Back to basics: ‘What’s a press release?’
Every profession is guilty of having its own industry speak and age-old ways of doing things. You know, the phrases and processes that people within the sector understand just like that, but sound totally alien to everybody else?
The worlds of public relations and copywriting are riddled with industry language and practices. And I’m always reminded of it every time I talk to a client, especially those who are new to PR or content marketing and may not have necessarily heard of the industry lingo or techniques I’m using.
That’s why I’ve developed this Back to Basics blog series, to Plain English some of the terminology that’s frequently used by PR professionals and copywriters that isn’t always clear to everybody else. So, let’s start with a question I’m often asked, ‘What’s a press release?’
So, what is a press release?
Press releases, referred to as media releases too, are documents that contain news stories about organisations. These stories can focus on things that have happened and contain post-event news. They can also highlight something that’s due to take place.
Who are they used by?
They’re used by organisations and PR professionals to share information with the media and they’re used by the media to generate stories, whether that’s online, in print, on the TV or radio. Other than being used by journalists, the ideal for organisations and PR professionals is for their releases to be covered pretty much word-for-word by their target media.
How are they created?
They may sound like sophisticated things, but they’re really not! Most press releases are Word documents that tend to be no more than two pages long. They’re sent to journalists via email and usually follow a similar structure – headline, story, notes to editors.
What are they used for?
To generate press coverage and, if you’ve got a strong story that’s relevant to journalists’ target audience, then hopefully, you’ll generate lots of it!
What’s the one thing you should bear in mind about them?
Just because you’ve issued a press release to the media, doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to get coverage. There’s a real skill to making sure releases are well written and newsworthy and contain all of the points the media (and their audience) want to know about. For more information about thinking like a journalist, check out my blog that focuses on just that – ‘How to: Think like a journalist.’
So, having read this post, you’ll hopefully now have a top-level understanding of what press releases are, who they’re used by and what they’re used for.
As I say, the points above only skim the surface of what press releases involve so, if you’d like more advice, have any questions, or need a hand with producing some, just let me know. You can contact me by completing the contact form or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.