8 Things No Reporter Wants to See in a News Release
While the news media constantly evolves, there are some constants. Whether it’s for online or on air, pitching a story still requires a compelling news release. It takes a lot to cut through the barrage of pitches sent to newsrooms. So before you hit “send”, take a moment and check your news release for these 8 things no reporter wants to read.
- No Substance
Before you waste your time writing the news release, think to yourself, “is this really newsworthy?” No one wants to hear about the award your CEO received last month or the new intern you just hired. Not to say you shouldn’t make the announcement, but there’s no need to pitch it to a reporter.
- An Unoriginal Title
The most famous NY Post headline ever read, “Headless Body Found in Topless Bar.” Another classic said, “Ford to City: Drop Dead.” Headlines are the first thing the media is going see–and evaluate, on your news release. If you want them to keep reading, make them lose their head over it, figuratively speaking.
- False Facts
Flawed facts ruin a news release. An incorrect statistic or inaccurate detail and your credibility disappears with your hopes of making news. You may not be pitching a story to 60 Minutes, but make sure your facts line up. Sometimes that’s as easy as Googling a few items. Other times, it requires you ask a lot of questions of whomever you’re pitching.
- Typos and Grammatical Errors
Shock jock Howard Stern’s father used to yell at him, “Don’t be stupid, you moron.” Nothing evokes a similar reaction from the media faster than a newser filled with typos and grammatical errors. Use spell-check and autocorrect. Have a colleague read your story over, then read the news release aloud yourself. This makes it easier to hear simple mistakes you may have missed. The best way to look for misspellings is to read the news release backwards. That way you are looking at the individual words and not skipping minor words we all tend to miss when reading familiar material. There’s no leeway for screw ups here. Just ask Howard Stern’s dad.
- Insufficient Quotes
Quotes not only add validity to a story, but they also provide perspective and stir up emotion. Make the most of quotes by selecting them wisely. The proper quotes should give the reporter a reason to cover your story over others.
- Too “Salesy”
This isn’t an infomercial, it’s a news release. If your pitch is too overt, the reporter should tell you to call the advertising department. Sure, getting positive coverage in the media helps get customers in the door, but it’s the last thing those in the media care about. A reporter’s primary focus is to benefit the public, not to sell your product.
- A Lengthy Story
In the 1980s, the head of NBC wrote the words “MTV Cops” on a note. Thus, the show Miami Vice was born. If that’s all it took to create such an iconic show, you can pitch your story just as quickly. Cut your overlong elevator pitch to one floor and get to the point. Less is more. Bullet points help. Crockett and Tubbs would agree.
- Lack of Focus
Stick to one angle. A release with more than that is too confusing. The reporter needs to be able to capture the who, what, where, when and why of the story in the first paragraph. Keep them on track with a simple, focused story. They’ll thank you for it.
If you’re perpetrating one of these 8 mistakes in your news release, you’re hurting more than your news–you’re hurting your reputation. While a news releases is meant to be objective and straightforward, this does not mean it is always simple to write. Committing just one mindless mistake can likely be the end of your news release going public. So before you click that “send” button, take a moment and run your news release through these 8 biggest mistakes to avoid your news from ending up in the trash.