Google Search Site search Web search  
Jobs in PR
Career Guides
Toolkit: How to PR
Desk References
Media Relations
Crisis Management
Basics of PR
International PR
Professional Orgs
Wired PR
Steven R. Van Hook
All Subjects

Amateurism Hurts PR Field
We're our own worst enemy.

by G.A. "Andy" Marken
Marken Communications

Andy Marken Well developed press materials can be a powerful part of a firm's total public relations program. They get information on the company's product developments, services, personnel changes, and financial reports where they will do the most good ... to the pertinent publications and on target e-zines.

Knowing this, it's appalling that news releases, the most basic form of external communication for any firm, receive such little care and attention. Poor and incomplete news releases and publicity practices not only make the issuing firm look bad, they insult an editor's intelligence.

To validate the above statements, we interviewed more than 50 business, financial and industry publication editors. We talked with an equal number of on-line editors. Most of them said that they receive an average of 300+ releases per day over the wire, in the mail and sent electronically. More than three-fourth of the releases they receive are so weak or amateurish that they go directly into the wastebasket (electronic or physical).

Gauge Editorial Needs

How should publicists go about providing information that will be used? There is usually a lot going on in an organization that is of interest to an editor. The good "stuff" isn't delivered to you on a silver platter. A good public relations person has to be like a good reporter and dig out the information.

Then the person who is writing the publicity has to determine what the information's worth is to the company, to the editor, and to the reader. If it doesn't serve all three, forget it.

Once you have found company information worth announcing, determine the publication(s) you want to target. It's quite simple for anyone who is doing PR to gauge the editorial requirements of a given publication or group of publications. All he or she has to do is read a few issues and study the editorial direction/ emphasis. It's surprising -- even scary -- how few people actually read the publications that cover their industry.

If publicity writers are worth their salt, they will provide news releases that have the style, content, and angles to satisfy the publications' requirements. Those are the releases that get published.

The Creative News Release

Over the years, we have seen reams of releases that pass right over editors' desks, across their screens and into the circular file.

For the most part, the releases uniformly lack any spark of writing excitement, comprehension of news style, or the solid information that gets an editor interested and maybe even enthused.

Here some basic guidelines our organization regularly follows when preparing news releases:

  • Write the release simply and factually to make certain the full story is told as quickly as possible.

  • When the story dictates, prepare a strong, in-depth backgrounder that gives the facts, not personal "puff." This kind of information should assist the editor, not flatter your management.

  • Photographs should be real, not with sharp contrasts, not retouched ad shots. Make certain that the cut line explains the photo and ties into the release. Hand shaking events, stiff suited mug shots, dull products on a non-descript or very busy background seldom find their way into print. The editor is looking for information for his or her readers, not self-serving ego shots.

  • The release should contain the name, telephone number and e-mail address of the person who can be contacted for additional information. In fact, it's a good practice to add the home telephone number so that the editor can make contact while the news is hot in his or her mind.

  • If the release describes a brochure, catalog or data sheet, include a copy. It is good source material for future articles and it gives the editor more information to work with.

  • Just as salespeople tailor their information to the interests of their prospects, write the release with a specific publication's or group of publications' readers in mind.

  • If the product has a number of applications, write separate and tailored/targeted releases with the leads and body copy focused to appeal to each class of publications. Properly done, the results can be dramatic.

  Next page > Common But Fatal Mistakes > Page 1, 2

Prior to forming Marken Communications in mid-1977, Andy Marken was vice president of Bozell & Jacobs and its predecessor agencies.  Marken Communications is a full-service agency that concentrates on business-to-business market planning, positioning, development, and communications. For more information, visit or write

More Articles  |  Submit Your Article  |  PR Subjects

About Public Relations Homepage

Contact Us