How to be a complete & utter failure at online PR

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Follow our top 11 tips & we GUARANTEE you’ll soon be making the same mistakes as everyone else!

Now I know what you’re probably thinking –

Hang on, isn’t the point of all these articles to provide helpful information?

Well frankly the interweb is full of advice from experts, and as a poor copywriter living in a suburban broom-cupboard I’m just not sure it’s sensible to go around giving away professional secrets. I mean, if anyone and everyone had the skills to write a decent online press release where would the world be? It’s the slippery slope to socialism.

So this article is written for anyone who believes online press releases can be as rubbish as you like and there’s no need to worry about quality content. Just for you, I’ve brought together some of the finest clangers you can possibly make…

1. There’s nothing quite like old news

You really shouldn’t bother making your press release timely or talking about anything newsworthy. Who cares if the event happened last month, or even last year?

2. Don’t worry about the format

For some reason most online PR websites absolutely insist you format the press release their way. Typically they want an introductory paragraph broadly followed by a four paragraph structure:

Paragraph 1: Who, what, where and when – all key information goes in here

Paragraph 2: Additional detail to flesh out the story in the first paragraph – typically this paragraph is about how and/or why

Paragraph 3: Usually interesting quotes from you or someone relevant to the story

Paragraph 4: Extra information and facts

Finally, they’ll ask you for contact details and maybe a brief company biography. Good news though, if you ignore the guidelines you’ll be on course to get your press release rejected.

3. Don’t waste time on words

Press releases are meant to be brief, but it’s possible to be too brief. So make sure you don’t include enough words to get people interested. If someone’s taking the trouble to click on your press release then make sure you have nothing to say. Always avoid giving your story any substance and don’t back it up with any facts or good quotes from REAL people.

4. Make sure it has a really lousy title

Unlike offline press releases sent out to the media, with online press releases there’s no sub-editor who’ll create a winning headline for you. You have to do this yourself. Many PR distribution websites will only display a title and maybe a little introductory text –but that’s it. So if you want to be ignored, make sure you don’t write a compelling title to get users jumping and clicking onto to your press release. And absolutely don’t ask yourself, what really interests my target audience and what do I want them to know?

5. Don’t bother to proofread

Theirs nothin quite like spellin, puncture n grammatikal mistaks to assure you ruine a professional image

6. Make sure you include a shameless promotion or special offer

How many newspapers or magazines write articles to promote company special offers? That’s right, none! Selfishly, they’re not in the habit of giving away free advertising. So if you want your press release to be disregarded then make sure you include a really obvious special offer and never refer to really interesting things that are happening in your industry or in your business.

7. Never, ever plan ahead

With offline it’s pretty straightforward. You send out your press release and then hopefully a journalist phones and asks for an interview. Job done. But with online press releases you’re not just targeting the media you’re also talking directly to potential customers. So it’s important you don’t ever think about what you want people to do. You really don’t want them cluttering up your day by visiting your website or phoning to make an enquiry. Ignore all the steps between a potential customer reading your press release and you winning new business.

8. Make sure your press release does nothing for SEO

Online press releases can offer a great opportunity for search engine optimization. Avoid at all costs any PR websites that allow you to add back-links behind keywords within your press releases, and that directly distribute press releases or ‘feed’ news websites, in particular Google News. If a PR website doesn’t allow back-links or URLs within press releases then I’d recommend wasting time and submitting to them – unless the website is well respected and used by the media and online news agencies, stay well clear of those!

9. Reuse your press release again and again

If you’ve gone to the trouble to write a press release, then it seems silly not to rehash and repost it online forever and a day. Who’s it fooling? It’s not giving readers a great impression about your business. And it won’t generate a few inbound links as Google doesn’t take much notice of duplicate content. Using the same press release over many weeks or months is wonderfully pointless. I really recommend that you don’t use your imagination – or think about the dozens of opportunities open to you:

  • Launched a new product?
  • Expanded the team or recruited a new MD?
  • Moved into plush new offices?
  • Won loads of awards lately?
  • Spotted a celeb using your product?
  • Got a big new contract with an important company?
  • Gone totally eco-friendly?
  • Raised tons of cash for charity?

10. Submit it & forget it

The success of your online press releases shouldn’t be monitored as part of your wider PR campaign or marketing strategy. You really don’t want to know if the valuable time you’ve spent on writing press releases is worth the money and effort. Don’t bother to find out which PR websites work for your business and which topics people are interested in. And whatever you do don’t add a tracking URL, such as a, into your press release which will give you FREE data about who read it and then went on to visit your website.

11. And finally, don’t check out the competition

Do you actually know what kind of press releases your competitors send out? A lot of PR distribution websites provide stats on how many hits different press releases have had. If you were to spend a little time researching your industry and seeing what people like to read, well you could potentially be very unlucky and discover the ‘uber’ press release topic.

So there you are – online press releases are a potentially fantastic tool for small and large businesses alike. Ok, a single press release is probably not going to sell masses of products or have a load of journalists queuing at your door. But it’s low budget solution for anyone wanting to raise their profile, and the more press releases you publish the more online visibility you’ll have.

Next week’s article: Does reverse psychology actually work?

Heather Carey is the managing director of font57 a creative copywriting agency based in the UK.


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