The Art of the Press Release

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Consider this: “ACE Healthcare Communications, the world’s leading provider of strategic convergent communication applications to leverage leading-edge technologies, announced today the worldwide release of its revolutionary solution, ACE WidGetiZer, which is uniquely guaranteed to grow organizations by slashing costs and boosting efficiency and revenues without increasing employee headcount.”

This is a fictitious compilation of the type of press releases that I sometimes receive. Only a small percentage of these make it into AnswerStat. Although the practical restriction of limited space in a printed medium is one tangible reason, the reality is that most submissions were doomed from the start, much like the above verbose exercise in hyperbole. When seeking publicity, understanding how the system works is the first step towards a successful promotion, be it in AnswerStat or someplace else. Here is a press release primer:

Third Person is Preferred: Always write press releases as an impartial third party. First-person is never acceptable as it comes across as self-serving, bragging, or introspective. Writing objectively in the third person gives your press release increased integrity and is more credible.

Avoid Hyperbole: The more spectacular the language in a press release (as in the above example), the less believable it becomes. Avoid overused words such as “leveraged,” “solutions,” “unique,” “revolutionary,” “leading-edge,” and “premier.” Exaggerated copy and unsubstantiated claims only serve to push away a cautious reader – and editor – not draw them in. Clever text and intriguing wording has its place, but when the verbiage surpasses the message, something is wrong.

Don’t Get Cute: Avoid using italics, caps, bold, and underline. Just use straight text, without embellishments. Also, non-standard uses of upper and lower case merely serve to confuse and irritate everyone.

Get a Second Opinion: Find someone outside your organization and ask him or her to tell you what your press release means. If they can’t, then you need to rewrite it. I receive press releases every week that I simply don’t understand – and I delete them.

Proofread Carefully: I’m shocked at receiving press releases that contain basic errors or have not been spell-checked. This is a quick way to lose credibility and frustrate an editor. Make their work easier by double-checking yours. Since it is hard to successfully proof your own work, tap others to help you out.

Follow the Directions: The quickest path to failure is to assume that the rules don’t apply to you. Editors more readily use submissions that follow their guidelines. They don’t make rules to be difficult but to help things go smoother for everyone. If they request your press releases via an email attachment (my preferred method), then do it. Other publications delete all emails with attachments and require that the announcement be in the body of the email. Also, know that when an editor is nearing a deadline, submissions in the wrong format or requiring significant reworking will generally be ignored.

Don’t Miss Deadlines: Without deadlines, a publication would never make it to the printer. Steadfastly follow submission deadlines – and never ask for an extension. If you desire your hot news item to be in a specific issue, get it in ahead of time.

Expect to be Edited: Even the most accomplished writers have their work edited. This can be for many reasons, including length, style, or content suitability. Also, beware that it is not feasible to review and approve edits.

There is no guaranteed method to get your news item published, but implementing these ideas will certainly increase the likelihood. I hope to see your press release in my inbox in the future – and to be able to publish it in AnswerStat magazine or Medical Call Center News.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

[From the December 2011/January 2012 issue of AnswerStat magazine]