Newspapers, magazines and trade publications receive them by the truckload. That means sloppy, inaccurate, pointless releases are the first to hit the newsroom wastebasket. To make sure yours isn't one of them, avoid these 7 Deadly Sins:
1. Providing insufficient or wrong information on your press releases, particularly telephone numbers. Releases must be complete, accurate and specific. (Note: A news release is the same as a press release.)
2. Writing too long. They should be no longer than a page.
3. Sending it too late. Mail or fax it to local media at least two weeks before an event, preferably three or four. Major magazines work four to six months ahead of time.
4. Sending a release with no news value. News is what happens that is different. If it isn't different, it isn't news.
5. Blatant commercialism. Avoid hackneyed words and phrases such as spectacular, incredible, the only one of its kind, breakthrough, cutting-edge, unique and state-of-the-art.
6. Omitting a contact name and phone number. At the top of the first page in the left corner, let editors know who they can call if they have questions. Include day, evening and cell phone numbers.
7. Calling after you send a release and asking questions like "Did you get my news release?" or "Do you know when it will be printed?" Don't follow up with a phone call to see if the media got your release, unless you are absolutely sure that someone will check for you. Most reporters and editors don't have time. If you do follow up, make sure you have a reason to call. Suggest a particular angle to your story, or ask the media people if they need any other information.
By Joan Stewart
Photography by SugarFreeSk