Hotel PR: The News Release Revisited

By Mary Gendron Senior Vice President / Managing Director, Eric Mower & Associates | March 15, 2010

The news release has been around for 100 years (that milestone passed in October 2006), conceived by public relations pioneer Ivy Lee who used it to convey to the media details of a fatal train accident on behalf of his client, the Pennsylvania Railroad. For much of its history, the news release (a.k.a. press release) remained unchanged, taking the form of a written statement of news, facts or information on behalf of a company or a cause.

Typically, the release would be sent via what is now referred to as "snail mail." In special instances, it might be handed to media at a press conference or similar event. With the dawn of email, releases were sent, initially, as attachments, then as imbedded copy. The latter method developed to avoid the possibility of instantaneous deletion by a firewall, a spam filter or a skittish recipient reluctant to open an attachment sent by anyone other than a family member or close friend.

The 2001 anthrax scare eliminated the snail mail option almost overnight (saving countless trees in the process). Since then, the news release has evolved into a primarily electronic conveyance, a development that has caused public relations professionals and their clients to rethink its use and potential for effectiveness.

One thing that hasn't changed is its purpose. Since Mr. Lee saw his release printed verbatim in the October 30, 1906 edition of The New York Times as a "Statement from the Road", news releases have been used to convey news, facts, ideas, story angles, officials statement, points-of-view, trends, information, explanations, retractions, and clarifications. The bane of certain reporters' existences, due to the sheer volume received and, too often, lack of targeted direction, it serves an important role to others, particularly legions of journalists whose organizations are short-staffed and unable to send writers to get the stories that their readers and viewers might be interested in.

Our goal - and yours, I hope - is to better understand how and when to use this basic public relations tool, and how and when not to use it.

Retooling PR's Most Basic Tool

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