Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A news release or press release is a written or recorded communication directed at members of the news media for the purpose of announcing something claimed as having news value. Typically, it is mailed or faxed to assignment editors at newspapers, magazines, radio stations, television stations, and/or television networks. Commercial newswire services are also used to distribute news releases. Sometimes news releases are sent for the purpose of announcing news conferences.
A news release is different from a news article. A news article is a compilation of facts developed by journalists published in the news media, whereas a news release is designed to be sent to journalists in order to encourage them to develop articles on the subject. A news release is generally biased towards the objectives of the author.
The use of news releases is common in the field of public relations, the aim of which is to attract favorable media attention to the PR firm's client, and publicity, the aim of which is to attract favorable media attention for products marketed by the client.
Video News Releases
Some public relations firms send out video news releases (VNRs) which are pre-taped video programs that can be aired intact by TV stations. Often, the VNRs are aired without the stations' identifying or attributing them as such. Many regard the unattributed airing of VNRs as a breach of journalistic ethics -- but some TV stations do yield to the temptation, filling airtime while simultaneously foregoing the trouble and expense of sending camera crews to go out and shoot original news footage.
TV news viewers can often detect the use of VNRs within television newscasts, for example many movie-star "interviews" are actually VNRs, taped on a set which is located at the movie studio and decorated with the movie's logo. Other obvious examples of VNRs masquerading as news footage might include videotape of particular medical "breakthroughs" which are really produced and distributed by pharmaceutical companies for the purpose of selling new medicines.
News releases have been a large source of criticism against various types of journalists, who sometimes rely on them heavily. For example, many articles in the Video Game and Business press are recycled press releases. Some people criticize writers for creating articles in this way, because this consititutes free advertising for the company in question, especially if it is not contrasted with criticism of that company in that same article, and because sloppier news outlets will publish anything released by a PR office they are familiar with while ignoring possibly better stories. (On the other hand, news releases are NOT going away - they remain a valuable way to make the media aware of products, services, agencies and upcoming events of interest.)
- see also electronic press kit (EPK)
Writing a News Release
- Make sure whatever it is you are announcing is indeed newsworthy.
- Select those assignment editors and media appropriate for your story. For example, TV news assignment editors prefer stories where something visual is happening, don't send them to cover a speech by a talking head unless you provide a visual tie-in.
- If you are promoting something that will require the media to cover a story at a particular time and place, send your news release well ahead of time (say three weeks or so).
- Use double-spacing.
- Make it clear where the release begins and ends, use "MORE" at the end of pages if there are more pages, or "-30-" at the end of the last page of the release.
- News releases are typically written in an inverted pyramid style with the most news-worthy points (the "hook") at the beginning and then gradually more detailed information is added. This is because many media companies are inundated with press releases and they frequently don't read beyond the 3rd or 4th sentence. A successful release is one that is able to develop interest in the first couple of sentences so that the reader will continue reading the details and decide to use the material.
- If possible, try to tie the release to a current news story (called a "news peg").
A news release usually begins, "For Immediate Release -- Contact (your name and phone number)" and continues with writing similar in format and style to that found in a newspaper. The first paragraph almost always contains the crux of the announcement, and is almost always followed by a direct quote from an executive of the company commenting further on the annoucement.
Sometimes a news release is embargoed -- that is, news organizations are requested not to report the story until a specified time. For example, news organizations usually receive a copy of Presidential speeches several hours in advance. In such cases, the news organizations generally do not break the embargo, lest they fail to receive future copies of advance, embargoed material.
- How to write a press release, incl. template
- Please Release Me - a site with tips on how to write (and not write) press releases.
For information on Wikipedia press releases, see Wikipedia:Press releases.
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