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Press Releases

by Mira Vlach on July 02, 2008:

Summary: A press release can deliver free publicity and can be of help to inform the public. If it is published at an opportune moment, is well written and distributed according to customs, the press release does not harass journalists. On the contrary, it helps them do their job.

Publish press releases which are interesting, newsworthy and well-written. For big companies a press release publication is a commonplace. They have either their own specialists to do it or else they co-operate with PR agencies. Nevertheless, a press release can also help small or commencing companies or organisations. The role of the newspapers and periodicals is to write about something – whether anything is happening or not. For smaller companies arises a chance that if they submit interesting information about their activities, with a bit of luck, there will be an article written about them which amounts to unpaid advertisement.

A press release is one of the ways how a company can influence its relations with the public. This is very often called PR or public relations. The bottom line is how the company sees its environment and how it communicates with it. The public's favour can have a big influence on the company's success – has more loyal customers, finds employees more easily etc.

Apart from taking advantage of a press release as a form of unpaid advertisement and building relations with the public there is another way of its use – as a reaction to unusual or critical situations. It gives the company an opportunity to react quickly to e.g. false accusations, which somebody might have done in the media, and thus the company can redeem itself in the public eye.

How to publish a press release

  1. Choose an opportune moment and topic for the press release publication. It should be something that could be of interest to broad audience, a regional or vocational public. It can be for instance organising a charity event, a new innovation etc.
  2. Write a press release (or have it written) of a good quality which has a good chance of getting ink. When writing a press release it is advisable to keep to some rules, which are described in one of the paragraphs below. Make sure, there are no mistakes and it is written in a proper press release format.
  3. Select the media which could be interested in publishing your information. For local companies and for less important news it will be probably a regional or vocational magazine. There is the option to take the relevant Internet media into consideration too.
  4. Draw a list of recipients. Nowadays press releases are submitted by means of e-mails. If you have never sent a press release, you will probably not have the mailing list of the editorial boards nor will you have any personal relations with the journalists. These addresses can be found by searching on the Internet or in news imprints. This created list might come in handy for the future. It is also possible to use a professional distributive service which might be useful mostly in critical situations.
  5. The press release distribution should be timed so that it would be up-to-date and at the same time it would not get lost in the pile of other information. Personally, mostly I choose the time around noon and leave out Mondays and Fridays. It is not considered to be appropriate to call the redaction to inquire whether they obtained the news.

Principles of writing press releases

When writing a press release try to answer: Who, What, When, Where and Why. The stated information should be, as far as it is possible, verifiable from independent sources, which you might also quote. Most journalists make judgement about usefulness of your press release on the basis of the title and the first paragraph. Therefore, pay close attention to these parts.

The press release should include:

Photographs of a good quality or additional graphics along with the caption are suitable if the news requires it. Optimal length for a press release is approximately 1 page A4, maximum 2 pages A4. You can see these examples of press releases.

Format for sending a press release

When distributing news by e-mail it is appropriate to send it as an attachment, the best in a DOC format or PDF. Put the title of the news in the subject. Into the body of the mail insert, apart from the title, the first paragraph as well or the whole text of the press release. If the attached photographs exceed the tolerable size for e-mails, select rather only one, and the rest of them place on the Internet and link to them. At least this is the custom in the Czech Republic.

Frequent mistakes of press releases

These mistakes (arranged in accordance with frequency of their appearance) have been stated in one of the researches among the Czech journalists:

Source: Donath-Burson-Marsteller, Průzkum mezi českými novináři (Research among the Czech journalists), June 2003

Once the press release is published

With a bit of luck an article might appear in the near future, which is very similar to your press release. Needless to say, it is necessary to take into account that your news might not be of interest and your story never gets published. However, it can draw the journalists' attention to your activities and it might be the foundation of another article printed out later.

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