Press Releases’ Importance to PR

ivy-leeThe History of Press Releases and Their Importance to PR

Ivy Ledbetter Lee (July 16, 1877 – November 9, 1934) is considered by some to be the founder of modern public relations. The term Public Relations is said to be founded for the first time in the preface of the 1897 Yearbook of Railway Literature.

When Lee was hired full-time by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1912, he was considered to be the first public relations person placed in an executive-level position. In fact, his archives reveal that he drafted one of the first job descriptions of a VP-level corporate public relations position.(1)

Ivy Gives Birth to the Press Release

PR legend has it that Ivy Lee responded to a Pennsylvania Railroad train-wreck tragedy (that occurred on October 28, 1906, in Atlantic City, N.J. taking the lives of more than 50 people) and used it to create what would become known today as the press release.

Ivy Lee convinced the railroad to issue a statement about what had transpired – and in doing so, he set in motion a practice for companies to address issues important to them, or, in the case of the railroad, to offer an explanation of what had happened.(2)

Lee had worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance journalist in his early days and had worked as a journalist at the New York American, the New York Times, and the New York World. In 1906, when the New York Times received his release on the train wreck, the story is the newspaper printed it exactly as Lee had written it.

Press Releases Today

Now over 100 years later, press releases remain an important tool for attracting the attention of the news media to newsworthy information – they are an invaluable component to any public relations campaign. Press releases (news releases, media releases, press statements) are documents in a specific format that are used to announce a range of new items to the media, including:

  • pressScheduled events
  • Personnel promotions
  • New products and services
  • Sales/business accomplishments and awards
  • Addressing an issue or responding to a crisis/accusations
  • Sharing data, statistics, tips, trends or other pertinent industry information

Reporters are more likely to consider a story idea if they first receive a press release. In fact, at JoTo PR, we have found that if you are not putting out regular professional, newsworthy press releases, you’re not going to be on the media’s radar.

JoTo PR’s Tutelage on Press Releases Featured on MSNBC

And as a PR firm, are we on the media’s radar? Of course. We’re called upon to give advice on press releases and other publicity and PR information.

Check out the MSNBC segment I did about the how to use press releases to get good press for your company.

For more information, visit or call us today at 888-202-4614

(1)Lee, Ivy, “The Founder of Public Relations” <Wikipedia>

(2)Kennedy, Mickie. The History of the Press Release <“The Origin of the Press Release and its importance to Public Relations.”>

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