The purpose of PR [public relations] firms is to make their client look good. Sometimes, however, it goes awry.
Once in a while we editors sometimes get a press release, followed moments later by a correction. Often, the change is immaterial to us editors and our readers, but very important to the issuing company.
Sometimes, the content of press releases gets screwed up. Last week I got one that had a software company's CEO announcing that the company was expanding outside of North America -- by opening an office in Canada. Last time I checked an atlas, Canada was still part of North America. And yes, the British did win the War of 1812 that prevented the USA from taking over the lands that eventually became Canada.
Here's the stranger part of that press release: A month earlier, the company announced the opening an office in Europe. Maybe they forgot about it. The PR person explained to me that the CEO had gotten his hand on the press release and...
Which brings me to another point: you can't write your own press releases. (Well, I do, but ignore that.) The worst-written press releases come from one-man companies whose primary skill is writing software. The lack of logical flow can be remarkable. Have a non-computer-literate neighbor read it over and then force you to explain what they don't understand. If you can't explain it, pull it...
At the other end of the scale, the most-incoherent press releases seem to come from the largest companies, who feel a special need to cram everything about themselves + many adjectives in the first paragraph, if not the first sentence. Here's a no-charge tip: there's a section near the end of press releases, entitled "About the Company," where all that stuff belongs.
Also, in the paragraph that follows "Pricing and Availability," please include the pricing and availability information. Stuff like "contact our sales team" is pointless for editors.
Final outrage: PR people who attach press releases as PDF files. No, no, no, no! PDF attachments simply take too long to open; I have dozens of press releases to get through, so there is no advantage to you in making it harder for me -- even if it looks prettier to you. I prefer the text of the press release to be in the body of the email; that way, it never gets lost.
Attached DOC and PDF files get erased; links to Web sites are not an alternative, because Web sites change and links become 404. And, do not send press releases on paper in the mail; those get tossed into the recycling bin without being opened.
You know you are a failure as a PR person when an editor reads your press release, and then responds, "Huh?" Learn from your mistakes; the content of a press release is not difficult to muster:
- tell us what's new or different (telling us your Web site has been updated counts as neither new nor different).
- how much?
- provide a hyperlink for more info.
Find a press release format that appeals to you, and then copy it unblushingly. I myself copied the format from press releases Autodesk used to issue numerous years ago.