Press Releases: From History To Present, The Ultimate Walkthrough
History of press release is quite interesting than someone might think. They might be steeped in antiquity, but not like dark ages antiquity. Recent antiquity, at the turn of the 20th century. More specifically, the rudimentary version of what we know today as press releases was first penned and distributed in 1906. Every great thing starts with a story and press releases are no different. Here’s the story of how press releases got their start.
The Mishap that changed PR Forever
While it is unfortunate that press releases got their start off of a tragedy, it is nonetheless, a turning point for PR in general. The story starts with a company called Pennsylvania railroad, which had a publicity expert by the name of Ivy Lee.
Now, as fate would have it that day, a train owned by the company derailed in New Jersey, killing 50 people and injuring 75. At the time, it was considered a tragedy and spelled disaster for the company and its public relations department. A mishap of this magnitude was bound to attract the full force of press and could prove very damaging for Pennsylvania railroad.
Lee, as the public relations executive, took it upon himself to ratify the situation and wrote a basic chronicle of how the accident went down and narrated the entire incident from the company’s perspective, releasing it for the journalists who descended on the company like vultures. The format he followed, the stance he took on the accident and above all, the method he used to disperse the news was the first of its kind and set in motion the path forward for press releases. People and media outlets alike were impressed by Lee’s method of news delivery, to the point that Time and several other major publishers across America published it verbatim (which is extremely rare, as press releases go). This is the kind of impact the first rudimentary press release has had on the people and media.
Fast forward to 110 years later and there is little to no difference between Lee’s original manuscript and one of the millions of press releases sent this year. This is a testament to the press releases’ ingenuity and perseverance. The economy tanked and soared, the internet and dot com revolution took the world by storm but the trusty press release prevailed and held its own against might foes, keeping itself relevant in all the cultural zeitgeists that came and went.
1906 thereon, the press release and its channels have evolved much, but the basic elements and the gist of the press release has remained pretty much the same. Here’s a comprehensive breakdown of the press release: from 1906 to 2020.
Evolution of the Press Release
Not much has changed about the press release. The same design and format used by Lee to recount the horrific accident is used today to announce partnerships, hiring and firing and fashion shows. Needless to say, the release itself is quite robust and has stood to the challenge time and again in its century of service. But it has gone through a lot, shuttling between media channels and marketing which is stated right here. Here is a brief history of press release and how it evolved.
Ivy Lee, in response to a harrowing train accident, pens a release meant for reporters and media personnel, creating the world’s first press release.
Detroit, Michigan has its first ever news show hosted on a radio, paving the way for press releases’ interplay in the media
News shows go live on television, creating the cornerstone of marketing and press release setups.
World’s first advert plays on television during a Dodger’s game, setting the basis of advertisement in America and elsewhere.
The world’s foremost press release distribution company- PR Newswire- starts its operation. Companies can now release information to multiple news houses simultaneously.
Yahoo, Altavista start operations, essentially kickstarting the internet revolution. Press releases take to the web.
In a series of milestones, the world’s first multimedia press release promoting the blockbuster film ‘Top Gun’ is issued. This press release includes photos, a b-roll and a myriad of other attachments that would set the format for press release marketing for years to come.
Facebook goes live, marking yet another milestone in digital marketing and setting the stage for press releases’ integration with digital marketing.
2007-2008 recession starts. Companies scramble to cut unnecessary costs, with marketing and advertising being the primary victims.
Press releases get their first internet treatment: Google releases its algorithm-based Penguin 2.0, affecting how the search giant ranks press releases in its index.
Press release wire services reach more than 200,000 media outlets and 10,000 top websites, showing the world the potential of press release marketing.
As you can see, press releases have come a long way into becoming one of the mainstays of digital marketing. And as its history might suggest, they are here to stay. And why might that be?
Well, for one, many businesses and established services have lost their footing in each of the tragedies that the press release service has survived. From the Great Depression of the 1930s, the internet revolution and the dot com bubble that left many bankrupt to the 2008 recession, press release marketing soldiered on, adapted and transferred mediums but persevered and stayed relevant. If it can survive this much, it can go on for another century without any fail.
However, to cope with the digitalization of media and marketing, press releases evolved into press release marketing methods of today. This transition is explained in detail below,
Press Releases – From Print Media to Digital Marketing: The Transition
As evident from the start of the story, press releases were meant for news-reporting until the advent of digital marketing, wherein they were reintroduced as marketing tools. This transition, which began after the internet revolution, has helped press releases greatly maintain the status quo. However, the intent and purpose remain the same as always: press releases are still used to distribute information, be it corporate or newsworthy items. It’s just that the distribution medium has changed: from print media to the internet.
For the greater part of its time in circulation, press releases were used for media and news distribution purposes, exclusively for the print media. Post-2004 is the time when press releases took to the social media frontier and have found great use there.
However, that’s not to say they’ve been disposed off as print media alternatives. Several press releases, especially event press releases, still find their way in publications, magazines and newspapers.
Needless to say, press releases did what they had to do to stay relevant. They shone throughout their use as print-media news delivery and when the world switched to the internet, they adapted and came rebranded as new digital marketing solutions. That’s pretty nifty.
Press Releases – In the Digital Era
As of 2020, press release marketing is well on its way to becoming the cornerstone of digital marketing. More and more businesses are enlisting press release distribution services as their go-to solution for digital marketing. As such, the industry is now worth a staggering $16 billion, which is a good indicator of how far has the industry come and how far is it poised to go.
Why Press Releases?
Press releases, as stated beforehand, are efficient in disseminating the news of a company or a corporation to the specific niche of media sectors. Releases can also double as marketing tools for services and products, perfect for companies looking to increase their standing in the social media marketing sector. This means that press releases can boast both mediums for their distribution; social and print media. Let’s take the purposes of the press release and understand them from the ground up,
Press Releases as News Services:
Every business, whether it is an enterprise or a simple corporation, have used press releases as their primary method of dispersing and disseminating information. They are also used to spread the word around about an event or a new product that the company might be launching. Nearly all major companies use press releases extensively in the digital marketing section: go to any website like Microsoft, Sony or Apple and you’ll find a dedicated spot for press releases that these conglomerates have created to keep the flow of information running.
Journalists and media men, looking for filler material for their publications to fill up the space scour these websites and these PR sections for stuff. This ensures that if a company is hosting an event or is launching a new product, it can be efficiently published without the need for expending resources or spending from the marketing resources. Similarly, if the company is embroiled in a legal battle, it can display its official stance and its take on the matter via a press release, updated on its website or through a newspaper.
Press Releases as Marketing Tools:
Press releases as marketing tools are one of the most cost-efficient methods of marketing there is; be it social media marketing or conventional marketing. They get your message across the board with the equal efficiency as any normal marketing campaign would do, plus more. The plus being the massive cost savings you get when you opt for press releases marketing instead of a regular campaign. Press releases market whatever you want: product, service, offshoot. They also disseminate information efficiently to media houses and people alike, which means they are a one-stop solution for all your marketing needs on a budget.
Read More: Effective Ways of Marketing a Press Release
Are Press Releases Relevant Now?
True, press releases have been repurposed, just to keep them alive in the cultural zeitgeists over the times. It started out as a newspaper marketing device, got rebadged as a public relations gimmick and as of the latest, is now reserved for SEO practices and digital marketing. Safe to say, press releases are not dead and will continue shape-shifting until the final coffin nail hits. Until then, press releases are the most cost-efficient method of promoting news, information and simply getting news to the consumer.
Still as relevant as ever, press releases now carry the same function but the platforms have changed wildly. The format has been retained pretty much its whole life; but now, instead of rooting for one in a newspaper, they can now be found on the internet along with a catchy headline, a product tagline and its signature bulk of information pertaining to the product or event it is supposed to be advertising. SEO and digital marketing websites routinely employ press releases as their go-to marketing solution; one that gives you the most for the least. Beats a big dollar marketing campaign that eventually fails to reel in potential customers.
Benefits of Press Release
First off, press releases derive most of their benefit from the fact that they provide the best cost-effectiveness of any media campaign. Because they rely much on the written document itself and the rest is handled by journalists from the print media side and SEO specialists on social media sites, therefore, the cost incurred is minimum and the services provided are valued at far more than what a normal campaign may cost. For a business that has already allocated its resources elsewhere and has limited funds left to invest on a social media footprint, press releases might be the next best thing when it comes to cost-effectiveness behind the newest phenomenon of free marketing: memes.
Below are the benefits of a press release,
The Three Major Types of Press Releases
While there are a ton of templates out there for different type of press releases, all of them fall into three broad categories,
Traditional / Conventional Press Release
Today, the true descendant of Lee’s original manuscript would have to be the conventional or traditional press releases: the releases that are concerned primarily with announcement of news or information.
These conventional press releases, as stated above, are often issued or associated with any sort of announcement or emergency (for example, an automobile manufacturer recalling its vehicles). However, they have also found good use in announcing new products, spin-offs or major company changes.
These types of press releases can be beneficial for a myriad of company types as the purpose is to provide information to the customers and the general public, inform the stakeholders of what they need to know and publish facts.
With these types of press releases, format and structure do not matter nearly as much as the objective nature, which is reading like a piece of news that complements the brand’s story.
If you’re not sure where to start or whether you’re in compliance with search engines and their requirements, giants like Google and Bing host a ton of templates you can use to build that story out with ease and peace of mind.
It’s also worth remembering that if you’re writing for online, your release content has the potential to reach millions of people across the globe. Consider how your words could be interpreted – or misinterpreted – by non-native speakers.
SEO – Targeted Marketing Press Release
A press release for marketing purposes optimized through Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can be considered a traditional press release, but with more emphasis on the marketing section. With the inclusion of SEO, the press releases’ function goes from that of informative to attracting customers by driving organic traffic to the website.
However, using press releases for SEO- driven marketing has had its fair share of red flags. Companies used SEO-targeted releases when they noticed their search engine rankings were faring poorly and needed a boost. This practice was beneficial but apparently too much for Google and its algorithm, which unfortunately banned such practices after several high-ranking corporations were caught with their hand in the cookie jar.
However, things are now a bit different,
The fact that Google penalized a good portion of websites for exploiting the algorithm, that doesn’t mean SEO targeted releases have been rendered useless. Brands, corporations and start-ups should still be creating press releases that are as newsworthy as possible and including keywords with strong value to their mission.
Keywords should be placed naturally within the headers and boilerplates of a press release though they should not contain any anchor text.
Google’s example for what will not fly anymore:
There are many wedding rings on the market. If you want to have a wedding, you will have to pick the best ring. You will also need to buy flowers and a wedding dress.
Social Media Press Releases
One of the most used formats of press releases in the digital marketing era. These are rightfully called the bread and butter of press release marketing.
This is because it’s the “perfect hybrid between a standard social media post and a newsworthy blog post which can also help your organic search engine traffic without link schemes or other tactics that Google frowns on”.
You have to make sure that all the pertinent information that is attached to your press release, which includes the stuff that you intend to share with the target audience that you have identified, not to mention the requisite stuff you need to put for the users to actively engage with your business once they interact with your press release.
Additionally, keep in mind that the social media press release that is written is not just intended for journalist for whom you’re hoping a publishing will be inevitable. The press release will also be picked by other content creators that populate the internet; including bloggers, consumers, looker-bys and social media websites and journalists that cover your niche as content.
Rudiments of a Good Press Release
- Lengthy statements turn people off and away: Information delivered in small, digestible size of little tidbits is always better for the identified audience because of its readability and the fact that a mass bulk of words is very hard to leaf through (which is exactly what will be done by the recipients of the press release). A reader will never like it when the main point of the entire document is buried under heaps of other lines and words irrelevant to the topic itself. Keep the message, pithy, concise and make it easy-to-read.
- Catchy words all the way: Be creative and ensure that the jargon or words that you use are not too hard for the common reader. Not everybody is a qualified paralegal or a scholar of marketing, both social and conventional.
- Customer/reader centric: Not everybody likes to read about what the CEO or the chairman of the group has to say about the product they’re launching or the new department that they’ve inaugurated. Instead, focus on what the average reader of your press release will be looking for and bank on that. Write sensibly and legibly and include quotes that put the reader in the driver’s seat and let him/ her understand what is going on. It is far better than writing corporate nonsense that just goes over every reader that comes across it.
- Get creative: The press release is yours for the drafting and the crafting. The quotes are too. Make sure they are interesting and snappy, creative. Instead of the usual, run-of-the-mill story, get and show a new side. Narrate the other person’s side or write it like a thriller.
What not to do in a Press Release?
- Don’t use lengthy statements. Pithy, comprehensive and brief sentences look good, read good.
- Don’t use quotes that sound and look run-of-the-mill. Get creative with the quotes, spin it in your favour.
- Don’t make grammatical or syntax errors. Language errors look the worst on a release.
- Don’t use superficial or industry-related jargon. The press release is meant for people too, so use a more toned-down language.
- Don’t advertise. Sure, the press release is a form of advertisement, but it’s supposed to just get the word out. Not explain why your product stands to change the world.
Selecting a Good Press Release Distribution Service
Following are a bunch of pointers that’ll help you get up to speed on selecting a good press release distribution service,
- Go with the service that delivers quality over quantity: Always go with the service that has 5-starred 2 projects rather than going with the one that has 5 projects, both rated at 2.
- Get to know the team: Only decide after meeting with the team, because meeting the focal persons will give you a good idea of the direction your press release will head for.
- Track record: Do vet the track record of the service you’re going with. You cane expect good from a company with a clean record and vice versa.
- Budgetary restrictions: Of course, budgetary restrictions are the primary factor in going the either way. Go with the one that is budget-friendly.
- Extra features and services: There are a ton of extra features that come with a press release distribution service. Make sure you pick one out that gives you the most.
Tips / Strategies for Optimal Press Release Performance
Some pointers to keep in mind while formulating your own press release,
Remember your Target Market:
Keep in mind your target audience and make sure what you write and publish resonates with the greater populace that is your intended audience.
Put Keywords in your Headline:
Keywords are imperative for an SEO strategy that accompanies a press release marketing strategy. If you want people to easily navigate to your website, you’ve got to include keywords both in the headlines and in the text that can help Google rank it among the top, making it easier for people to get to you.
Using tools like Google Insights and Google Trends (even Twitter and Facebook trends), make sure that you include the hot topics and discussions in your release. The more the topic is in with the internet denizen, the more your website can accrue views, visitors and organic traffic.
Videos are a must for audience engagement, which is especially true when it comes to social media marketing. However, a social media press release full of text won’t fly and instead will become a liability. What you need is to incorporate a lot of other media formats like videos, pictures and slideshows that can help people relate with it on a digital level and can easily engage with it.
Strong Meta Description:
Bear in mind that before people read your title after they access your website at first. And this means that they first interact with what comes across with your website; usually a meta description, that is essentially a sneak peek of what is the press release about before anyone opens it. Make sure your meta description fits in with the topic and builds on the message that the press release itself is trying to promulgate.
Also Read: Steps to Follow When Sending a Press Release
While there are a ton of press release distribution services, the one we’ve found the most useful is ReleaseLive, the premier service by iCrowdNewswire, which has some amazing packages for press release distribution. They have the most cost-effective and personalized packages for press release distribution and have a strong, solid sales result.