Press Releases and Their Purpose

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A press release is a written communication that reports specific but brief information about an event, circumstance, or other happening. It's typically tied to a business or organization and provided to media through a variety of means. 

Don't expect the media will grab the press release and run it. It may depend on whether the event or circumstance is something that might interest their readers or listeners, or if it benefits the community in some way. If you're lucky, your press release may be picked up by bloggers, Tweeters and others who read it and find it worthy of promoting within their social networks.

Two Basic Types of Press Releases

Some press releases are available for "immediate release." This means anyone can share the information as soon as the release is made public. Other press releases may have time limits that allow only certain media sources to report them immediately. They're offered to other news services, websites, or blog owners for publication at a later time.

The Main Purpose of a Press Release

There's a difference between "news" and "press releases." The main purpose of all press releases is to promote something significant and specific. A press release is a document that adheres to a strict format and serves three marketing and promotional purposes:

  • To let the media know about an event, hoping it will pass the information along
  • To let the media know about your business, hoping a reporter will see a story in your press release and write an actual news article about it
  • To help promote your business' appearance on the Internet via blogs, websites, and social networks. It is direct readership publicity

Tips for Writing a Press Release 

Press releases always begin with the name of the city where it originates from and the current date. They should always be written in the third person. Write it as though you're sharing riveting information. If your information isn't riveting, take a step back. Maybe there's something you can add to your event or announcement that will make it more interesting. Of course, that "something" has to happen. You can't mention that an A-list celebrity will show up at your event when you know full well he won't.

Linking your press release to a current trend or occurrence in the news can also help grab attention.

The bottom line is that if your event is boring, your press release may be yawn-worthy too, and no one is going to want to run with it. Avoid dry, rigid wording for this reason. You don't want to lose your reader with the first sentence.

A press release is not just a rendition of facts. Press releases always employ quotes taken from someone significant to the event, like a corporate executive, for example. But quotes in press releases are seldom a verbatim quote of what a personage actually said. They embody more of an enhanced idea of what the person should have said - an idealized version of a statement that pushes the press release's agenda. It's a rhetorical device.

What a Press Release Is Not

A press release is not a guaranteed marketing tool. Temper your expectations. Don't anticipate every press release you write will always be picked up and passed along by mainstream media sources.

But don't give up. Keep trying. Successful publicity depends on sustained effort.