How to Avoid Mistakes in Crafting Press Releases

Dick Wolfe
Dick Wolfe

Corporate communicators  churn out press releases at a rapid clip because they want to get information out to the media. However,  they need to give some thought to how that release is crafted. Journalists are pressed for time, and they will not waste it on a press release that is poorly written or doesn’t display the facts up front.

We asked Dick Wolfe, senior director of corporate communications at ADP and speaker at PR News’ Dec. 12 Media Relations Next Practices Conference, what he sees as the common mistakes in press release writing.

“The mistakes I see most often are interrelated,” he said. “The problem starts with a poor headline, then moves into body copy that is both unfocused and too long.”

Wolfe offered an example of two headlines his communications shop had to work with for a release

  1. ADP Research Institute® Releases New Study on Retirement Trends
  2. ADP Research Institute® Study Shows 18% of U.S. Workforce May Retire Within Five Years

They chose Headline 2. Wolfe explains why:

“Headline 1 touches on an interesting topic, but it is too general. It is more interested in the Research Institute study instead of focusing on the most critical finding to inspire interest. Headline 2 illustrates a coming trend. It gives critical information and indicates a potential major evolution of the workforce. Trying to say everything instead of focusing on one key element leads to a release that is too long and makes it difficult for a journalist to decipher what really matters.”

The body of the press release reflected the focus of Headline 2 and discussed the workforce finding in the study and its potential impact on business.

“There was a lot more in the study,” Wolfe added. “But the importance of that point was easily understood by the reader. Plus, it inspired more questions. That is the key to any good press release: Give the audience something concise and compelling that leads to more questions, which leads to interviews.”

Wolfe also noted that the release, which was less than a page long, went out in September; nearly three months later,  his team is still getting interview requests on the topic.

Dick Wolfe will talk more about developing better communications in “Craft Press Releases (and all PR Content) From the Journalist’s POV” at PR News’ Media Relations Next Practices Conference, which takes place Dec. 12, at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.

Follow Richard Brownell: @RickBrownell