One tip for writing better press releases

November 3, 2014
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This post was written by Oliver Pitcher, Editor-In-Chief

Why is it, with thousands of press releases being issued every day, that all product press releases all seem to sound the same?

I realize there is a certain expected formula to be followed — headline, dateline, lead (or is it lede?), quote, boilerplate, contact info, and those little octothorpes at the end — but that is no reason to be pushing out releases that might have been written by a buzzword generator.

The problem is rampant. A quick search through BusinessWire shows dozens of press releases filled with sentences like this:

[Product name] extends the value of [popular CRM application] by integrating high-velocity selling features that drive rapid lead response, more productive daily sales rep activity, faster ramp-time for new reps, and consistent selling practices that help to make revenue more predictable.

“What’s wrong with that sentence?” you might ask. And you are right — it is a perfectly adequate description of what I assume is a perfectly adequate sales tool. But it’s just adequate.

One of my favorite tools for judging writing quality is to take a statement and make it into a negative. If a product is “fast,” then change the statement to make it “slow.” If you cannot imagine anyone ever saying that their product is slow, then the original statement is not really saying anything meaningful.

If we transform our original sentence, we get:

[Product name] shortens the value of [popular CRM application] by integrating low-velocity selling features that drive slow lead response, unproductive daily sales rep activity, slower ramp-time for new reps, and inconsistent selling practices that help to make revenue more unpredictable.

This exposes the original sentence as what I call a “motherhood and apple pie” statement. After all, who wouldn’t be in favor of mothers, or apple pies, or more productive sales reps?

What are the things that really make your product special, that no one else can say? What makes what you are doing “news?” Note that the mere fact that it is an important product for you does not make it news. It’s not about you; it’s about what’s important to the readers and viewers. One of the best hooks for a press release is to talk about a problem that everyone has and everyone wants fixed. That will make your press release stand out. Because it’s not about you.

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