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What is a press release for nowadays?

‘Press releases’ should really have changed their name many years ago, when they started to be simply public announcements. They were originally just private communications between businesses and the media, and were written to appeal to this very specific audience, which just needed a list of facts to see at a glance if the news was relevant and significant. If it was, the audience might then follow it up with the originator.

Two things changed this: businesses gaining the ability to publish the ‘press releases’ themselves, online, and a new generation of media that just wanted to reproduce the news as issued, without making further enquiries to be able to add its own spin.

Consequently, for the past 30 years, ‘press releases’ have been complete news stories which could be published and read without alteration. The label has only really been retained because it seems a bit glamorous. ‘Corporate announcement’ would be more appropriate.

Rooted in the last century

Despite this, the style of many ‘press releases’ is still rooted in the last century, using very dull language and not acknowledging that many customers will read them as-is. I would strongly recommend nowadays that a ‘press release’ should be written as if the intended recipient was a customer – because for the large part, it will be. We should write them in an attractive sales language, concentrating on the benefits to the end user.

The only real difference between a ‘press release’ and an introductory sales letter might be that the benefits would be aimed at the third person (the end user) rather than the second person (‘you’).