According to the Public Relations Museum, the press release was born following a train wreck on October 28, 1906, in Atlantic City, N.J., that left more than 50 people dead.
The train was owned by Pennsylvania Railroad, one of Ivy Lee's clients. Instead of hiding the facts from the public--as was common those days—Lee invited the press to cover the accident first hand. And in order to assure the press had accurate information, he wrote a statement about the event. This first press release, written by Lee was published exactly as Lee had written it by the The New York Times.
Although it's rare for media outlets to use press releases verbatim now, they still area catalyst for a journalist to create a story.
When Ivy Lee created what is considered the first press release, he established an invaluable tool for any public relations campaign. The times and technology may have changed, but a press release can accomplish things that make its use as relevant today as when Lee was alive:
- A press release will quickly and effectively share information about your product or service.
- A press release provides an opportunity for you to share your thoughts on why a product is special, respond to claims made by others, explain why your organization is important,
More than 100 years after Lee's innovation, press releases remain an important tool for attracting the attention of the news media to a newsworthy item of information. Also known as news releases or media releases, press releases are documents in a specific format and are now used for a variety of purposes specifically for trade show exhibitors:
- A company announcing a new or improved product/service.
- A company announcing a boom in sales or response to accusations against them.
- The announcement of a press conference or an upcoming event.
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