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You Don’t Say: How Not to Write a Press Release

Some of the most needless words and phrases in press releases are also the most common. Many are holdovers from the early days of PR, when communiques were chiseled onto stone tablets. Others are borrowed from the marketing jargon that’s emerged with the advent of the corporate website.

The elements of a bad press release are so familiar that they seem obligatory. And therein lies the problem: like a virus, they never die.

Here are six common flaws to avoid.

For immediate release. Stop the presses—a company just issued a press release! This line too-often tops releases. In most cases, the sense of urgency is a bit overblown. Unless the information in the release is embargoed, you can get off to a better start by jettisoning this bit of arcana.

We are excited. We’ve all seen the “we are excited” quote so many times that it is easy to fall into the trap of sounding just like all the other excited people quoted in press releases the world over.

While we’re all happy (or excited) for you, rather than emote, make an appeal to the intellect of your readers. Why is your news interesting, important, or beneficial to them?

Innovative solutions. Having done its duty, this corporate phrase has earned its retirement. It conjures the stock image of smiling office workers pointing at computer screens in a brightly lit office on the homepage of a website that’s overdue for an update.

If you think about it, all companies are in the business of providing solutions. Except for companies that are in the business of creating problems. And we know how well that goes. Instead, tell people what your company does and why it is good for them.

The self-aggrandizing quote. “We are thrilled about our exciting innovation, which is just the latest example of our company’s preeminent position in the solutions industry. It is no wonder we are the market leader in the thing that we do,” said Brag Toomuch, Principal of Boring + Bland.

Don’t be that guy. Use quotes as an opportunity to explain the big-picture significance of your announcement.

Continued on page three. There is no page three. The optimal length of a press release is one page. Two pages is a pardonable offense. Press releases are often written, aka vetted, by committee, and paragraphs may be added as the draft moves through the chain. Aim for one page. Accept the reality of two (with images). Save page three for the “urgent, exciting, solutions” that you’ve “proudly” avoided.

The end. Closing a press release with ### or -30- marks you as a dinosaur. Those symbols stem from the days when reporters filed copy via telegraph, and “XXX” was the universal indicator of the end of a story.