Copywriters often find that crafting a lean, straightforward press release is harder than it should be—not because they lack skill but because their clients feel compelled to cram as many ideas as possible into a release. It’s the Kitchen Sink Syndrome.
Next time you’re struggling with a bloated press release, here are five tips that can help you clear the clutter:
- Deliver twins. Provide two drafts of the same release—one that matches your client’s expectations and one that’s stripped of extraneous ideas. Be sure to offer a bit of explanation about why you’ve written an alternative draft but avoid listing the faults of the requested version. Instead tactfully cite the advantages of your streamlined alternative.
- Explain the perils of puffery. Remind clients that a release won’t bring media coverage if it’s a tome. In fact, the opposite will occur. Overblown press releases actually discourage readership. Even worse, they repel busy journalists who need their information in succinct, lucid terms. If your client develops a reputation for issuing turgid news stories (which can happen quickly), journalists will ignore everything your client issues after that.
- Consider a mini-campaign. Let’s say you’re drafting a release about a product enhancement. If you can summarize the news in a couple of paragraphs, it’s a one-and-done deal. But if your draft is a mile long due to the resulting changes, implications and new customer benefits of the enhancement, pitch the idea of a mini-campaign to your client: an initial release that sketches the broad strokes followed up quickly by one or two releases that dive into the details.
- Backspace over those rote quotes. You know the ones. “We’re delighted to …” and “This is a true win-win for …” (Sadly, the kind of quotes I’ve been asked to write hundreds of times.) Yes, quotes from a senior executive or company spokesperson can add value … but too often they don’t. Do your best to steer clear of these inanities by gently suggesting a quote-free release. If that won’t fly, draft quotes that actually contain information. Sometimes, I’ll steal an important nugget of info from the second paragraph and write a quote based on that.
- Create an editorial calendar. This is a longer-term strategy that can make your life a whole lot easier. An editorial calendar does two key things: it presents your clients with a tangible plan for issuing news (which they’ll appreciate) and it helps them stay focused on issuing one piece of news at a time. As a result, they’ll be less inclined toward kitchen sink releases. Start with a three- or six-month plan and then work with your client to build a more detailed long-rage plan.