Understanding the Purpose of a Press Release

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Whether you know what a press release is irrelevant because it’s something you will get more insight into when you read further on. You have likely heard that term thrown around plenty of times while watching the news, watching shows, documentaries, and in any form of media. You’ve been exposed to press releases countless times in your life, but you are still likely unfamiliar with their purpose and the factors that go into making a press release.

The reason why it’s irrelevant if you don’t know about a press release is not only that you’ll likely learn something valuable in this, but also for the fact that, as mentioned, you’ve been exposed to them before and will be, again and again, ad infinitum. Anyone from an intern at a small startup to a CEO of a multinational conglomerate should be aware of them, and it’s more than just the importance; it’s also about how they are made.

If you want to learn more about press releases, how they impact various industries, their roles in marketing, journalism, and PR (public relations), then read on to find out the purpose they represent in everyday life.

Who Produces a Press Release?

The first question you might have is who makes a press release? The answer is simple, and it’s anyone. As a private citizen, you can actually draft up a press release for any number of reasons. Of course, you wouldn’t take the time to make one if you didn’t have something important to say, but more on that later. Similarly, any press release that is made doesn’t mean it’s going to go across someone’s desk or get picked apart by someone that matters.

The most common people you will find who are writing press releases and actually seeing something materialize due to them are journalists, communication specialists, company interns, PR specialists, marketing employees, etc. These are the most common people who will be drafting press releases to send out because their job revolves around company image, marketing, matters of journalism, and similar causes. These are the most likely sources for press releases, but independent journalists are also privy to creating them.

What Industries Use Press Releases?

Another simple question to answer is every industry. Pharmaceutical companies, automakers, union and labor boards, aerospace companies, videogame developers, and the list go on. Any enterprise that can benefit from a press release will use them to pose a significant advantage or serve as a deterrent against bad PR. One such benefit and purpose of a press release is that it is a malleable tool that anyone can use. Hence, it serves as a primary function for many companies in wide-ranging industries that should be utilizing.

Press releases are not tied to any specific industry, but you’ll likely see more press releases for an automaker than you would from a bakeshop, but it’s not to say that a bakeshop can’t release one. It’s just more than likely that a big company will.

Reasons for Its Importance

Now that you have a basic understanding of who creates a press release and where they’ll be found, it’s time to get into the specifics of what makes a press release so important – its purpose. Looking at the information found at How To Write a Press Release: An Advance Guide | eReleases, there are plenty of rules for making a good press release. However, the purpose of the press release is the primary influence in which rules to use. Before we get to these rules, here are the important uses of a press release.

Bring Awareness to a Topic or Story

First and foremost, a press release is most effective as a way of drawing attention. If you have a juicy story that seems fit for publication, it’s a lot harder to send an email with “ATTENTION” as in the topic field because a journalist might glance at it for a few seconds then scrap it. It’s hard to get a story out there considering there’s so much to cover, but a press release (a good one) is meant to grab attention fast, effectively, and introduce a topic or news story clearly and concisely. This is an excellent way to have a story seen or heard.

Build Brand Awareness and Recognition

Some brands need help in building their following and creating awareness. Using a press release to develop recognition helps share a vision or goal of a company that can be spread out on a wider scale. This is a form of effective marketing because brand awareness is so vital and needs to be seen by the right audience, like industry journalists and the press.

Crisis Management and PR

On the other hand, sometimes brands are going through a bit of a rough patch. It could be a line of faulty products, an embarrassing incident from an employee or executive, or it could be that they were linked to an unflattering news story. Whatever the problem is, a press release is a good stop-gap solution to help attempt to mend the situation and express the thoughts and perspective of the company through an apology or some kind of reactionary measure.

Generate Hype

Product launches happen all the time without people even realizing it. Whether it’s a new TV series that is struggling to find its footing, a new electronic that is the hail mary of a small startup, or an app that isn’t being downloaded enough, a press release can be sent out to journalists in hopes that it can generate hype. This hype will help bring attention to it if the right sources publish the information regarding it and make it a successful product launch.

Develop Important Networking Contacts

Networking, in any industry, is an utmost priority. The ability to grow connections is vital for things like getting product launches hyped up or having an expanding list of reliable journalistic sources to read and disseminate your press release content. Building this network of connections comes when they can reliably trust your brand and company with quality material in press releases that will generate interest because of your story. Press releases are a good way to build that kind of networking capabilities that allow for more exposure.

Cost-Effective Marketing Tactic

Creating a press release is also something of a marketing tactic in itself. This is a way to spread awareness, but the real benefit of its use for marketing is in the fact that it’s cost-effective. It takes relatively little time to write a press release once you’ve mastered it, and it takes even less time to send it to prominent or relevant journalists by way of an email. This is a cheap way to get the word out on whatever the release is for.

Benefits of a Press Release

As you can see, the benefits of a press release are numerous. It can be a cheap yet effective marketing tool. A great press release can also open up doors to new contacts, help establish a brand with identifiable traits, develop more PR-minded skills for employees who deal with the press release, and it can be used to stem a crisis. Press releases are an industry go-to that can help companies big and small formulate a strong communication presence.

What Makes a Press Release Good?
Now you know about the importance and why a press release is made, you should also learn the basics of what makes a press release good. There is plenty of things that go into it, and after a while, it becomes second-nature when you understand that it is formulaic. A good press release is not like a creative writing assignment, so it’s by-the-books. Here are some important points that make a good press release.

  • Clear and concise – One of the most important rules that should be adhered to always with a press release is that it is clear and concise. The writing’s clarity implies that it is thoroughly checked for spelling or grammatical errors because journalists can sniff out amateurism from this alone. The conciseness of a press release means that it contains everything relevant to the story but isn’t longwinded. The rule of thumb states that it should be readable within roughly 30 seconds of skimming. Any more than that, and you may lose their attention as fast as you grabbed it.
  • Consistent tone – The tone and perspective should be active and third-person. The press release isn’t about you and isn’t about anyone from their perspective, so third-person must be maintained. Likewise, an active tone creates urgency and implies that the company or brand is the one doing the action. These are stylistic approaches that a good press release must maintain.
  • Important information is first – As an addendum of sorts to the point on conciseness, making sure the relevant information comes first is a priority. A typical journalist can go through 50+ emails a day of people relaying information, press releases, and other tips to them, so they want to find which ones are of use to them. When they open a press release, they need to get the gist of it quickly and then see what the valuable information is sooner rather than later. This is why it must go in the immediate paragraphs following the introduction.
  • Enticing to read – It needs to pop off the screen in an email or make their eyes focus on it if it passes through their desk. Earlier, it was said that simply trying to get attention in bold caps in the email subject line isn’t ideal, and it’s true. Still, the subject line should include some reference to the material in a quick enough way that the reader doesn’t learn all the content right away but feels compelled to open it. It’s not a creative writing exercise, but the material should be relevant to them (tech journalists, as an example, won’t care about a story on a zoo animal birth) and require their attention.
  • Includes various media formats – The media landscape is changing quite a bit, so a traditional press release can always use some more flair. There’s nothing wrong with a text-heavy press release as this is the most common format of it, but including mixed media is advantageous because it makes the press release look contemporary. This indicates that the company cares about being progressive with their PR material, and it can make a lot of information more attractive in presentation.

How to Learn to Write a Press Release

There are many ways to learn to write a press release. Online, there are various formats to follow and guided learning lessons on how to create one. In short, there are some tips you should always keep in mind. These tips include the five important factors listed above that make a good press release, but there are other foundational approaches to consider too.

The primary formatting of a press release is not as rigid as it may seem, but it does warrant some advice on the general structure. It looks like:

  • Headline
  • Dateline
  • Intro
  • Body Paragraph(s)
  • Boilerplate
  • Call to Action(s)
  • Contact Details

You can enhance your press release’s attractiveness by adding one quote from an industry or a topic-relevant individual. In the content details section, be sure to include a link to your media kit with ready-to-publish images, articles, quotes… And, of course, always highlight the most important piece of info.

If you can follow this order and implement the tips on conciseness, tone, etc., you have a winning formula. You should consider avoiding complicated industry-specific terms that readers won’t understand, avoid making it more than a quick 1-2 pages, and certainly don’t forget that sending it out to as many inboxes as possible could annoy potential reporters.

As you can now see, a press release is a lot more accessible than you may have once thought. Although it can sound like an intimidating piece of PR or journalism, a press release is actually just a short summation of an important topic or announcement. It’s useful in plenty of fields, and it is helpful for a variety of reasons.

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John is a serial entrepreneur and writer who is passionate about helping small businesses launch and grow. His work has been featured in Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and Forbes.