What are Press Releases?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

Press releases are official statements issued by companies and organizations to print, television and radio media. They may be purely factual and address a specific issue or concern, or they may be more promotional in nature. Some are generated in-house by authorized employees, while others are produced by outside public relations firms contracted by the company or organization.

Some press releases accompany verbal statements.
Some press releases accompany verbal statements.

The press often relies on these press releases to form the factual basis for subsequent articles. During a newsworthy event, access to the actual individuals involved may be extremely limited. If the issue at hand is controversial or potentially damaging to a company's reputation, there may be a general news blackout. An official statement can allow companies to control the amount and substance of essential information the various media outlets may use.

Press releases may give the highlights of a meeting.
Press releases may give the highlights of a meeting.

Some of these statements are not meant to control information, but to openly promote a new project or event. Public relations departments use general press releases regularly to keep their companies or organizations visible in the public eye. Newspaper, radio and television press rooms often receive promotional statements that may or may not appeal to the local reader or viewership. Editors usually evaluate them to determine their newsworthiness before assigning reporters to pursue the lead.

Individuals in extraordinary circumstances may also use press releases to control information. A recent mother of sextuplets or a released kidnapping victim may be too overwhelmed to address the media directly, for example, so an attorney or other family spokesman may issue a statement on his or her behalf. Essential questions may be answered, and relevant quotes from the individuals involved may be provided. This form may be followed up with a controlled press conference in which reporters may ask questions directly.

Writing quality press releases is a process requiring skill and experience. Because every word may be scrutinized, careful wording is essential. This is why many companies turn to outside public relation firms for official statements and other media contacts. Inaccurate or poorly-worded information can come back to haunt a company or organization. For this reason, most are very succinct and businesslike in tone.

A press release may be followed by a controlled press conference where reporters are able to ask direct questions.
A press release may be followed by a controlled press conference where reporters are able to ask direct questions.
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments


@titans62 - I do not know anymore with the media if that type of strategy works, but I will say that it is still best to be short and direct with the media in a press release, merely being careful as not to give them things to use to blow the story out of proportion.

In a press release the person making it needs to include what information the want, as well as keeping in mind that the press already knows that something is going on and probably already knows some details already.

That being said the person needs to be informed on what the media is probably wanting to know and make sure they give them a little bit of information on which they can use to meet their deadlines.

Satisfying the media is a great thing in a tense situation and creating a press release is something that can be done if it is created in the right way or it could make things a lot worse if someone is not informed with what is wanted to be known.

@stl156 - Although the press is really intrusive nowadays, in the US, they do have a right given to them by the Constitution to relay information to the people and to keep information away from them in all cases is a violation to principles that this country was founded upon.

It is very easy to completely leave the media in the dark about a situation, but the problem with that is that they will create stories on their own and if no information is given the stories can begin to go out of control and the court of public opinion could begin to affect the people involved.

If one wants to be careful with the press release they need to at least acknowledge what is going on at hand and if they do not want to give information to the press simply stress that information will be made available as it is gathered. This usually satisfies the press for a little while as if the information is not there they cannot report much of anything and it limits the conjecture to a point.


@kentuckycat - You are correct to an extent, but I really feel like the press will keep hounding until they get the information they want, no matter how good the press release may be.

Unfortunately, this is just the way the press is nowadays and they will keep pursuing until they have gotten the information that they want.

I really feel like the best way to deal with the press is to simply give them as little information as possible, and just acknowledge the situation and allow it to play itself out.

The pres will eventually get to the truth or they will make it up on their own and get discredited.

Unfortunately this is the way the press is nowadays and it is probably best to keep a press release as short and as uninformative as possible.

I really feel like the art of a press release is an inexact science, and one needs to be careful as not to include too much information, if they do not want to give it all at that moment in time as well as make sure that they satisfy the media's inquiries and make sure that the media will not hound them for more questions.

The best way to create a press release is to simply be honest and forthright with the media and if it is a sensitive topic at the moment to make sure that the media understands that and they will get the full story eventually.

Going along with this type of announcement it is best to include questions that the media really want to know, but do not have any information on. If one states a few facts, like the overall broad issue at hand and address maybe a few details, this may satisfy the media for awhile and make sure that they will stay out of the way until everything is settled.


Press release is designed to be sent to journalists in order to encourage them to develop articles on a subject. A press release is generally biased towards the objectives of the author. A 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.


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