Before we approach the task of understanding a press release, it is more important to first clarify where a press release comes from in the first place. Most people will have heard of Public Relations or ‘PR’. PR is all about reputation; the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. With social media on the rise and acting as a quick and easy way to share information, PR is becoming an even more important aspect of brand quality and identity, as people are able to communicate their feelings of a company with millions at the touch of a button.
You may now be wondering, “but what kind of companies use PR?” Well, any company can. Councils, retailers, catering, events, universities, there are no rules on who can and can’t focus on their PR. A press release is simply a result of PR. A press release is almost like a brief piece of news about a company or brand, depending on that piece of news, depends on where the company would like it distributed. A press release can contain an array of information, contacts, photo opportunities, websites; the more information, the better.
A press release is not limited to any specific type of company, nor is it limited as to who it is distributed to. A press release can simply just be posted on the company website, or, if the information is news of a more interesting nature, it can be sent to the media, charities, anyone that the company feels it may be valuable to. However, whenever making a press release, always ensure to include contact details just in case someone requires more information, however, if you’ve done your job well, they shouldn’t need to contact you at all!
News companies will receive hundreds of press releases on a regular basis, so remember to keep the most stunning and important information early on. Just like in advertising, grab the reader’s attention at that first instance. This includes a snappy and informative headline, although some media will lift your headline right off of the page and use it as their own, so just be aware of this.
Here is an example of a press release posted online. Just like a news story, the press release concentrates the most vital information at the beginning. It also includes hyperlinks to websites that contain more information, includes a photo and even allows you to share the press release at the bottom of the page to guarantee maximum coverage. Due to this being an online press release, there is no exclusivity so there have not been any contacts included or a distribution list.
When you are producing a more exclusive press release, you can include something called an ‘embargo’. This will include a date and time for the information to go live, so if you are having an embargo on the press release, it will usually only be sent to media that you trust. It is also important to include notes to the editor. This could be background information, for example, if you were raising money for charity you could include information about that charity. Always remember to include as much information that you feel is necessary. When writing your press release you need to think like a journalist; what kind of information would you want?
A press release can be about many things, major new developments, job creation or expansion, controversial industry news, surveys or findings, new appointments, celebrities or new products, just as long as you feel it is information that the media or other companies would deem noteworthy. Also remember to keep the press release impersonal; it is not an opinion piece!
To summarise, a press release is a valuable asset to PR. It is a way to inform people of your brand and keep a strong relationship between your organisation and your public. Just make sure you get a feel for the kind of information your press release should include by looking at others online. If you are yet to set up a Public Relations sector of your company, then hurry up and jump on the bandwagon!