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...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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I demand an explanation!