Press releases have traditionally been used to publicise an event or the release of a new product. Larger companies would employ public relations specialists whose job would be to build relationships with local and national newspapers, TV and radio stations and the business press. Public relations agencies flourished during the latter years of the 20th Century.

The birth of the internet changed the focus of public relations. Small business owners were now able to take the initiative and communicate directly with key opinion formers. Online press releases could also help to attract more potential customers to the company’s website.

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It is not clear when or where the first press release originated. Michael Schudson, in his work entitled “Discovering the News: A social history of American newspapers”, describes how congressmen in the late 19th Century would drop in to the newspaper offices with pieces of information, generally about themselves or their agenda.

One of the first public relations experts, Ivy Lee, who received a generous donation of newspaper space from John D Rockefeller on behalf of a campaign for Johns Hopkins University, remarked on how the newspapers gave so much attention to a story that was not ‘real’ news. Ivy saw that the mass exposure was due to how the article was ‘dressed up’ for the newspapers and observed that the future held considerable possibilities along those lines.

The internet further developed Ivy Lee’s possibilities during the last decade of the 20th Century and the first decade of the 21st Century. It became possible for anyone with a good knowledge of the written word, armed with some knowhow and a personal computer, to create their own “news” and release it out on to the World Wide Web. Just as public relations agencies abounded during the 20th Century, web publishers sprung up to help the entrepreneur and celebrity alike, to spread the word about their achievements.

A good press release needs to be written in the language of the people to whom the story is targeted. Many companies fall into the trap of producing press releases that are filled with technical jargon that is commonplace in the workplace of the originator. The wording needs to be something that the layman would understand.

Press releases that are to be submitted to newspapers should not be written in flowery language. It is essential to allow the journalists to do their jobs. Bare facts and figures along with a short commentary and conclusion will suffice. Leave the journalist room to stamp his or her identity on the piece.

Business owners who are confident that they possess the required skills in creative writing could distribute self-written work, directly to potential clients. It is essential to remember to whom you are communicating your ideas, and use the appropriate language.

Online press releases can play a major role in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). At the bottom of the press release, you would enter your contact details, including a link to your website. You should also include two or three contextual links embedded in the main body of your press release. These text links should point to different pages on your website. The words within the text that you link from should be relevant to the content of the landing page.

There are a number of online agencies who would be happy to help you to distribute your press releases. Public relations companies have moved on. They will ensure your releases are not only sent to the important and relevant news sites, but also to social networking and bookmarking sites, such as Twitter and Delicious, to name just two.

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Author : Hilary Tobar

I am a professional .NET and PHP software developer. I has been designing and developing websites professionally since 1994. Currently working as SEO consultant at UK SEO Company.

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