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Richard Brownwell on Avoiding Mistakes in Press Releases:

I am awful at press releases. If I am assigned a writing assignment, I can write it with relative ease and receive a grade I am pleased with. Press releases are a different story. No matter how hard I try something major always goes wrong. I will spell the name wrong seventy times or completely forget something as simple as correct punctuation. I will proof read and proof read and still overlook important aspects of the release.

Although, with enough hard work I think that I can get passed these errors. After that the most important thing is to become perfect at the basics. A great headline and body are imperative to a good press release.  These are ironically the most common issues with many people who write press releases says Dick Wolfe, senior director of corporate communications at ADP and speak at PR News’ Dec. 12 media relations Next Practice Conference.

“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.”

These are two headlines Wolfe’s shop had to work with and revise 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

The company ended up choosing the second headline. Both of the headlines seemed extremely bland to me. My Public Relations professor always told me that one of my major issues with writing was my usage of flowery language. However, I understand that it is not the language used that is important. The content is important. Headline 1 is very broad. When I read it I thought, “okay…and?” It just doesn’t capture your attention. What study? The idea retirement trends sounds like watching wallpaper dry. Why should I even care? The second headline includes facts and numbers and gives a general idea of what exactly will be discussed in the press release.

Wolfe states, “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.”

This was great information to have and keep in mind when writing a headline. It helps me to understand that a headline means so much to a press release. It can make or break your press release. If you write a bad headline, you will write a bad press release because the two are interrelated.

The second headline makes you ask questions. If the reader is asking questions they will keep reading to get those questions answered. “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  states.

Before I read this article I knew that a press release should be clear and concise. I learned that next time I write a press release my headline should coincide with the body of my work. Also, I should make sure the headline makes readers want to know more. The headline should create questions from the reader feels compelled to keep reading. The point of a press release is to intrigue. You should basically sell your words to the reader. When they are done they should be left wanting more.

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