Nobody sets out to write a bad press release or pitch email, or at least we hope not, and yet we still receive quite a few at VentureBeat. Actually, I would be quite sad if we stopped getting them entirely. They brighten my day.
However, in the interest of public service, here are some of the worst press release and pitch email titles of 2011 and our notes on how to avoid making next year’s list. Names have been changed to protect the guilty.
“Press release for my new startup” (Email)
“My new startup”, “Launching a startup” and “New product” and are popular variations on this title. Be aware that all technology news publications receive hundreds of emails a day. Your subject line is a headline. Make us want to read the rest of the story. A pitch email with a generic subject line is likely to go straight to Trash.
“Startup X’s Scalable, Modular System Combines Shared-Nothing MPP Relational Database with Enterprise-Class Apache Hadoop for Structured and Unstructured Data Co-processing” (Press Release)
No, I don’t know what it means either. Well actually I do, but I shouldn’t need to. This is not a press release title. It’s a winning entry in a game of buzzword bingo. If your title does not fit into a tweet, it’s too long. If it contains more than two buzzwords, that’s too many.
“Startup Y appoints four new Vice Presidents” (Press release)
Why this would be of interest to anyone except your shareholders, who should be troubled by the sudden surplus of VPs, is beyond me. Unless Steve Jobs has visited you in a dream and agreed to run your product team from the Great Beyond, executive appointments are generally not news. Exceptions are personnel moves caused by scandals, epic feuds or messy divorces.
Company Z issued shareholder’s letter to highlight recent developments (Email)
In other breaking news, unspecified household bill was received by this journalist this morning.
“Workplace bullying lessons” (Press release)
Ensure that your press release title actually means what you think it does. My first reaction to this was “Should they really be advertising lessons in that?”
Pitches pegged to horrible events
This covers pitches along the lines of “To mark the passing of Steve Jobs, we’re offering a 10% daily deals coupon…”
“Can you let Sean Parker know I’d like to talk to him?” (Email)
This is my favorite email title of the year, since it has a sort of loopy genius (after all, I read the mail), and it seemed to be a genuine request from a small business owner. However, we’re not an answering service so you’ll have to reach out to him yourself.
Consult “How to pitch to tech journalists” for tips on how to make your news stand out for all the right reasons.