your prospects to instantly fall in love with you. But if you write press releases and post them to your website and send them out over credible news wires to the media, you will eventually reach all those goals. Be patient. Be persistent.
8. Sending out only one press release.
You can’t hammer a nail with one swing. You can’t expect to nail hundreds or thousands of reporters or prospects with one press release. You have to send one out every month. At worst, send them out once a quarter.
9. Sending out too many press releases.
Unless you are Microsoft or Apple, you don’t make so much news that you need to send a release out every few days or once a week. Too many releases would start to work against you with search engines. They like to see steady, incremental increases in content. If you put too much stuff out there too fast, they get suspicious.
10. Not following style.
When you see a poem, you know it is a poem. It has a certain style and format. Same with a press release. If you don’t have the right elements in the right order, a reporter will toss out the release because she’d know you were an amateur. Make sure you have contact information followed by a headline. Then put in a dateline consisting of the city and state where you are located, the date of the release and the first paragraph. Follow with the body of the press release and close with an “about us” section where you do get brag a little bit and tell your company history. End with “30” or “###” on a separate line and center it. Why? Because it is style. If you don’t have any idea what I’m talking about, hire a good press release writer who can save you time, money and your skin.
If you avoid these 10 big mistakes of press release writing, you very well could make more sales, get more prospects and have the world beat a path to your door.
Dan Janal Bio
USA Today called Dan Janal “a true cyberspace pioneer” because he wrote one of the first three books ever written about Internet marketing, back in 1994. (I read that book!)
The Los Angeles Times called him “an internet marketing expert” because he consulted with companies like IBM, American Express and Reader’s Digest.
He’s helped thousands of speakers, authors, coaches, and consultants get publicity with his company, PR LEADS.com. (I was one of the first.) His clients have appeared in nearly every major newspaper and magazine, including The New York Times, Forbes, Fox Business and The Wall Street Journal. Now you can be one of them.
Something crazy happened this weekend. My sweetie and I got two new kittens. We had decided to wait until the spring to choose kittens from the pound, but when a woman aikidoka at my dojo told me about two strays that showed up on a friend of her’s doorstep I knew we had to see them — even though they weren’t really even kittens. She told me that they were the most loving cats she had ever seen, affectionate to each other and to strangers.
It was pouring rain when we arrived in Petaluma where she has a household that includes llamas, 7 cats, a dog and a chicken. Do you know when something just feels right and you have to take action ASAP? I had a sense that these cats were meant to be ours. I call this following your gypsy spirit and in this instance I had to follow mine.. But, this doesn’t mean that doing so will be snag free.
In this case the girl torbe (a calico and tabby combo) we named Moonbeam, was in heat and the gray tabby, Lucky , was taking full advantage. We scheduled a quick trip to the vet to stop the howling and accompanying activities that lasted all night long without a break and continued during the day as well. Overnight our carefully constructed serene lives were gone. Things have calmed down a bit, but having 10 month old kitties is a handful.
Wait, did I mention that Lucky chewed through his box on the way home from Petaluma? It was like a scene from The Shining with Jack Nicholson. See him here. First gigantic paws with long nails reached out of several holes to snag my coat. I had the box on my lap so I could make soothing sounds when I saw giant fangs chewing through the cardboard close to my head. Nothing could calm him down. A few minutes later he had his entire head poked through a huge hole.
We had to pull over get him out of the box and onto my lap to pacify him. As you can see by this photo harmony has been restored to the household. They are great examples of loving spirit in how they respond to each other and to us. I’ve already found their good natures inspiring. He’s funny, smart, dominant and overbearing. She takes him in stride. When he pushes her out of the food bowl she either goes to another bowl, or waits another second and edges her way back into her bowl. There is no tiffing. Just easy re-organization. Noted.
This same kind of gypsy spirit, or instant knowing that happened with the cats, happened too when I talked to Jason Deitch, the founder of FanPageGenerator. I had a good feeling about Jason right away. I agree with poet Robert Frost who says, “Always fall in with what you’re asked to accept. Take what is given, and make it over your way. My aim in life has always been to hold my own with whatever’s going. Not against: with.”
Going “with” was easy with Jason. He contacted me to see if I wanted to team with him on his new creation. He clearly laid out in an email what he had and angled it to directly to my need. Plus, he has a confident, calm manner that made me trust him instantly. He explained how creating automated fan pages on Facebook worked and what it could do for my business and the businesses of my ezine subscribers.
Then he generously offered to create some for me. As you know I only endorse products and people that I believe in and that have proved their worth and effectiveness. I’m really new to this fan page stuff and am eager to learn. There has been much written about monetizing social networks but few case studies that are easy to replicate for a small business.
You can visit my first fan page created by Jason’s team here, and I be delighted if you were to become a fan.
I think that FanPageGenerator is a revolutionary product that can help all of us sincerely engage with people on Facebook while growing our businesses. Notice what resonates with you and follow your instincts. We call have keen internal sensors if we choose to tune into them and pay attention to their messages.
You never know what is going to be sticky to the media — until you try it. Sometimes it’s the first thing you send out, sometimes it’s the hundredth. I know people don’t like to hear that, but this is the truth. Consistency is one key. Trying new ideas and angles and finding current trends are others. I often think that the most nutritious newsworthy things get ignored for the snack of the moment. But also one of my favorite sayings is, “Perseverance leads to truth.” It may not be your time, for whatever crazy reason. And then there is pure luck or fate. Combine that with some smarts and skill and you have a huge boon to your business.
Which happened to two people I know. One is a colleague, the other a new client.
For Randy Peyser it was the mention of her book Crappy to Happy in the movie Eat Pray Love starring Julia Roberts and (pitter patter) Javier Bardem. I saw the movie just for him. For those of you who missed this wild trend Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2006 memoir touched a nerve among women craving deep emotional and spiritual connection to themselves as well as with their husbands. The zeitgeist is still going on. It tapped into women with an empty place inside.
Imagine what a surprise it was for Peyser, who had no idea her book would be in one of the opening scenes of the blockbuster movie, now seen by millions. This stroke of luck set her in motion to find a new publisher for her book which had gone out of print. See how one simple random act can change the course of your personal or professional history?
For Halle Eavelyn, director of Spirit Quest Tours, it was the whole Eat Pray Love phenomenon. Eavelyn leads tours to exotic locales like Egypt, Europe, South Africa, and Bali. What an opportunity for her company to expand their profile into the world of luxury travel for personal and spiritual realization.
Eavelyn jumped fast in order to ride the crest of the buzz surrounding the movie as the box office topped $50 million gross. According to CBS news “Nielsen says 94,000 books were sold in the week ending in August 1, the same number as for all of 2006, when the book was first published. “So far, in 2010, the book has sold more than twice as many copies as all of 2009.” The sales, according to the Wall Street Journal, Sept. 14, 2007, totaled 1,400,000 for the paperback and 127,035 for the hardback. According to the New York Times the book spent 57 weeks at the No. 1 spot on the New York Times paperback nonfiction best-seller list and has remained on the list. Eavelyn had to move quickly because in a week or so the crest will most likely crash and the media will have moved on to the next new new thing.
She called me up to help her maximize the great publicity she’s gotten and to expand it in her short window. The day we had our consult she had just gotten another media placement with Frommers, a great placement for her as people who are looking to travel search there.
I thought you’d like to see how we revised her press release to keep her publicity opportunities going. Take a look at the before and after. I’ll be reporting in on her results soon.
Do you have a press release that worked well for you? Please link to it so others can learn from your example and give us a one line teaser to entice us to read it.
What if I told you that PR done poorly could destroy your business overnight?
That’s right, your reputation, your credibility, your brand, your livelihood could disappear with one bad article or one TV appearance gone south.
Here are “Five Worst Mistakes in Building Your Business with PR” that most people make. But you don’t have to.
1. You blast out a press release shouting about the greatness of your business, book, product, service or cause.
The media and their public aren’t interested in you, your service or your stuff. They are interested in a good story or something that gives them what they need that can help them save time, energy, or money. Even though I tell this to people all the time, they still don’t seem to get it. We all focus on what’s important to US and what WE want others to know. But the media only want to know how they can serve their audiences, not how their audiences can help you. Tell them about all the great solutions you have to their public’s biggest pain or problems and you’ve got yourself a press release that will get read and a story that will get told.
How to write a press release that gets results
Photo Credit: Brandon Heyer
2. You send a huge blast to the most media possible.
We call this “spray and pray.” Instead, before you send out your release clearly identify who is best suited to your offering and the journalists and producers most interested in your topic. To accomplish this you can either become a member of a press release service that can help you segment your media list properly, hire a publicist who understands your business and the media who would be best for you, or learn how to manage a media list yourself. Then judiciously send to the right people so they don’t ban you from their inbox or ask to be taken off your list.
Learn how to get media attention
Photo Credit: Chris Nuzzaco
3. You’re not media ready.
Most people never get media coached. They don’t think they need it. Their logic is that everyone can talk. This is the equivalent of saying that because you know how to read you also have the skills to write. Learning to speak in sound bites is a special skill very different than public speaking or casually chatting about what you do.
It’s often the missing link in an otherwise successful PR campaign. Many people slave for years creating and promoting an excellent business, service or product, but then forget the most crucial step to gaining loyalty from the people they want as clients or customers — what they are going to say on the spot to engage them.
Spokesperson media training is essential
Photo Credit: Garry Knight
Media pioneer Marshall McLuhan said, “The medium is the message.” This is still true today. And to go even deeper Gandhi said, “My life is my message.” In today’s fast paced world you and your story are often even more important than whatever you’re promoting. In 10-30 seconds at a time you need to be able to convey meaning that inspires people to buy or buy into whatever you are promoting. It does take practice to get comfortable, and there is a system to shortcut that process to becoming relaxed and conversational while being authentic and true to yourself.
4. You’re not ready to do all the work necessary to secure the media booking.
Producers and journalists expect you to respond ASAP when they ask you for materials when they’re putting together a show or a print/online story. So you need to allow time in your schedule to hurry up and get whatever is asked for in an instant. It can be weeks of work, but if you’re prepared ahead of time it can reduce the rush factor and make you stand out from all your competitors vying for the same coveted media spots. Once you understand the most common press kit components and how to create them to the media’s specifications you’ll be half-way there to becoming an excellent, reliable media source.
Get all your systems set up before you send out a press release
Photo Credit: Stephen Mackenzie
5. You don’t deliver what you promise.
While there is a lot of worthless blither getting attention in the media today — people with minimal talent and maximum ego, fighting for their 5 minutes of fame, the more nationally respected the publication or show the more professional and prepared you need to be. Producers and journalists have to paw through thousands of potential news items every day from people trying to get publicity — most of which is worthless to them. When the media determines that those they believe might be right to fill their need, the person, unaccustomed to such requests doesn’t follow through in a professional and timely manner with appropriate materials.
Most people don’t have a sense of the tremendous amount of work that goes into creating a show or an article BEHIND the scenes to make sure audiences stay tuned or keep reading in today’s competitive marketplace.
Reputation management for your business
Photo Credit: Warzau Wynn
Once you’re booked on a show or for an interview that’s often when the real work begins. You have to give the journalist or producer news that they can use in a way that is packaged properly. To be “mediagenic” means that both you and your product are understood instantly to the public without jargon. There’s a lot of preparation even beyond what I’ve covered here, that goes on behind the scenes to make your PR campaign run smoothly.
Communication skills for a media interview
Photo Credit: Werner Kunz
I’ve turned that knowledge and the most important nuggets in my book, Sell Yourself Without Selling Your Soul into an E-course. Publisher’s Weekly called my bestselling book a “Rumi-meets-Seth Godin public relations handbook.” Hundreds of my readers call it their “Publicity Bible.”
What PR strategies are working best for you?
Sending out press releases from services like Dan Janal’s excellent Guaranteed Publicity Program that gets your press release printed on more than 50 top media websites?
Or have you had better results using a Media Contact Database to get your message into the hands of top journalists at daily publications as well as trade magazines, TV/Radio and online sites?
Or, has your online press release page made it possible for journalists to find you when they are writing a story?
I’m shocked. I can’t believe the kind of responses I had to sift through to find a few good experts for the stories I’m writing for the Huffington Post and Psychology Today.
I’ve always had sympathy for the press given that they need to deal with people who are inexperienced, but the level of sloppiness, casual, “I’m your friendy wendy” attitude, and simple inability to follow directions stunned me. Here are a few pet-peeves that I share with journalists and producers who deal with this on a scale one hundred times greater than I do.
1. Don’t bug me.
Don’t email or call me asking when the article I interviewed you for will post. This is considered harassment from journalists. Especially after I promised that I would send you an email letting you know. Wait patiently for however long it takes. Trust me to keep my word. And if you got cut from the piece, let it go. In fact, even if you got cut thank the journalist and remind him that you are available to be a source on another story. If possible offer to find him sources for future stories.
2. Don’t ask me for a favor.
One person whose book I received asked me to write an amazon.com review of her book — on a tight deadline. First off, I hadn’t read it. I may use it for a reference later, but I may not. It takes a lot of time, effort and thoughtfulness to write a book review. I told her I couldn’t do it. Then she responded by asking if I read it later would I write the book review. Remember that when you provide a journalist information you’re not doing them a favor. You’re being a good expert. Never ask for anything in return. It’s not only bad manners, it could put you on their “do not call” list.
3. Don’t go off on a tangent.
When you refer people to me or a journalist or producer make sure they have read my/their query. One person sent in a story in that had lots of graphic sexual violence against women stuff in it when my query was focused on how martial arts influenced leadership and business skills. It was disturbing to read. Answer only what is asked of you. Quickly at that. And don’t send icky un-requested stuff. It’s kind of like being stalked in print.
4. Don’t send attachments or photos.
I said specifically in my query that I would ASK for photos from those people I selected. It is not being helpful to assume that you will be selected by including a photo. A number of other people sent attachments — which don’t go through anyway when you use services like HARO. Rule of thumb. Never send attachments unless asked.
On my end when the people sent attachments I got a blank email with no information. Why would I bother to take the time to contact that person and ask them to cut and paste the information from their attachment when I have dozens of other people who paid attention to what I wanted? This is an important point as many journalists will just ban you from their in-box if you make irritating mistakes. They just don’t want to bother with people who can’t follow simple directions.
5. Don’t tell me you’re great.
Some people think that they are just great. You know them. You avoid them. There’s nothing less appealing than people go get overexcited about themselves. And they are most likely in the minority in that regard. Don’t TELL me how to feel. Don’t go on and on about how I MUST interview you because you’re so passionate and wonderful, just show me your credentials. Let me come to my own conclusions about just how fabulous you are. If you are, I will. And I will be delighted to contact you as an expert source.
Have you made a big blooper, then recovered from it? Love to hear how.