May 22, 2013
Four Tips on Press Release Writing
As CEO of 5W Public Relations, a PR agency in NYC, Ronn Torossian works everyday to help his clients hone their PR messages via press release writing. While he admits that nobody is perfect and even 5WPR occasionally makes mistakes, there are several common mistakes Ronn Torossian says you can – and should – easily avoid when writing a press release.
#1 – Pointless modifiers
Also known as “empty” adverbs, these are words that add little or nothing to your content. Words like “very” or “really” doesn’t convey anything. They evoke importance, but without any scale. Thus, both the publisher and the reader have no idea how “very” or “really” you mean. In these cases, Ronn Torossian recommends choosing a word that properly evokes scale, or lose those pointless modifiers altogether when writing a press release.
#2 – Passive voice
Bottom line, editors HATE passive voice. Passive voice is the opposite of the expected – and accepted – standard. To avoid passive voice in when writing a press release, follow these steps:
- Discern which noun is doing the chief action and place this noun at the beginning of the sentence.
- If there is no action, rework the sentence if possible.
- Avoid “being” verbs when possible, unless connected to action verbs.
- Remember, press release writing may not sound like “conversational” writing, but it’s not supposed to.
The reason for this step is integral to the media industry. Remember, they are answering questions with each news story. None of these questions are passive. Therefore, your writing must show activity.
#3 – Word order and accidental repetition
This can be easy to overlook, particularly when reading articles such as “a” and “the.” Often, these mistakes happen when your word processing program incorrectly “autocorrects” a typo. “Tha the” then becomes “The the.” Of course, this is just one example of this how can happen. Read that last sentence again. Did you spot the mistake on the first read through? No? See how easy can that happen? What about that one, did you see it? After writing a press release, Ronn Torossian recommends reading your content backwards to help you find repeated words or misplaced words.
#4 – The use of overly complex sentence structure
It is important to remember that most news articles are written at a 5th to 7th grade level. This means your press releases should avoid overly complex words and compound sentences when possible. Keep your prose simple direct and fact-based. Avoid flowery literary terms, multi-syllable words and crammed-together phrasing. Use periods when tempted to use conjunctions. Avoid semicolons except in lists. When in doubt, break up that sentence. Do not use complex words when simple but evocative words will do. As stated by Ronn Torossian, the goal is to get people to read AND understand your press releases or public relations messages.
Follow these four content tips along with these resources for better writing and you will see better success with your public relations efforts. For help crafting messages the right way the first time, contact Ronn Torossian and 5WPR here.