What is a press release?

Public Relations and Press ReleasesThe press release is the standard device for conveying the basic who, what, where, why, and when of your story to the outside world via the news media. If your release is clear, straightforward, and free of unnecessary words and details, it may be printed verbatim by a small, short-staffed local newspaper. In most cases, however, an interesting press release will serve as a point of departure for the journalist. It arouses curiosity and furnishes the basic information for a good story. So that a reporter can call you for a quote or other help in writing the story, be sure to put your name and phone number at the top of the page “for further information.”

It’s equally important to know when you should not issue a press release. Think twice when someone in your organization, in a rush of enthusiasm or in the heat of panic, announces that “we need to get out a press release on that!” Before you race to your word processor to share some allegedly earthshaking news with the rest of the world, stop in your tracks, take a deep breath, and ask these kinds of questions:

What do we hope to accomplish by getting out a press release? Who, outside our organization, really cares? Is it truly newsworthy? Will the resulting press coverage (if any) help us? Can we accomplish our purpose better in another way?

The problem with sending out a humdrum press release, and most of them fall in this category (and into the wastebasket unread), is that you are not only wasting your own time, paper, and postage. You are also wasting the time of the person on the receiving end who opens and scans such mail. In so doing, you deflate your organization?s currency with the news media. If you cry News! too many times when you have no real news to report, you may not get the attention you deserve when you do have something significant to say.