PR Grouch: How to spin a crap press release into gold

I work in PR, loosely speaking, so I am reasonably familiar with the way magazines and newspapers work. But I am still shocked when I see press releases that have obviously been published verbatim, gushing reviews of new products and services that are unbelievable, and the same old crap published in more than one publication.

Now PROs may think they have done a sterling job by getting press releases published word perfect in more than one outlet, but these “articles” make their clients look bad. For a start, no one wants to read a puff-piece and if they do, they will think they are reading an advertorial and assume what they are reading is untrue.

The problem is, you cannot write a balanced article that will look good in the press. The client will not like it as it will have to include some negative stuff.

Now I know journalists are underpaid, overworked and have no time but if they do get a moment, here are my four tips for changing a press release into a decent article:

1. Take out all the superlatives. And the word “very” is not needed. Not “very” often anyway. No one believes an article that is too gushing. Try to find a negative. Warning, this may mean doing some research.

2. Cut the press release. In half. And then maybe half again. And then rewrite it, it is supposed to be your own work after all.

3. Check facts. You may think that if there is a mistake in the press release, that’s not your fault, but if your publication prints a mistake, it’s you who looks bad. And shouting at your PR contact won’t help!

4. Check with your PR contact that no other publication is going to use the information before you work with it. And do an online check to make sure it hasn’t been published elsewhere, because your contact may have accidentally made a “mistake” or have “forgotten”.

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