In our media coaching sessions with clients, we often include a vocabulary lesson that covers PR and news media terminology. “Press release” – also known as “news release” or “media release” – is a commonly misused term, so let’s set the record straight.
A “press release” is a piece of material specifically written for a journalist. The purpose of a press release is to introduce a newsworthy topic – such as significant company news – and provide information that a journalist would need to cover the story.
Press releases follow an industry-accepted format that includes a headline, dateline, media contact information and “XXX” or “###” at the bottom to denote the end of the document.
Press releases also follow AP Style writing guidelines. Issued by the Associated Press, this lengthy guidebook has rules on spelling, capitalization, punctuation, abbreviation and other writing standards for PR and news writing.
PR firms or in-house PR departments can distribute press releases one of two ways: via a news wire service, like BusinessWire, or directly to select journalists (we call this “targeted outreach”).
Distributing a press release to the news media does not guarantee that it will result in a story. However, effective public relations firms and in-house staff know how to properly angle and craft a press release so it has the best chance of attracting a journalist’s attention and interest.
When a press release leads to getting your name in the news, we call that “earned media coverage” or “publicity.”
Even if your press release doesn’t result in a news story, there are ways to repurpose it into other kinds of valuable PR and marketing content. Read “Making the Most of your Media Relations Activities” for more on that.