5 Ways to Screw Up a Press Release

You can’t write a great press release without first knowing what a press release is and who it’s intended for. The press release, which can be part of your overall press kit, is like an official decree from your small business that gives newspapers and other media outlets important information.

Important in this sense means newsworthy. Yes, you could write a press release about the sale you’re having Tuesday and send it to a dozen local media outlets, but the people vetting your press release will roll their eyes and secretly vow to hate you forever.

So what qualifies as newsworthy then? Here are a few possible press release topics:

  • Your company is hiring, opening a new store, or launching a new product.
  • Your company received an important accolade or award.
  • Your company is participating in or hosting a community event.
  • Your business is partnering or merging with another business.
  • Your business is publishing the results of a study or survey it conducted.

Now, just because you’ve got a topic worthy of a press release doesn’t mean it’s automatically good enough to get the job done. Here are a few things you need to avoid.

1. Using Hype Words

If your release reads like a sleazy car dealer’s spiel, it will get trashed immediately. Avoid hype words like “incredible,” “free,” “best,” and “amazing” even if they’re relevant in context. They’ll all send red flags to media staff.

2. Leaving Typos and Other Errors

Depending on media outlet size, your press release will be one of dozens or even hundreds being vetted for newsworthiness. If your press release has to be deciphered, you haven’t got a chance of getting your story in. Proof each release before you send it.

3. Directly Addressing the Audience

In sales writing and blogging, we’re taught to directly speak to our audience using words like “you” and “we.” If you do that in a press release, it’s the kiss of death. Direct address words make your press release read like an ad, and that’s a big no-no.

Instead of using the word “you”, see if you can replace them with words that describe the audience for everyone. Tax preparers, mothers, executives, IT professionals, engineers, teachers, and so on.

4. Leaving Out Important Information

Media staffers reporting on your release may follow up with your contact person to get more details, but trust me; they don’t want to have to go digging for the basics. Your release should answer all of the “W” questions, preferably in the first paragraph or two. The “W” words are who, what, where, when, why and how.

5. Poor Formatting

There are certain formatting and style conventions you should follow when writing a press release. Many organizations set up templates so they’re not constantly reinventing the wheel. Remember that press releases should be written in AP Style.

A good press release can go a long way in helping you get publicity for your small business. Take the time to do them right, and they’re sure to be worth the time you’ve invested.

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Emily Suess
Emily Suess is a full-time technical marketing writer in the software industry and a part-time freelance copywriter. To learn more about marketing your small business online, check out her copywriting blog, Say It With Me.


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  1. The best way to write a press release is to think like a journalist: Just stick to the facts, leave the marketing and hyperbole for the ad copy.

    Also, you need to get to the point in the first sentence. If you don’t say what your news is in the first sentence or three, your release will get trashed.

  2. Pingback: Writing Essential Business Copy: Tips from a Copywriter

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