How to Write Press Releases that Reporters Will Actually Read

By Geoffrey James

The first word in press release is press, which means that a press release is supposed to be read by a reporter, not that you’re supposed to press trite expressions into every sentence.

Last week I received a press release from a major software firm that contained the following sentence: Release 6.0 doubles the level of functionality available, providing organizations of all sizes with a fast-to-deploy, highly robust and easy-to-use solution to better acquire, retain and serve customers. Say what?

That gobbledygook apparently means the new release does more than the previous one. But why would anyone release new software if it didn’t have new features? Why all the verbiage?

I’ve met hundreds of software sales execs and, by and large, they’re an intelligent group of people. Many have a blind spot, however, when it comes to press releases. Software execs splatter throwaway words in their press releases and other marketing materials because they’re too lazy to do the hard job of figuring out what’s newsworthy about their software. I’ve seen press releases that contain so many buzzwords that it’s impossible to figure out what the software actually does!

I want to know what alternative dimension software executives live in that leads them to be believe reporters, when they see the adjective leading-edge in a press release, immediately think: Gee, this is leading edge… I’d better write an article about it! It’s never happened and never will.

Or how about the term next generation? Do these execs think customers will say: Gosh, we’ll go out of business if we don’t purchase the next generation! What is the next generation, anyway? Does that mean the software won’t be debugged until my children are grown up? And while we’re on the subject, what is a robust implementation? Does that mean the software will jump out of the computer and take a morning constitutional? Also, what’s the difference between new and completely new or between innovative and highly innovative? The answer? Nothing.

I could go on, but I’ve made my point, so here’s some advice for software sales execs who write and approve press releases.

  1. Write about what your software does and why the reader should care.
  2. Look at every word. Ask yourself: Does this word really mean anything? If not, delete it.
  3. Provide an executive quote that doesn’t make your CEO sound like a brainless marketing drone.

If the only way you can make your software sound exciting is by stringing together business clichés, your company is in serious trouble. Software is cool. It does amazing stuff. Stick to the facts and you’ll get more and better press coverage. It’s really that simple.