I’ve had a number of clients come to me for help after they hired someone else to write a press release, and the press release was rejected all over the place for being poorly written, or for violating certain press release conventions such as sounding like an advertisement rather than a short news announcement. When I read those press releases – it was clear that the person who wrote them had no experience in writing press releases. This means the client wasted their time and money, and then had to start all over again from scratch.
Anyone can call themselves a press release writer or a publicist; it’s not like being a doctor or lawyer or nurse, where you need years of training and a license. So it’s up to you to screen the press release writer that you are planning to hire – after all, it’s your good name on the line.
That’s why you should always screen the person that you are planning to hire to write your press release – a little time invested up front can save you time and money in the long run. It can also help save you embarrassment – I’ve seen some press releases with typos and terrible grammar that actually made it through the editing process and ended up posted online. That’s not the type of writing that you want associated with your company name.
Here are a few things you should ask before selecting a press release writer:
1.) Ask the press release writer about their background. If they don’t have a background in either public relations, marketing, or the news business, what IS their experience in writing press releases? I myself was a newspaper reporter for 17 years and read thousands of press releases during that time. The professionals that I know and trust who write press releases have degrees in journalism or public relations or some similar type of training, or have marketing experience, or have worked in publicity in some capacity.
I’ve had a few people contact me and ask for advice on how to be a press release writer – and I can tell you, they didn’t know a thing about the business, they didn’t know where to submit a press release, and their emails to me were riddled with errors. Yikes. I really hope none of them ended up in the PR business.
2.) Ask for a couple of samples of press releases that they have written – press releases that have been posted online somewhere. This shows you how they write, and also tells you that the press releases that they wrote do end up getting accepted by press release distribution sites and do get posted online. (Don’t ask them to write anything for you for free as a sample. As a professional, I never, EVER do that for a potential client – it’s the perfect way to get burned.)
3.) Ask them where the press release will be submitted, and when they will submit it. They should provide you with a list of sites where they will submit the press release. Here’s my list of free press release sites: http://www.thepressreleasesite.com/list-of-free-press-release-sites.html. I also tell my clients about the paid press release distribution sites and the advantages of using those sites.
4.) Ask them to submit the press release to YOU for your approval first before they send it out to the press release distribution sites. Even if they are an excellent writer, you know your business best – they may phrase something in a way that is not accurate, or they may leave out something that you want included, etc.
5.) Be sure to discuss online vs. offline media – I, for instance, specialize in online publicity. I refer people to some excellent publicists if the client is hoping to get picked up by mainstream media such as newspapers, television, and radio. Any press release writer who tells you that being featured on PRWeb, PRNewswire, or Businesswire, or any other online press release distribution site, is a way to get picked up by mainstream media – is greatly exaggerating.
All of those sites that I just named are well respected online press release distribution sites and having your press release posted on their site MAY get the attention of a newspaper editor or TV news crew – but there is absolutely no guarantee, and it’s actually pretty unlikely. That takes an actual publicist. So beware of false promises.