Many press releases are predictable.
Although original ideas occasionally slip through the net, they generally follow the same pattern:
- Headline. Should, but often doesn’t, include the most important or newsworthy point. Many press release writers waste this opportunity.
- Optional second deck. Another chance to miss making the most important point. It can add facts to the headline or expand the scope of the story. A busy editor may not read past this deck, if you haven’t got them by now you can go home.
- Opening paragraph. A good press release encapsulates the entire story in the first paragraph. Some do. Half the time it will waste valuable first paragraph words claiming the company is a leader or even a world leader in its field. Nobody cares.
- Banal first quote. Almost inevitably the first quote is from the most important person at the company paying for the press release – possibly the person who signs off the public relations invoice. As a rule the first quote is instantly forgetable – most editors will immediately strike a line through it. It will generally be a variation on the theme of “we are so damn clever”, “we worked hard” or “we’re better than everyone else”. Nobody cares.
- Optional. Press releases often use the third paragraph to waffle about something of no interest to any sane person.
- Facts. If you’re lucky, the next few paragraphs will include facts. Don’t hold your breath.
- Quotes. Next come quotes where people are in danger of saying something worthwhile or interesting – note this is also optional.
- Partners. The press release then moves on to quotes from people who have important business relations with the company paying for the release. They can be interesting, but I wouldn’t bank on it. Most of these comments are bland and meaningless. It’s all about getting your mates into the story even if they don’t deserve a mention.
- Important stuff. If the press release is about a product, there may be price and availability details at this point. On the other hand there may not.
- Ridiculous big noting. Press releases often end with unrealistically positive paragraphs explaining how the company would like the rest of the world to see it.
Bad press releases are a public relations own goal
Gorden G Andrew has a different take on the problem. He says the PR industry has effectively committed suicide by abusing the news release system to the point where journalists no longer listen.
“News releases became an anachronism. Online news portals and email killed the underlying functionality of paper releases as a news dissemination tool. The internet delivered news faster, and this was a good thing.”
Andrew says public relations will cease to exist as a profession and as a function.
No big deal, you may think. But Andrew works in marketing and worries press releases and similar communications will come to reflect poorly on the companies paying for these services.