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5 Reasons Your Press Release Sucks

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As the owner of a several websites I receive dozens of unsolicited press releases each week. It comes with the territory, and I’ve come to expect them. But 99% of them end up in the trash without further action on my part. In fact, most of them are never opened. If you run a business or PR company, then read on – here is some straight feedback on why your pitch gets pitched right into the trash bin.

5 Reasons Your Press Release Sucks

I receive at least 50 e-mails each business day and if you can’t hook me in the first few seconds, your press release is going to the trash, regardless of your product, service, or goal. I have a limited amount of time to run my business and the only way I can succeed is to be ruthless with spam, junk mail, chain letters, and worthless press releases. Yes, I classify most press releases in the same category as spam. Before sending a press release, ask yourself a couple quick questions:

1. What am I trying to accomplish?

Are you trying to get people to visit your website, try a new application, purchase your product? Then say so! The vast majority of press releases are three paragraphs of “industry speak” with no indication of a desired action. If I have to spend time trying to figure out your goal, then you lose.

2. Who is your target audience?

I run a financial website. It’s not difficult to determine that after a quick glance at my website, logo, domain name, etc. Unfortunately, I receive multiple press releases each week that are not closely related to my niche. Medical press releases, organic foods, religion, etc. All wonderful topics. None of them are within the scope my website. Verdict: delete.

3. Who am I addressing this to?

This one irks me the most. “Dear Mr.,” “Hello Mr.,” and “Webmaster,” are not salutations I respond to. My favorite is “hey there,” which I have received numerous times from large PR companies. Seriously, does that Fortune 500 company you work with realize you address bloggers and the press as, “hey there?” I doubt it, and I doubt they would be amused. Try a little professionalism and address your recipient by name.

By the way, GMail is a wonderful tool that previews the first line of the e-mail. If the e-mail isn’t addressed to me, it gets deleted without being opened. My name isn’t that hard to find either – it is the third word on my contact page.

4. Flattery won’t get you anywhere

Yes, you’ve been following my site for months and just love it and share it with all your friends and family and coworkers… which is why you have never contacted me before or left a comment on an article, and you addressed your press release to me as “Dear CashMoneyLife.” Fail.

5. No option to opt out of future press releases

There is a little thing the Federal Trade Commission put out a couple years ago called the CAN-SPAM Act. According to the FTC, the CAN-SPAM Act establishes requirements for commercial messages, gives recipients the right to have you stop emailing them, and spells out tough penalties for violations. It applies to:

“any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service,” including email that promotes content on commercial websites. The law makes no exception for business-to-business email.”

Now I don’t profess to be a lawyer, but the way I understand it, that means your press release should give me the option of opting out of all future e-mails. And I want to opt out of the majority of them because they do not apply to me or my business.

How to write a strong press release

Start by addressing each of these issues listed above and your success rates will increase exponentially. Respect the time and intelligence of the recipient and they will in turn be more receptive to your product or service. If not, then give them the option of opting out of your messages. Want more tips? Check out these references:


Published or updated February 28, 2011.
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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kyle

Yeah, I love it when I get email addressed to Suburban Dollar. Or Mr. Suburban Dollar. If you can’t take the time to realize I post my name all over mys site, I am not going to take you seriously.

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2 Ryan

No doubt. The worst is “hey mister”

And I’ve had that from PR firms representing major corporations.

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3 FFB

Yes, I love the “I’ve been following for a long time and love your site” immediately followed by “and I think your readers would benefit if you wrote about” – insert any item here.

What’s bad is that there are legit firms that don’t understand the importance of a good press release, firms that I might actually look into if their email didn’t seem as spammy as some of the sketchier companies out there.

What’s worse is the spam tactics must work on some level for them to keep trying it.

Thanks for putting this out there.

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4 Ryan

It’s a pure numbers game – send it out to enough people, and someone will write about it.

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5 Financial Samurai

Great post Ryan! (uh oh is this a form of flattery?) It’s interesting insight on how much solicitation you get and what you do. At the same time, hopefully those who are soliciting you are reading your instructions so they can better solicit you!

I have a rule, and that is, if the outside doesn’t address me by my name, or website’s name, the e-mail is immediately deleted. Unpersonalized e-mails are just spam, and if someone doesn’t have time send out an individual e-mail, then why should we send an individual email back?

Flattery does get people somewhere though. It just has to be unique flattery such as, “Hi Ryan, your website is set up in such a clean and simple way, we’d like to give you $1,000/month if you could run our add on the West side bar on the right. Please let us know if you’d like to forge a relationship going forward.”

Best,

Sam

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6 Peter

My absolute favorite email that I got didn’t even address me as “mr. bible money matters”, but instead as “Jane smith fitness expert” or some such nonsense. They quickly realized their copy/paste error and sent me the exact same email, but this time with “mr bible money matters” as the recipient.

FAIL.

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7 Ryan

You know, I’ve received dozens of similar e-mails, and most of the time they don’t even notice the mistake they made. You’re right: FAIL.

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8 J. Money

I need to be more like you guys…I tend to read most of them and then spend another 30 secs determining if i should post/tweet about it or not (hope none of you PR people are reading this! haha…)

I def. need to work on this, but I’ve also ended up forming pretty good relations with at least 2-3 of these guys which I probably wouldn’t have if I just deleted real quick. Then again, I never have enough time in a day! Great post.

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9 Ryan

I have some relationships with PR reps as well, but with people who address me by name. I’ll take the time to read their pitch if they take the time to address me by name and tell me what they are looking for. Otherwise, I don’t have the time to deal with it. This is a simple screening process that saves me probably an hour each month – and that is an hour I can use to work on my sites or spend with my family. Both of which are valuable. :-)

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10 Don@MoneyReasons

My site is relatively new (started Oct 2009), and I’ve been getting the “Dear Mr., ” emails already.

I was wondering what was going on…

Thanks for the info, I’m glad to hear my site wasn’t some type of spam magnet!

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11 Jeff Rose

Dear Webmaster:

I’ve been a big fan your site for some time and enjoy your content so much. Thank you for another good content article.

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12 Ryan

Dear MR, your welcomed for good time blogging articles. Plz link to me thx. ;)

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13 Mrs. Micah

Some funny ones I’ve gotten are “Dear Finance for a Freelance Life” (um yeah…) or “Dear Mr. Micah” or “Dear Micah.” *sigh*

Plenty of “dear blogger” “dear webmaster” “dear editor” “dear website owner.”

If I got one that began “Dear John,” I’d read it. ;)

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14 Craig

I have seen those as well, but am also coming from the other side, and have basically sent everyone who has commented hear a press release or some formal request for coverage in the past. When I first started I definitely made some similar mistakes but learned quickly over time and tips like these are great for anyone involved with PR or trying to gain some sort of coverage. A lot of ways it is all about the relationships and getting to know someone. When I am pitched some stuff as well it’s obvious which ones are generic and those get deleted right away, but the ones with a bit of a human element to it I always check out.

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15 Ryan

I’m glad you commented, Craig. You are a marketer who really “gets it” and is concerned about working with bloggers and the media and being part of the community. I, and many others on the receiving end of press releases, are much more receptive to someone who isn’t just blindly sending out a press release and hoping it sticks somewhere. I’m almost always willing to give someone a minute of time if they reach out to me and add the human element you mention. I can’t guarantee a response or inclusion in an article, but I will at least read it.

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16 Jason @ Redeeming Riches

This is classic! I’m a young site and am just starting to get these now! The first one or two I was thinking, “oh cool – someone’s contacting me, let me take a look”, but after a few of the same I quickly realized what was going on!

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17 Lynnae

Thank you for writing this! I’m also a proponent of the “if it’s not addressed to me, delete immediately” system. Most bloggers are not pro-bloggers, and are thus trying to balance work, family, and blogging. In my case, homeschooling, family, and blogging. There are only so many hours in a day, and the well-written, personalized, well-targeted press releases are the only ones that are going to get attention. The rest will end up being marked as spam.

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18 Debt Kid

This was awesome PATRICK.

The one that bugs me the most is the, “I’m a huge fan of yours….”

And you know they really think…

“but I’ve never commented or e-mailed you before, but because I say I’m a fan I think you’ll cover my company, really I’m just an overworked cog in a giant PR machine. I charge my clients 10K a month to do this crap…”

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19 Wojciech Kulicki

Never got a “Dear Mr.” which is hilarious, by the way. But my personal favorite is when I get the “I’ve been following your blog for years,” followed by “Fiscal Frizzle” or “Financial Fizzle” or some other mis-spell of the name. Ummm…delete.

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20 Live for Improvement

I laugh at the emails sent from a common name, like “Mike Stevens” pretending to be
work related, but instead advertising some as “Seen On TV” gimmick.

-Dan Malone-

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21 Alter Type

I’m a professional writer. I actually learned how to write press releases from a veteran journalist, someone who knows what it’s like to be on the receiving end of these things. To this day, I can’t thank her enough for her wisdom.

Funny thing though, once I got into Internet marketing, I noticed immediately how the accessibility factor lends itself to a lack of professionalism. I see horribly written PRs all over the place online. It’s nice to see I’m not the only one who notices.

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22 Ryan

Alter Type, It bothered me at first, but now I just ignore them. If someone can’t take the time to address something to me, I just delete it. There are more great pieces of information for me to work with than I have time for anyway, so I prefer to work with someone who is more approachable and more likely to respond to me if I need to contact them. In effect, people sending out poor press releases do me the favor of eliminating their PR from my potential to do list before it even gets added. :-)

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