They are an essential source of information. And are critical for an open communication environment in the media. We are talking of the humble press releases that might ever so often (and ever so unfairly) get deleted after barely a glance but nevertheless are perhaps the best medium a brand has to make any news regarding itself officially known to the public. But as with all good instruments, the press release too is susceptible to misuse. A well-written press release can inspire a dozen stories, while a poorly drafted one can ensure a lifetime in the trash or spam bin for the brand.
Now, we do not claim to be experts in writing and sending press releases (although I did start my career in public relations and handled Motorola for a while) but as we are at the receiving end of more than a dozen press releases a day in the tech media, we definitely have an idea of what does NOT work when it comes to press releases from tech brands.
So the next time you are sitting down and sending out a tech press release, be careful to avoid the following. The release might well avoid the trash or spam bins if you do.
1. Overdosing on adjectives
Yes, we know that there is a temptation to praise one’s own product. But there is a fine line between highlighting what makes something special and sounding as if it is the cure to all disease and the saviour of the solar system. So be careful with those adjectives: everything cannot be the “first of its kind,” “unparalleled” or “unmatched,” and other sundry words of praise. Oh and “cutting edge” got blunted a long time ago, thanks to it being slapped on everything from portable chargers to smartphones to (yes) plastic file folders.
2. Trying to write an ad, not a release
An advertisement is an adevertisement, and a press release a press release, and never should the twain meet, in our humble opinion. For, each document is addressed to a very different audience for different purposes. So while writing a press release, do take it easy when it comes to attempting to sell a story. The primary objective of a press release is to provide information that you think will make sense to the readers of a publication, not to sell a product. Press releases written with breathless excitement generally do not work.
3. Sending out too many releases
Classically, the rule is to have a release about the product itself – its launch, a price drop, the addition of a new feature, the announcement of a new partnership – and perhaps one more about the reaction to the event or issue covered in the first release. Anything more than that and you are on tricky ground, for no publication wants to be seen as carrying news from just a single tech brand. It affects their reputation for objectivity. Think of it as a person too – are you likely to pay attention to someone who keeps talking of only one thing? Publications are no different.
4. Hiding facts
A press release is supposed to a brand’s official statement on a matter. The less ambivalent and the more open it is, the better. Sadly today the first thing many media persons tend to do on receiving a press release is to spot “what has not been mentioned.” It could be a tech spec (a company once sent a release about a new phone without mentioning its display resolution because it was not full HD and another tried very hard to disguise the brand behind a processor, by referring to it as a “quad core processor” without a name!). Every fact hidden/glossed over hits the credibility of the release and brings it a step nearer to the “delete without reading” status.
5. Assuming the reader is a fool
We wish we had a penny for everytime we have stared at a press release and wondered if the brand which had sent it to us had assumed that we either lacked literacy or common sense or both. There is a tendency to make claims in press releases without realising that the reader might spot how hollow they are. Once again, every time something like this happens, the brand and the release sent by it suffer in terms of credibility, and increase their compatibility with the trash bin! So the next time you compare your device with the Galaxy S7 or the iPhone, do make sure you have the facts to back up your claims. Words are never enough in these cases.
6. Quoting another media source
So someone gave your product/service/app a great review. Excellent. Great material for a post on a blog or social networks, but really not the stuff of which press releases are made. Most publications are rivals of each other and telling a person that their rival said something good about you is not going to get you any brownie points really. Quote neutral institutions by all means, but not ones that are seen as competition to the very people to whom you are sending out the release. Do you actually expect us to believe you because you are quoting one of our rivals? Not clever.
7. Forgetting the audience of the release
It is surprising how often people forget the true audience of a press release. While there is no doubt that the primary audience of a release is the media person to whom it is sent, the larger purpose of a release is to get information to one’s audience or the general public through a non-paid and credible medium. The main audience of a press release is therefore the readers of the publication to which it is sent. If a release delivers information that a publication’s audience will be interested in, it is a fair chance that it will be carried. We still do not know why we get releases pertaining to lingerie and tractors…