As a Web content and PR writer, I am always amazed at how little stock companies put in their press releases. Most of them are simply parked on the company's website. The company doesn't expect them to go anywhere, and they never do. So why are people commissioning them?
It seems that utilizing a well-written, useful press release would be something prized by companies, but many accept shoddy, cookie cutter work because it's cheap. But, is it really cheap? Is it cheap to pay someone to write something that obviously was written with a free template they found online that won't actually promote the business? I think it's actually rather expensive to waste money by doing this. It's even more expensive to not get a release that will be picked up by media outlets and get the company relevant, respected publicity.
As a reporter, I saw press releases come in several times a day on our fax machine. Most of them were so poorly written that I marveled at the productivity that was lost while people were writing them. I also learned quite a few things that can make them do what they are intended to- get the information contained in it into the news.
To write a better press release, take out at least half of the PR-speak. No one wants it, and newspapers can't run it. To write a press release that works, hide the PR-speak in quotes and in the relevant information that is woven into the text. Find a story angle. In every business event, there is a story lurking beneath the surface. A press release writer's job is to find that story, and to make that the focus.
Make sure there are several well-placed, interesting quotes. These quotes should sound to editors like they are telling the main story, but in reality they are plugging the company event. When writing one, get several quotes from the source and choose the most interesting ones. When doing PR writing, it is OK to ask for very specific quotes from the client. If you need them to say a specific thing, interview the source in a way that you will get the quotes you need.
And finally, keep it short. No one has time to read a three-page press release. No one. Keep it to one page- a page and a half is a last resort if it can't be cut any further. In most cases, if you can't cut the press release down it may be better to simply make it into two separate releases.