Before You Ping that Press Release, Check the ‘B.S. Generator’

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Ben Lincoln

Sure, press releases often suffer from flowery writing and an overabundance of industry jargon. With practice, PR pros can overcome such obstacles. But there’s no excuse for failing to insert hyperlinks in your press releases, according to Ben Lincoln, writing director at GolinHarris, who adds that press releases should be treated like a “mini website.” Lincoln will participate in the “How to Write News- & Share-Worthy Press Releases” session at PR News' Writing Boot Camp in Chicago, on November 21. Here's a tease on some of the topics he will tackle during the work session.

PR News: What are the primary mistakes that PR practitioners continue to make in crafting press releases, and how do they remedy them?

Ben Lincoln: Each day, the five leading wire services distribute approximately 3,000 news releases. Most of them go ignored. The reasons are many, but the two biggies are (a) editorial and (b) technical. The editorial errors are nothing new: boring content, needless jargon, advertising-speak and lack of “news,” among others. But the technical errors are most troubling to me.

Today’s news release—like today’s PR pro—lives in the digital age. A release is a mini website. Yet 70% of releases hit the wire without a single hyperlink. Forgetting the links is a surefire way to limit your release’s visibility online. So, despite its evolution, the news release isn’t living up to its potential. As PR practitioners, that’s our fault.

PR News:  What's the key to writing press releases that are in a conversational style and devoid of industry jargon?

Lincoln: Here’s a handy trick: Once you finish drafting your release, go to Google and type in “B.S. Generator.” With the click of a button, any number of sites will let you generate hilarious strings of corporate jargon. Does your release copy resemble this nonsense? If so, simply write in plain talk. Remember, even media in complex industries like finance, healthcare and technology strive to make their stories as digestible and compelling as possible. Why shouldn’t we?

PR News: How do PR pros integrate social media tools into their press releases?

Lincoln: A well-written release lives in harmony with social media. Meaning, most wire services offer embedded “sharing” tools that allow any reader to directly post your release to their Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn pages. Tip: Be sure your headline fits well within Twitter’s 140-character limit. Also, there’s nothing wrong with promoting your organization’s social channels within the body of a release. Simply link to them in your boilerplate, or near the bottom of the release.

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About Matthew Schwartz

Group Editor, PR News: Matthew Schwartz is group editor of PR News, the leading source of trends, how-to content and best practices for PR professionals. Matthew leads the editorial strategy for PR News’ premium content products—including its weekly newsletter—and for its digital presence. Matthew was editor of PR News from 2003-2005. Prior to returning to PR News, Matthew was a reporter for Crain’s BtoB and Media Business magazines, where he covered business marketers and media companies. He was also editor of BMA Buzz, a biweekly email newsletter covering B2B marketing, advertising and social media, and contributing writer to Advertising Age Custom. Matthew has helped to launch blogs on behalf of ZoomInfo and direct marketing agency The Kern Organization. He also spent a few years in cable-news precincts, working as a writer/producer at CNN and Fox News Channel.

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