In the old days, when we used typewriters to write press releases, and then snail-mailed the releases to the media, the worst that could happen would be that the media didn’t use our releases.
Now that many journalists blog, the occupational hazards of bad press releases distributed online are multiplied. Send a crappy release and the journalist could nominate it for “Bad Press Release of the Year” at his blog.
When one of your customers or potential clients Googles your company, the nomination pops up in the search results. Ouch.
This week, Don Mecoy, a business writer for The Oklahoman, a daily newspaper, nominated a press release from Isilon Systems for “Bad Press Release of the Year.” It was about a manager from Isilon who would be speaking at an industry conference. Mecoy targeted the boilerplate as particulalry agregious:
“Isilon Systems (NASDAQ:ISLN) is the proven leader in scale-out NAS. Isilon’s clustered storage and data management solutions drive unique business value for customers by maximizing the performance of their mission-critical applications, workflows, and processes. Isilon enables enterprises and research organizations worldwide to manage large and rapidly growing amounts of file-based data in a highly scalable, easy-to-manage, and cost-effective way. Information about Isilon can be found at http://www.isilon.com/.”
I commented at the blog and said that writing a press release about someone from your company who’s speaking at an industry conference is fine. The press release can live online forever, position your employee as an expert in his field, and generate a few lines of type in the back of a business journal.
I also offered several suggestions on how to write effective press releases:
- Use short words people can understand instead of long words. Several long words strung together like “significant transactional performance” and “accelerating adoption of virtualization and ascendance”—phrases used in the Isilon release—make the problem worse.
- Avoid using quotes that don’t sound like actual quotes. The long quote in the second paragraph of the release is incomprehensible:
“With the accelerating adoption of virtualization and ascendance of cloud computing, it’s critical that organizations deploy the best storage architecture for these environments to ensure long-term IT efficiency,” said Nick Kirsch. “While the data fragmentation and management complexity challenges of traditional SAN and NAS severely limit the potential of server virtualization and cloud computing, Isilon scale-out NAS unlocks the storage bottleneck and enables organizations to maximize their investment.”
- Avoid buzzwords like “scalable,” “mission-critical” and “proven leader.” Play it straight and simply explain how you help other companies solve their problems.
- Make sure your press releases include keywords that people would type into the search engines if they’re looking for the kind of information your releases provide. Don’t assume that the headline, for example, must include your company’s name. Often, a much better strategy is to use keywords in the headline.
If you struggle with press releases, take the free tutorial I’ve created on 89 Ways to Write Powerful Press Releases. It will help you steer clear of those nasty “Bad Press Release of the Year” nominations. (Shutterstock photo)