Thursday, 26 June 2008

Research in to - Press Releases

As part of my development in PR I am going to look at different aspects of the work involved and how they are done. This, when accompanied by the information of why they are done and when they are done should help me in the application of the specific task. 

I will of course go into much more detail than listed here, for example for press releases I have initially written a 10 page report for my own use on writing a press release. I will be willing to share the reports if you e-mail me. 

To business....

"A press release (news release/media release/press statement) is a written or recorded communication directed at members of the news media for announcing something claimed as having news value."

From my research it seems that although there are no set rules, press releases follow a general format. The following is an example of a layout for a press release. 
  • Headline - Keep it under 10 words and try and make it catchy enough so the reporter wants to read it but not so creative that the message is not immediately put across
  • Date line - When the info is released
  • Introduction - must contain who, what, why, where and when.
  • Body - This is the place for the supporting information to back up your headline and introduction
  • Notes to editors - Background information on your company
  • Close - This can change depending on the country of origin. In America this will be symbolized by "-30-", in other countries it is common to close with the hash symbol repeated 3 times. 
  • Media Contact information - Information on how the press can contact you. You should also state if you have photo's as these should not be placed in the press release. 
As noted in my previous entry the origins of the press release are attributed to Ivy Lee after an accident involving the Pennsylvania Railroad. The idea of which was to control the information going out so that it could not be distorted. This is looking back at the days when the press could be controlled, now due to things like blogs anyone can say anything. The press release now just serves as an information dispenser to people who might listen. 

The inverted pyramid is a way of organizing information to ensure the reader takes away the most important facts. The most important information is at the top and the least at the bottom. The main benefit of this organization is that even if someone just reads the first paragraph they have taken away the most important parts.

If you look at this extract from the New York Herald on the 15th April 1865 the day President Lincoln was assassinated  you will see this organizational structure. After reading only the first few sentences we know who (Lincoln) what (was assassinated) where (Ford's theater) when (9:30pm). it is not possible to state the why so it is not mentioned. 

The following is a list of times it would be appropriate to use a press release;
  • Product Launch
  • Pre Event
  • Product changes/ Re-launch
  • Crisis Management
I also came to the conclusion that it is very easy to put out a press release when it is not needed. If you look here you can see a checklist to follow, if you can't answer all of the questions it is perhaps better not to release a press release. 

I have also looked into the use of language in a press release but it deserves a whole section to itself. I will tackle that challenge on a different day.

Until then...

Where it all began...

I feel it is important to know the history of your chosen field for two reasons, it can only help your progression and improve your skills. Secondly it only seems right that we should acknowledge those that came before. They are responsible for the way the PR industry works and without them I would not have a job to go into. So here is my acknowledgement to those who came before....

  • Edward L. Bernays (November 22, 1891 - March 9, 1995) - Seen as one of the founders of modern Public Relations he began his career as a press agent working with the theater. He worked with The American Tobacco company, Aluminum Company of America, The American Dental Association and executed what has been referred to as one of the first overt media acts for a president when working with Calvin Coolidge. He made note of things which are now practically PR laws, "The three main elements of public relations are practically as old as society : informing people, persuading people or integrating people with people. Of course, this means methods of accomplishing these ends have changed as society has changed" - Crystalizing Public Opinion (1961). Influenced by his uncle Sigmund Freud's work into the unconscious he attempted to work it into his job in PR. He often used the method of indirectly using "third party authorities" to get his clients cause across. He used this method because, "If you can influence the leaders, either with or without their conscious cooperation, you automatically influence the group they sway."                                                                                                                                                           
  • Ivy L. Lee (July 16, 1877 - November 9, 1934) - Thought of as the founding father of modern public relations he changed the way public relations dealt with crisis situations. He is credited with on of the first uses of a press release whilst working with the Pennsylvania Railroad. After an accident on one of their railways Lee suggested that they put out the story straight away before other versions of the story could make it to the public. He also organized transport for the reporters to the accident site in order to "control" them. Lee also changed the face of public relations with his Declaration of Principals. They referred to the public obligation PR practitioners have that stretch beyond the client.                                                                                                           
These two men are responsible for public relations as it stands today. It is unfortunate that their names will be virtually unknown to people outside of public relations. This is especially so if you consider them, as I do, to be among the most influential people of the 20 Century. There are many other people who are important in the field of public relations, some who are not involved in PR themselves but are important to people who use it. For example David Ogilvy for his work in advertising. I will make note of these people when they come up in my studies as I feel they deserve mention. 

I am currently looking into press releases, their construction and their place in society. 

Until then...

Corporate Institute of Public Relations (CIPR)

CIPR is the PR governing body of the UK. In America there is the Public Relations Society of America. When you join you gain access to case studies, jobs, work placements (very useful for students) and access to networking events. The networking events are very important as it is often said of PR, "its not what you know, its who you know".

I am a member of CIPR as a student. It will allow me to contact PR experts for advice or study case studies which will expand my learning of the subject. I will also gain access to the PR library in London which will be very useful in my studies. 

The reason I mention this is because the CIPR or PRSA seem to be the place to be for PR practitioners and want to be practitioners alike. I intend to find work placements through the CIPR which I will write about here, this will allow me to update my CV which is very important. 

It seems it is become the norm for graduates to have relevant experience as well as their degree. This is something I must work on as my previous PR experience is non existent. 

All in good time....

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Relating to Public Relations

I have embarked upon what seems to be a well travelled road leading me into the world of Public Relations. That is to say I am studying Public Relations at university with the long term goal of working within this field. 

I would like to consider my self someone who attempts to learn all aspects of the world he is stepping into. This being said as far as the PR world is concerned I have made a cardinal error in that I am into my second paragraph and you (the audience) still do not know who I am, what exactly I am doing, why I am here, where it is I come from, and when.... well when is not so important as the entry is date stamped. I feel I can be forgiven as this is my first entry but you can rest assured the PR rules will be followed from now on. 

So then to business. My name is Anthony Cardwell and I live in Surrey, England. I am here to extend my knowledge of Public Relations through discussion and practice. I intend to do this by enforcing my knowledge of new important things learned by writing about them here. This will allow me to commit the information to memory, inform other interested parties of the information I am privy to and practice the art of writing by actually writing.

This, for now anyway, is enough information about myself as I also need to practice the important PR trait of stepping out of the limelight as it does not belong to me but to my client (as and when I have clients). 

I hope to look at interesting topics and share my experiences of working in the world of Public Relations. 

Until then...