We’ve come a long way since Ivy Lee sent out the first press release as damage control over a train accident in 1906. In fact, Ivy Lee, who worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad is considered the Father of Public Relations in general. Over the decades, the press release became the primary method of announcing “good” industry news from corporations to journalists. In cases of damage control, a press release goes to work, so to speak, before the rumor mill and detractors get involved. In some cases, including Ivy Lee’s first document, media outlets printed the press release in its entirety. Now in the age of viral videos, Facebook and Twitter, it’s easy to question the relevance of press releases. In an age where the traditional media outlet is thought to be fading, why bother?
It could be argued that today’s press release performs the same function as the one in 1906, except that today, it spans a wider range of media outlets and requires more creativity to stand out. Understaffed and overwhelmed newsrooms count on press releases to keep them up to date. Additionally, today’s ‘news’ outlets are more numerous, scattered and diverse, ranging from say, technology and political blogs to YouTube, Twitter and more. Of course there should be catchy headlines, calls to action, contact information, links and anything that will make it easy for your product to be discovered and covered.
A few years ago, Slider Pines, a band from Dallas, sent out a press release that looked like a form letter. It was a hit. After an earthquake hit Washington D.C. last year, the Smithsonian National Zoo received numerous accolades and social media props for their press release describing how animals in the zoo reacted to the earthquake – “The black-and-rufous giant elephant shrew hid in his habitat and refused to come out for afternoon feeding.” Then there’s Apple, whose press releases are standard fare but the buildup before them creates much buzz. Of course the most amazing press release ever is the one you will read here: Most amazing press release