Press Release: Brief Explanation
A press release, also known as a press statement or a media release, is a short, written communication, which is sent to members of the media in order to provide them with information that is in some way newsworthy. Ultimately, the goal of a press release is to pique the interest of news publications and their journalists, in order to gain media coverage for the story. Press releases are, therefore, primarily considered to be a form of marketing.
Typically, a press release will be written by a trained public relations professional, who will adhere to the established standards for producing such content. This type of communication is generally associated with the business world, although press releases may also be produced by other organisations, including those related to government and local authority, e.g. a department for education, health, energy, research, policy or tax affairs.
Press Release: Detailed Explanation
A press release can be a very useful and powerful public information tool, potentially allowing an organisation to get important news into the press, so that it can be read by a wide audience. Providing newspapers and other media organisations with press releases can also help journalists to produce new content quickly, which is important in the digital age. As a result, press releases can be a good way to build positive relationships with the media.
Essentially, in order for a press release to be effective and attract the interest of media publications, it should be produced in a similar fashion to a news story in the media. This means it should be written in the third person and contain quotes and other important information about the news or event being promoted. Doing so makes it easy for journalists to read, understand and reproduce the press release for their own audience.
For example, a restaurant chain making significant changes to their menu may send a press release to various media organisations, in order to ensure the news reaches a wide audience. Such a press release should be written like a news story, should contain all the key details and facts about the new menu, and would most likely include quotes from business leaders about the menu changes, allowing news companies to easily create a story as research is kept to a minimum.
Generally speaking, press releases are written and then sent to a news agency, or newswire, allowing journalists, bloggers and other writers to search for it. With that being said, alternatives to this distribution method include sending a press release directly to a local newspaper or specific journalist or sending it to a distribution service. Technically, any information intentionally sent to a journalist or news organisation can be considered a press release.
In the internet age, due to the need to publish lots of content, it has become more common for press releases to be sent directly to journalists, bloggers and other writers, rather than to the editors of a news organisation. This is partly because it allows independent writers to get to work quickly, but also because employed writers are more likely to be able to convince their editors to publish the story than the author of the press release is.
Nevertheless, it is important to note that the creation of a press release does not in any way guarantee that it will be picked up by journalists and turned into a story. The creation of stories remains at the discretion of writers and their editors or news organisations. In order to maximise the chances of the press release being turned into a story for mass consumption, it is crucial that the content is newsworthy and that all of the information is contained within.
It is worth noting that while most press releases are intended for immediate release, some are embargoed. This is especially common with film, music and video game companies and means the press are asked not to report the information until a specific time. Furthermore, some are only released to specific media companies to begin with. For instance, a government may issue a press release to a state broadcaster, like the BBC, before other media sources.
Modern press releases may also be issued through alternative mediums, such as through video or audio. Similarly, the press may use press releases to produce video content or content for the radio.
Pros and Cons of Press Releases
For a business, organisation or individual creating a press release, one of the key advantages is the potential for the press release to be picked up by a number of different news companies, websites and blogs. This means that the news contained within the press release could reach a wide and diverse audience, often far exceeding the audience that could be reached by the company directly.
For media organisations and other news publications, press releases have the advantage of providing the base for new content. This is especially useful in the internet era, because readers expect lots of news, meaning content has to be produced regularly and quickly. Press releases also mean that such content can be produced at a low cost because the crucial information has been provided already, eliminating the search element.
On the other hand, press releases may not necessarily be picked up by the media, especially if the content is not deemed important or relevant. This means they may be unsuitable for anything other than relaying crucial information. Moreover, from the perspective of the news organisations and journalists, the use of too many press releases means they run the risk of producing stories that are too similar to their competitors.
Typical Press Release Structure
While there are no strict rules on what can and cannot be contained within a press release, most press releases follow the same basic rules and structure. Adhering to the established norms helps to make a press release easier to read, which increases its chances of being picked up. As previously stated, a press release will usually be written in the third person, with the following serving as a basic structural template:
1. Date – This tells the reader when the press release was sent. If the date is later than the time it is received, this means the author of the press release is requesting an embargo until that time.
2. Headline – Essentially a title, which should be kept short, should be used to grab the reader’s attention, and should summarise the content within the press release.
3. Introduction – Typically a short, introductory section, which outlines the most important parts of the press release and tells the press member what they can expect if they read on.
4. Main Body – As the name suggests, this is the main body of text, where the introduction is expanded upon. The main body is usually finished with either “###” or the word “end”, indicating the end of the press release.
5. Company Information – Finally, the bottom of the press release should serve as an ‘About’ section, providing business information and contact details for the organisation issuing the press release.
Although the length and language used within press releases can differ significantly from business to business, common tips include keeping the length to a maximum of 800 words, keeping sentences to around 25 words or less, adopting a formal, fact-centric tone and including at least one quote from an influential figure.
Press releases are a type of content marketing, which relies upon building a positive relationship with sections of the media, in order to get information out to a wider audience. In addition to their potential reach, press releases are cheap to produce and can help media companies to create content. However, a media organisation may review a press release and decide it is not newsworthy, so there are no guarantees that a press release will be effective.