Dear PR Matters,
I have been tasked to do some writing for PR agencies and most of this have to do with media releases. Having started out more than a decade ago, I am aware that so much has changed, especially with the advent of technology and social media.
Given that, much has also changed with the audience and the requirements of the different media entities. I will appreciate it very much if you can give me some tips on how I can update my media releases to make them more relevant to today’s audience and media outlets.
Please let me know what I can do to further develop my writing skills.
Your letter is very inspiring, as you are looking at ways to enhance and update your writing skills. The industry always values good writers, and I am sure you will do good in your profession.
Since your work has much to do with media releases, let’s see how we can update our work on this with the help of Jay Hickman’s “The Modern Press Release: Two Don’ts and Three Do’s,” which was published by Marketing Profs.
In his very interesting article, Hickman went back in time with a “paean to the humble press release”. For simplicity’s sake, he limited examples to the print media, although the points also apply across broadcast and online news. Good writing is good writing everywhere, and the print medium is still a good source of news in the Philippines.
Did you know that this year is the 111th anniversary of the press release?
HICKMAN said that “the first press release was issued in 1906 by the Pennsylvania Railroad, under the direction of public-relations (PR) expert Ivy Lee, to provide media with an on-the-ground account of facts about the 1906 Atlantic City train wreck. Since then, it has become a staple in marketing promotion, public affairs and politics”.
What is the value of a press release?
IDEALLY, a press release “enables the organization to share the facts of a new development in a way that will have the most impact in its targeted audience,” Hickman added. If the content is newsworthy, it will be picked up by media outlets that can either reach out for more information to develop a story of their own, or if it is particularly well-written, the release has the potential to be printed on one or more media outlets. The New York Times printed the Pennsylvania Railroad press release word for word on October 30, 1906.
“The press release allows the brand to carefully craft and control the message—accentuating the elements it wants, avoiding those it doesn’t—and establishing a message foundation for other versions of the news, or suppositions, that might be shared subsequently.”
Hickman lamented the fact though that “the potential power of the press release is sometimes misunderstood by those who aren’t studied PR practitioners”. And I am sure you have encountered many situations when you have had to address requests that simply challenge your writing skills and common sense. Many self-marketing entrepreneurs often believe falsely that “writing and distributing a press release means guaranteed free company publicity and a third-party media endorsement”.
Others “wrongly believe that there’s no such thing as ‘too much of a good thing’, so they document every move of the company and send it along to the media”.
This is a time when we know many people who document their every move—where they go, what they buy, what they eat in social media, and think media outlets would be interested in this type of information of the corporate front.
Hickman believes that “acting on those beliefs can be fraught with problems” and urges companies to consider a more strategic approach. Next week we will share Hickman’s tips on how to write a modern press release.
PR Matters is a roundtable column by members of the local chapter of the UK-based International Public Relations Association, the world’s premier association for senior professionals around the world. Millie Dizon, the senior vice president for Marketing and Communications of SM, is the former local chairman.
We are devoting a special column each month to answer the reader’s questions about PR. Please send your and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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