What is a press release? – A formal announcement to the media

A press release is a written communication that reports specific but brief information about an event, circumstance, or other happening.

It’s fundamental for organizations to communicate effectively with the public. This is where the time-honored press release comes into play.

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Definition: What is a Press Release?

A press release, also known as a news release, is an official statement issued to the media giving information on a particular matter. It serves as a primary tool for organizations to disseminate information, ensuring that news is accurately shared with journalists and through them, to the public.

“A press release is an official, written announcement that organizations distribute to media outlets. Its purpose is to convey key information and often, to invite press coverage.”

Practically, consider a press release as the bridge between an organization’s news and the media.

It communicates facts, figures, and events, such as the launch of a new product, an upcoming event, or a significant corporate merger, allowing the media to report on these matters accurately.

The Origin of Press Releases

The invention of the press release is often credited to Ivy Lee, a public relations pioneer, in the early 1900s.

Ivy Lee recognized that providing accurate information directly to journalists would lead to more factual reporting. By crafting a narrative and including the essential facts, his clients could shape public perception effectively. He believed that transparency and direct communication with the media were paramount to maintaining a favorable public image. This innovation marked the beginning of professional public relations.

Press releases have since evolved, adapting to new technologies and media landscapes, but the underlying principles of clear communication and facts presentation remain unchanged.

Their continued use underscores their effectiveness as a communication tool.

5 Examples of Press Releases

The following are varied instances of press releases utilized by organizations:

  • Product Launch: When Apple Inc. reveals a new iPhone, they issue a press release providing detailed specifications, pricing, and availability. They may highlight innovative features, such as cutting-edge camera technology or a new processor, and emphasize the product’s benefits to consumers.
  • Corporate Restructuring: A multinational corporation like General Electric might announce strategic reorganizations through a press release, explaining the reasons behind the changes, expected outcomes, and impacts on stakeholders, while often reassuring continuity.
  • Research Breakthroughs: Universities like Harvard often publicize significant scientific advancements through press releases. These releases can detail the nature of the research, the long-term implications for the field, and potential applications for the breakthrough.
  • Philanthropic Initiatives: Non-profits such as the Gates Foundation use press releases to outline their philanthropic efforts, detailing the objectives of new initiatives, the funds committed, and the hoped-for impact on communities or sectors.
  • Executive Appointments: Fortune 500 companies release announcements about new executive hires, including CEO or CFO, which provide the executive’s background, prior achievements, and anticipated contributions to the company’s future.

Public relations professionals harness the power of press releases to convey critical information, often with strategic timing and messaging designed to maximize impact and manage public perception. Conversely, a poorly timed or inaccurately framed press release can lead to negative publicity and confusion, demonstrating the importance of precision in these communications.

Press releases can serve as a pivotal springboard for media coverage, potentially resulting in significant publicity. However, it’s crucial to understand that not all press releases garner the desired attention; the media landscape is saturated, and only the most compelling or newsworthy releases are likely to be picked up by journalists.

7 Tips for Writing an Effective Press Release

Before writing a press release, consider the following advice:

Tip Description Benefit
Lead with Impact Begin your press release with the most critical and impactful information. This ensures the reader understands the importance of your announcement immediately.
Be Concise Write in a clear, succinct manner, avoiding unnecessary jargon or complex language. Clarity promotes better understanding and retention of your message.
Tailor the Angle Align the press release angle with the interests of the target media outlets. This increases the likelihood of your release receiving coverage.
Include Quotes Provide quotes from key stakeholders or experts related to the announcement. Quotes add a human element and authority to the release.
Implement SEO Techniques Optimize your press release for search engines using relevant keywords. SEO helps your release to be found online, increasing its reach.
Add Multimedia Elements Whenever possible, include images, videos, or infographics. Multimedia elements can make the release more engaging and shareable.
Provide Contact Information Make sure to provide clear contact details for further inquiries. Transparency and accessibility boost media relations and credibility.

A well-crafted press release can catalyze media coverage, inform the public, and ultimately support an organization’s strategic goals. The above tips offer guidance towards creating press releases that are not only informative but also more likely to resonate with journalists and audiences alike, thereby enhancing the overall communication strategy.

The following terms are intricately connected to press releases:

  • Embargo: An advance notice given to journalists or media outlets about a press release, which they agree not to publish until a specified time.
  • Boilerplate: A standard description of a company or organization that is included at the end of a press release, providing background information.
  • Dateline: The part of a press release that includes the release date and originating city of the press release.
  • Media Kit: A package of information and resources provided to journalists to facilitate reporting on the story contained in a press release.
  • Pitch: A brief message aimed at catching a journalist’s interest, often accompanying a press release or sent prior to the release to gauge interest.
  • Exclusivity: Offering a particular media outlet or journalist the exclusive right to cover the story before the press release is distributed widely.
  • Lead: The first paragraph of a press release that summarizes the most critical information and answers who, what, when, where, and why.
  • News Angle: A specific focus or unique perspective on the story that makes the press release more attractive to the media.
  • Headline: The title of a press release, designed to grab attention and succinctly convey the main point of the announcement.
  • Subheadline: A secondary headline that provides additional information and context to support the main headline of a press release.

Each of these terms plays a significant role in the crafting and execution of an effective press release. Mastery of these concepts is fundamental in ensuring that your message is strategically communicated to the media and, subsequently, to your intended audience.

FAQ on press releases

For further clarity, consider the following frequently asked questions:

What is the primary purpose of a press release?

A press release serves as a formal announcement issued by an organization to the media. Its primary purpose is to disseminate news-worthy information to journalists and media outlets with the intention of securing media coverage.

When should an organization issue a press release?

Organizations should issue a press release when they have important news or announcements that they want to share with the public through the media. Ideal instances include product launches, corporate events, awards, or important company updates.

What makes a good headline for a press release?

An effective headline for a press release should be compelling, concise and clearly summarize the main news point. It should grab a journalist’s attention and be reflective of the content in the release.

What should be included in the first paragraph of a press release?

The first paragraph of a press release, known as the lead, should cover the essential information of the announcement, answering the fundamental questions of who, what, when, where, and why.

How long should a press release be?

A press release should be succinct, ideally one page long, but can extend to two pages if necessary. It’s important to be concise and only include information that is directly relevant to the news being announced.

Is a press release written in first or third person?

Press releases are typically written in the third person to maintain a formal and objective tone. This approach helps ensure that the release is easily picked up and reproduced by media outlets.

Can a press release include images or videos?

Yes, it is highly recommended to include high-quality images or videos in a press release as they increase engagement and the likelihood of the release being picked up by the media.

How do you conclude a press release?

A press release usually concludes with a boilerplate, which is a standard description of the issuing company or organization, followed by the contact information for media enquiries.

Are press releases still effective in today’s digital age?

Press releases continue to be an effective tool for communication in the digital age, especially when they are optimized for online distribution and designed with multimedia elements to appeal to modern audiences.

What role do SEO techniques play in a press release?

Integrating SEO techniques in a press release, like incorporating relevant keywords, can greatly increase its visibility online and improve the chances of being seen by the target audience and media professionals.

Each question and answer herein serves to demystify the nuances and best practices associated with crafting and disseminating press releases—an indispensable tool in public relations.

Article by:
StoryBase Content Team
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StoryBase Content Team