Be aware that with any respectable newswire, your press release will be reviewed by human editors. They can and will reject press releases that don't adhere to their guidelines, including general press release guidelines.
In our experience, the editors use common sense. They don't expect every press release to contain important, breaking news. But they do expect that you'll at least try to make your story appear newsworthy, rather than blatantly placing an advertisement.
The most common reasons for being rejected are:
1. Lack of newsworthiness
In an ideal world, clients would have breaking news every week. In most cases, however, we don't have this luxury: we're asked to write press releases based on little or no real “story”.
First, open up communications with the client. If they say they don't really have any news, don't give up. Ask more questions. Have they added any new products to their line? Have they joined any professional organizations, promoted any employees, made any charitable donations? Ask enough questions and eventually you'll find something you can start with. Any kernel of a story is better than a blank screen.
Second, as discussed in a previous post, make your story look like news. Add a fresh angle or perspective; approach it as an analysis and add quotations from experts (i.e. your clients).
2. Appearance of an Advertisement
Press releases are not supposed to be advertisements. If you place a release that's full of hyperbole and closes with a blatant call to action (“Call 1-800-555-8000 and get your widget NOW!!!!) you're asking for trouble.
Solution: Keep an objective tone; avoid aggressive selling copy. In particular, remember that exclamation marks are red flags to editors. Avoid them.
3. Writing in first person and addressing the reader directly
Solution: Avoid using “I”, “we” and “you” in main text. If you want to give your press release more life by breaking out of objective voice, do so with quotations from company principals.
4. Excessive links
Solution: You'll either have to add more text (to lower the text-to-link ratio) or eliminate some links. If you choose to eliminate links, consider your priorities: discard links to external websites first; keep at least one link to your home page, plus links to important pages deeper within your site.