After I published a recent article about how to decide if a press release should be written, I found myself in a few deeper discussions about the release itself. From these conversations I learned I have 2 more related articles ahead of me: Press release anatomy/history, and press release SEO/effectiveness. In order to understand press release SEO/effectiveness it’s important to first understand the history and anatomy of press releases, how they’ve evolved over the years, and how they haven’t evolved at all.
The first press release. The structure looks familiar, right?
PR history is filled with notable moments in time; many of them were powered by the press release. The first press release is credited to Ivy Lee: in 1906 his agency was working with the Pennsylvania Railroad at the time of an accident. Rather than waiting to see how journalists would cover the story he wrote up a release and proactively distributed it to journalists. The release told the story from the perspective of the railroad. The press release was born!
It is said that Edward Bernays, often referred to as the “the father of public relations,” took Ivy’s concept, refined it, and made it commonplace in PR.
Have a look at the image to the left: it’s Lee’s first press release as published in the New York Times. Look familiar?
Google search for press release anatomy
When I sat down to write this article, I started as I usually do -with research. First stop: Google. A search for “press release anatomy” resulted in a thrill and a little embarrassment.
I wanted to see if my premise (that press release anatomy hasn’t changed much) was accurate. What I found, ranked at #1 on Google, was a press release anatomy article I wrote for CafePress 10 years ago. Given the opportunity I would go back in time and re-write that article, or I’d go talk to Then-Marc to give him some advice on voice, structure and layout. But, the actual content of Then-Marc’s article remains accurate. The basic structural formula of a press release has not changed.
Press Release Anatomy:
There are two major differences in press releases today by comparison to years ago: distribution and multimedia.
Compared to 100 years ago, press releases are distributed quite differently, which of course makes perfect sense. To put it simply, distribution evolved along with technology. Its no surprise that with advances in communication technology the PR pro rolled with the times and shared releases with journalists in the ways that they’d be best received and most successful.
Distribution history breakdown:
Since today’s press release is a digital document, the PR pro has the opportunity to use today’s technology to better tell their story. Today’s press release often uses strategies to help stories get found by search engines, incorporate images, videos, and more.
4 multimedia press release elements to consider:
All in all, I find it amazing that – at their core – press releases have not changed all that much in over 100 years. The structure and their general purpose, getting your news to the public and journalists, has remained the same. Technology has helped press releases to evolve into a modern tool while still allowing them to maintain roots.
Up next, Press release effectiveness and SEO. Please comment if you have any input as I begin writing that story!