8 tricks that will make me delete your press release

I am deluged with press releases on a daily basis. And most of them are crap.

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They fall into one of three main categories; mass mailings, irrelevant mails or content tosh. 

I spend ages sifting through them trying to understand why on earth the PR person has sent the press release to me. 

Some times the topic is interesting, sometimes the company is interesting.

But less than one in a hundred press releases actually make me want to write about the company—or talk about the announcement that the PR team is trying to make.

I looked through my inbox and I’ve selected some examples  from genuine emails I have received during the past week.

Most of them make me want to lunge for the delete key..

So if you want to make folks sit up and notice your carefully crafted PR missive, try following some of these tips – and avoid these others like the plague…

1: Hi, I hope you are well

So you can’t be bothered to personally address the email to me. you have probably sent this out to everyone in your database but you haven’t worked out how to customise field codes and personalise mails. And do you actually care whether I’m well or not? This smacks of a mass mailing to me and is easy to ignore.

2: “For immediate release”

So you could not be bothered to give me prior notice that your widget/product/service/gadget was launching. You did no segmentation research, no planning and no recipient targeting. You just spammed everyone hoping that if you threw enough mud, some might stick. Yes, your client might be delighted that you sent over 70,000 emails to everyone and his dog – but did any of them actually get read – and more importantly actioned?

Did you also stop to think that bloggers and journalists actually work to a schedule and plan their days and weeks around major news, interviews, events and other work? Messages that land in our inbox demanding that we talk about it instantly will often be pushed to the bottom of the priority list. We, too have our day jobs to do.

3: xxxxxxxx Announce Combat Zone Awareness Training Course For Journalists

A classic example of a PR firm not knowing its target audience. I do not ever go into combat zones, nor do I write about war torn areas, or combat issues. Simply adding a tag to the database entry would make sure I never receive utterly irrelevant information.

Also Please Could You Try Not To Capitalise Every Word In Your Release to Emphasise It More For Your Readers. I am sure that you think it is important, but for me it is really tiring to read.

4: Hey there,I saw that you had a high influence on the Twitter community when talking about social media for businesses

Aah, this is better. The sender of this mail knows that I’m on Twitter and that I talk about social media for business. good. they would have got many more points if they had actually used my name in the email

5: Hi Eilleen, Facebook newsfeeds are fleeting.  Tweets are even faster. 

Aargh, The sender has spelled my name wrong. I won’t read this email any further.

6: Hi Taylor,I wanted to get in touch with some news coming out of xxxxx embargoed for Tomorrow

Big mistake. What is worse than not including my name? Getting it absolutely wrong  — not even a mis-spelling (see point 5) but another name entirely. And why does tomorrow need a capital letter. Is it A Very Important Day (see point 3).

7: Hi Eileen, Just wanted to let you know the embargo is now lifted, so feel free to post your story!

There is only one problem with this. After bombarding me with six or seven emails under embargo, and then finally letting me know I can now post your story, I find that you have emailed ALL of my other colleagues at ZDNet in the hope that someone would post the piece. 

Well someone else did get to publish the story before me. So not only have I wasted two hours writing the story, I’ll now make sure that I never publish anything else from you again as I know you have send each piece to all of your connections and all of my colleagues.

8: Dear Eileen, Please find our a summary of our latest research in the area of mobile networks

This release seems fairly well researched. I have talked about this topic in the past. The email has all of the links I need to round out the piece and make a good story.  The email has quotes I can use and a link to the downloadable research. Nice and succinct and has made me read it down to the end of the article.

At last, I have something I can use.

So, out of 22 releases, I will write about just one (point 8). The rest did not capture my attention, talk about a relevant topic, or address me directly.

What a waste of time, bandwidth and energy. A little bit of effort up front could have changed at least 5 of these points to get a much more positive outcome.

Image credit: Wiertz Sebastien

Eileen is a social media strategist and consultant at Amastra, a columnist at ZDNet and author of Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketing for Business. Contact Eileen to find out how she can elevate your brand and help your business become more social.

2 thoughts on “8 tricks that will make me delete your press release

  1. brucelynn

    The thing is that many publications welcome these types of press releases. A sizeable segment of the press industry lives on “content tosh”. Many publications are nothing but press release regurgitators. Kind of like the old saying about work…”They pretend to pay me and I pretend to work.” In ‘journalism’, it’s “They pretend to have news and I pretend to write about it.” All many publications want is cheap filler to wrap their ads around. Crappy material in crappy features with crappy impact (either in informing or marketing), but everyone getting paid for this fourth estate circle-jerk so everyone is ‘happy’.

    1. eileenb Post author

      Bruce, that is SO right. Trouble is — I don’t reel good just regurgitating everything I get…
      however I was convinced that this latest release had actually read this post.
      “Dear Ms. Eileen Brown,
      As the author of a creative and insightful social media and technology blog, you know the importance of keeping up with the technology that attracts new readers and makes current ones more loyal. After all, your writing on that new technology is what people read your blog for in the first place. In fact, as a tech blogger, it’s nothing less than your duty to test the latest and greatest social media technology and report on it to others. And what better way is there to do that than by actually integrating it into your blog, letting both you and your audience explore and comment on its strengths and weaknesses?
      That’s where I come in. I’m emailing you from all the way across the pond in Tennessee (United States of America) because I work on a project called Fireplug, a tool that will improve your blog’s usability while appealing to today’s modern audience. I really enjoyed your blog, Eileen, and I think you’ve got all the right things we’re looking for in a potential Fireplug user.”
      Then I realised they were just trying to get me to use the software.
      Damn… :-)

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