Press Release Anatomy and History | Not Much Has Changed

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.

Brief History of the Press Release

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?


Press Releases Really Haven’t Changed Much

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:

  • Logo
  • Headline: The most important element of a release, this should capture the readers attention and summarize your story.
  • Sub-Headline:  While not always necessary, this is your opportunity to build on the headline by adding secondary detail
  • Dateline: City of origin and the date of release
  • Lead Paragraph: Second only to headline, the lead paragraph needs to summarize tell your story and hook the reader.
  • Body Paragraph/s: The next few paragraphs are your opportunity to add story details beyond the lead
  • Quote/s: A quote is great when possible, preferable from C-level executives or industry experts. It’s your opportunity to have a person/voice validate the importance of your story
  • Boilerplate: This section allows you to explain your organization in a few sentences and if appropriate add a few hyperlinks to your website, social media pages, etc.
  • Contact Information: Make sure to include phone and email at minimum in case a journalist wants more info

OK, OK! Yes, Press Releases have Changed a Little

There are two major differences in press releases today by comparison to years ago: distribution and multimedia.

Press Release Distribution

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:

  • Press releases in the early years = paper
  • Press releases in the middle years = paper + wire service
  • Press releases today = email +wire service + post on Website + social media

Press Release Additions Brought by Technology Advancements

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:

  • SEO keywords: What keywords would your audience use to find this news? Once you answer that question make sure that keyword is included in the release headline and body. Of course press release SEO is MUCH more complicated than that, but this is a good start. I plan to write more on press release SEO in a future article.
  • Video: People love video and they can be fantastic for offering more info on your story, or just making it more fun and interactive
  • Photos: Second only to the video, people love anything that helps them better understand a story, photos are great for illustrating your message
  • Links: Hyperlinks in a release, if inserted properly, can aid in SEO and drive traffic to your website

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!

Social Media Quiz: What Kind of Sharer Are You?

The psychology of sharing is something on which the The New York Times recently did a study.  Out of those results, we created a social media quiz that will tell you what kind of sharer you are.  According to the Times, there are in 6 general types of sharers: Selectives, Boomerangs, Connectors, Altruists, Hipsters and Careerists.  This infographic sums it up:



To help define your company’s digital marketing strategy, you should identify which type of sharers you are looking to target and create content that responds to their uses and needs. For example, if you were looking to elicit a response from Hipster sharers, it’s important that your content is fresh, original and entertaining. This study also highlights the need to have a variety of sharing widgets on pages on your websites so as to maximise potential shares from as broad a variety of sharers. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest share buttons should all feature and don’t forget about email too!

To follow on from this infographic, we at StatPro have created an interactive quiz that asks “What kind of sharer are you?” To find out, click the button below and answer some questions about the kind of content that you are likely to share and you’ll know what kind of sharer you are.


About the Author:

Jenny Gonzales writes for StatPro, a UK company that specialises in cloud based portfolio analytics software.

Final Four Predictions: Social Listening for March Madness

March Madness (which extends into April – it’s madness, I tell you!) is heating up with the Final Four showdown tomorrow night.  When I did my Sweet 16 picks based on nothing but chatter volume, I definitely expected to do better than I did last year: the team I picked to win it all last year was knocked out in the first round, so there wasn’t actually any way to do worse.

What I didn’t expect was to get 8 out of 8 picks correct.  This made for a very special “Interesting Topic” to add to our Monday morning marketing meeting, so thanks, social listening tools: you made our morning.

Out of sheer curiosity I’m using the same method to predict the Final Four, which is: measure the volume of social chatter around the teams playing, and choose the winners according to who has the most talk.

Final Four Predictions:



[ed note: due to reading the chart wrong, I typed Wisconsin in rather than Florida.  But the Huskies and their tight-lipped New England fan base beat out the more socially-mentioned Gators.  Ah, well: still better than last year.]

Kentucky is dominating social chatter overall, so if I had to pick the team to win it all right now with this admittedly ridiculous methodology, that’s who I’d pick.  But that’s not actually how the method works (there is method to my April Absurdity): I like comparing the team chatter after the most recent round of games, and up until the day before the next round.

That’s just how it works.  And I don’t question a method this silly yet uncannily accurate (that one time).

Whether my Final Four predictions end up being as directly correlated to social chatter as the Sweet 16 games were remains to be seen; whatever happens, I’ll at least have another “Interesting Topic” to share in our Monday marketing meeting.


April Fools’ Day is Christmas for Marketers | Top 10 all time April Fools’ Favorites

Marketers are creative people, and for the most part we have a sense of humor about what we do everyday. While it may seem that Those Marketing People have the most free-spirited jobs in corporate America, we do often feel constrained. Like everyone else, we want – or NEED – to blow off steam once in a while. Thankfully, just like Santa on Christmas, Corporate America delivers a special gift to marketers each year: April Fools’ Day!

Awesome!  Thank you, Santa Corporate America, it’s just what we wanted!

For the non-marketers scratching their heads in confusion and – if you’re someone who thinks that marketers get to have all the fun – let me explain: marketing is creative in nature, and that is why most of us love what we do. Unfortunately, the poor marketer is often restrained by such hindrances as brand guidelines, schedules, budgets, ROI and taking ourselves too seriously.* What a pain!*

On one day a year marketers get to break free of corporate chains and have a little fun. Break all the rules. Go CRAZY. That Day is April Fools’ Day!

It’s my favorite day of the year – really!  Each April 1st I find myself glued to my computer searching Buzzfeed, AdWeek and TechCrunch for the year’s best corporate pranks.  So, after witnessing a particularly good day of online pranks yesterday I feel compelled to share a few of my favorites.

And, wow, there have been some amazing examples of April Fools’ marketing creativity!

My Top 10 All Time April Fools’ Day Prank Favorites:

(in no particular order)

Coldplay Launched Cologne – Angst




– with Keanu Reeves

Funny or die – Bieber takes over FOD

Virgin America and Google – Virgle


A Bit More on my History with April Fools’

Before Meltwater I worked with CafePress, an online retailer of custom merchandise, and we pulled off a few April Fools’ Day pranks! Yesterday my former colleague Sarah Segal issued a great release announcing their launch of CafePredict, a partnership with the NSA that magically delivers the things you want before you even order.

What follows is a 2008 April Fools Day email we sent to our customers announcing the launch of CafePress LoveMatch, a dating service that pairs people based on the t-shirts they have purchased. We fooled a few folks…


*hopefully when you read this sentence you picked up on a great deal of sarcasm…