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Fixing the 23 Fatal Flaws Commonly Found in News Releases

Fixing the 23 Fatal Flaws Commonly Found in News Releases

So many news releases.  So little media coverage results.   Why is that?   

I’ve analyzed media feedback from journalists for years now keeping track of the comments and criticisms.  I’ve specifically asked editors and producers what turned them off.  I’ve collated the responses and made this list of the issues they identified. 

Here’s what what I’ve learned about what the media hate the most.  In all but the most compelling situations, any one of the issues identified below can result in a news release being tossed and ignored.  The media simply will not invest the time or energy or resources needed to turn your news into a published or a feature story.

So the next time you write a news release, use this checklist to see whether you’ve done what you need to do to avoid the trash can. 

BTW, if you want to get the rest of the story, click here for the longer version of this article

Here are the most common reasons why news releases fail:


Here are the most common reasons why news releases fail:  

1.      You wrote an advertisement. It’s not a news release at all. It sells product. It fails to offer solid news of real tangible interest, value-added information, education or entertainment. 

2.      You wrote for a minority, not for a majority of people in the audience. You simply won’t compete with other news releases that clearly are written for a larger demographic of the media audience.

3.      You are the center of attention, not the media audience. You focus on your business and your marketing, instead of things the editor and his or her audience will be interested in.

4.      You forgot to put the five W’s up front. (WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and WHY THE AUDIENCE WILL BE INTERESTED). You didn’t clearly and succinctly tell the media why the audience would be interested in this.

5.      You are too wordy and text dense. You focused on details and minutia, instead of the most important ideas, issues, factors, facts, and news angles. You fail to address the real significant impacts your story has on people. 

6.      You place too much information on one page ­ the one page news release has a font size so small an editor needs a magnifying glass to read it.

7.      You included corporate logos and other non-persuasive low value added graphics that distract the editor from your key message. You may have also used an unusual fancy font or a file format that turns to gobbledygook when it goes

 through a fax machine. 

8.      You wrote a personally biased article for the media to publish, instead of pitching the idea to the media and the objective reasons why the media audience will be interested.

9.      You wrote about features and facts, and forgot to explain what it means to real people. Tell a story about real people. Add in real life human interest.

10.  You wrote about how your news ties in to someone else’s fame and glory. Forget it. Never stand in the shadow of someone else. Make your own light. Tell your own story.

11.  Your news release responds to something that just happened. You’re too late. You’re behind the eight ball. Forget it. Get out in front of the news.

12.  You included too much hype, self-laudatory praise, pithy quotes, useless testimonials, jargon or gobbledygook. Get rid of it.

13.  You may have also identified prior media coverage, which indicates it’s no longer a new issue. Get rid of it. Let each news release stand on it’s own two feet.

14.  You tried to impress and be clever or innovative but you come off naïve, less than expert, biased, flippant, arrogant, or crazy. Tone it down. Get straight. 

15.  You made vague and unsubstantiated claims, or wild and outrageous claims, or you included a statement that simply rubs the media the wrong way. Get rid of them. 

16.  You are trying to be different, just for the sake of it, but you come off eccentric. Forget it. Don’t create a false or inflated image. Be yourself. 

17.  You wrote a rant and rave, worthy of a letter to the editor, instead of a problem solving tips article, worthy of a feature story. Decide what you want, put your best effort into it.

18.  You are simply not credible. It could be your ideas are simply not well thought out, or that you’ve offered old well-worn material, or that you are too extreme or controversial, or not qualified. You may not be expert enough, or

 sufficiently qualified, to make the statements, compared to others in your field. You need to present information that qualifies you properly and adequately.

19.  You provided poor contact information. You need to identify the best single point of contact and the correct phone number so interested media can reach you and get the best possible attention and response from you to meet their needs. One key person, one phone, no fax, one email address, and one URL (with no long string addresses).

20.  You did not include a clear media call for action. You didn’t tell the media what you want them to do with your news release. You need to tell them what you are asking for or suggesting or offering. Then you need to offer the media incentives value-added reasons to do so, like free review copies, free test samples, interview questions and answers, media kits with story angles and stats and data, relevant photographs, etc.

21.  You did not incorporate and integrate a primary response mechanism. You need to include a value-added reason, which motivates the editor to publish or mention your contact information, which will generate calls, traffic, interviews, or requests for more information. This usually means something unique and of special value to the audience, that the editor feels good about mentioning. Use an offer for a free problem solving report. 

22.  You sent the release to the wrong media. Target the media that your clients read, watch and listen to when they are in the right mood, that is, receptive to hearing about your news, and willing to take action when they get your message. Work with your publicist to target the right media.

23.  You rely on a single email news release to produce an avalanche of media calls. You conduct no follow up. Get real. Follow up properly and you can triple or quadruple your media response rate. Better still, you can ask the editors “what can I give you to support a feature story and meet your needs”.

Next time you write a news release, go through this list and identify and fix every item you see.  When you are done re-writing, you’ll have eliminated the problems that will prevent you from getting a fair consideration by your target media.   

Then send it to me and I’ll help you finalize it and get it out to the right media so you can get some real publicity.

Posted on Saturday, February 2nd, 2008 at 1:14 pm In
copywriting, news releases