News Release Was Not Ready for Prime Time

by coach on August 17, 2010

Neon Mic

News ready or not?

I’ve seen some terrible news releases in my time. But the announcement by AllTopics.com Highly Touted Social News Site to Officially Launch on August 23rd really took the cake.

Please take a minute to read it so you can shake your head too and follow along. I’m going to use it to show PR interns and junior staff how not to do a news release.

First, the rationale behind issuing this news release? Let’s see. The “news” here is that in one week you’ll be announcing your news?

I’m not trying to be mean. I was genuinely interested in finding out about the service. What I found was a news release lacking news and an incomplete website with no information when this first release was issued. Guess the surprise is coming?

5 Ws of Journalism

So let’s continue with the critique to see if the five journalistic “Ws” are covered:

Who is AllTopics.com? Hard to say. No executives quoted. No information on their website about their Board or venture capital backers. No “boilerplate” to help us at the end of the release.

They do promise (oddly in the third person) “That is where AllTopics.com claims they can close the gap and create the best social news website around.”

What is it #1? “Industry experts have touted AllTopics.com as the next big social site due to their innovative approach to delivering the best content around.” Hmmm. No “experts” cited and I’m not seeing real innovations so far.

What is it #2? Check out the news release lead: “With so many news’ sites currently in the market, you wouldn’t think there would be a need or even room for another one to come along. While the market may be saturated, there are still needs to be filled, and one site is promising to close that gap forever.”

Enough said or unsaid, including incorrect use of apostrophe here and other grammar mistakes throughout.

What is it #3? I’m glad AllTopics has been “…planning for months…[is] backed by a large advertising budget…[and is] promising to deliver the very best stories, videos and images from all over the Internet on all of the topics that you can think of.”

Still don’t know what is really new or different here from hundreds of other news sites delivering newsfeeds. Hyperbole doesn’t belong in a news release.

Where? They don’t say. You can’t tell from the release or website but the news release contact is a Pennsylvania phone number.

When? Thankfully we know that. Next week, Tuesday, August 23rd. Be there.

Why? We finally get some idea in paragraph four of five. “AllTopics.com is a hybrid of a news site and a social bookmarking site, meaning that users can submit their own stories, videos and images in addition to the ones added by the staff of AllTopics.com. This will help to insure the highest quality of news and information in one place, as the staff will be able to see exactly what interests the people and find information that will be of value to them.”

Huh? Still need clear benefits to get media and users to care and pay attention. I’m not at all convinced more user-moderated content will ensure “highest quality of news and information in one place.”

How? Not answered convincingly.

Back to News Release Basics

This blog is all about learning, PR tips and sharing. So, in the interest of news release best practices, here are seven practical suggestions for next week’s “real news” release:

  1. Keep your website “dark” until you can say something informative.
  2. Find the news. Announce it with a proper headline and lead paragraph.
  3. Tell us who you are and have your leaders speak authentically and with authority.
  4. Tell media, readers and users why we should care. How will it make me or my business faster, smarter, more profitable or more efficient when you “take the online world by storm”? Convince us you’re not just another social media site or news aggregator without editors. Give us real benefits.
  5. Quote real experts and research or you’ll lack credibility.
  6. Eliminate hyperbole and unsubstantiated claims. Don’t blow smoke.
  7. Clean up your grammar.

Fortunately, the news release asks one legitimate news/journalistic question in the company’s own words: “So, will the industry experts be right in predicting that AllTopics.com is the next big thing, or will it be the next big flop?”

That truly is the question!

I’d have expected more from a new “industry leader.” They still have time to add “real news” to their official “news release” a week from now. Assuming there is news to be announced.

So that’s it AllTopics. Start fresh. Announce real news, put copy on your website or just buy advertising.

I sincerely hope you’re up to the challenge because this is a very amateurish public relations start. There are lots of great PR professionals who can give you tremendous advice and this news release was simply not ready for prime time.

Oh, and I’m still curious about your product. Just convince me with legitimate news.

We’d be glad to hear from you in the comments below. Should AllTopics.com have even issued this release? What advice can you suggest now?

We’ve got lots of News Release Writing Tips and Do-It-Yourself PR Tips in The PR Coach Library. Come on in and browse around.

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