Ivy Lee, who worked for the railroad, convinced the company to release a statement to journalists before any rumors were spread and reported on. Two days later, The New York Times printed it word for word, and the press release was born.
A lot has changed since 1906, and yet the way we think about the press release has stayed much the same. By now, we’re all probably tired of getting these questions about the press release: “Is it dead yet?” “How can I write a better release in today’s digital era?”
This is because 1) It’s not dead; it’s just changing and 2) There’s no one way to write a press release. We’ve eschewed the bigger questions of why the press release’s position in our profession is changing. It’s time to discuss whether our press releases are as effective today as they were 10, 20 or 30 years ago.
Then and now
How do we really use it as a tool to reach and connect with today’s journalists? How has it changed? To illustrate, let’s revisit Ivy Lee. After the tragic accident, Lee had the time to pitch the company on his strategy, write a statement, print off copies, and go to the scene of the incident to distribute them to reporters. Those reporters then wrote about the situation not one, but two days after the fact.
In 2015, a video of the incident would likely go viral, immediately followed by tweets and Facebook posts; then, broadcast news would pontificate on the various reasons why this happened,...
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