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#PRinHistory: The Press Release Granddaddy

#PRinHistory: The Press Release Granddaddy

Ivy Ledbetter Lee (July 16, 1877 – November 9, 1934) is considered the founder of modern public relations. The term “public relations” originated in the preface of the 1897 Yearbook of Railway Literature.

Legend has it that Ivy Lee responded to a Pennsylvania Railroad accident that occurred on October 28, 1906, in Atlantic City, N.J. taking the lives of more than 50 people. The tragedy inspired him to create what would become known today as the press release.

Ivy Lee convinced the railroad to issue a statement about what had transpired. In doing so, he set in motion the practice for companies to address issues important to them or to explain events, such as the railroad accident.

Lee worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance journalist in his early days and later 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 incident, they printed it exactly as Lee had written it.

Now, more than 100 years later, press releases remain an important tool for attracting the news media to newsworthy information. They are an invaluable component to any public relations campaign. Press releases (e.g. news releases, media releases, and press statements) are specifically formatted documents used to announce a range of new items to the media, including:

  • Scheduled events
  • Personnel promotions
  • New products and services
  • Sales/business accomplishments and awards
  • Addressing an issue or responding to a crisis/accusation
  • 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.

Today, the press release is often bastardized to appear as news, but with fluffy marketing language. But as they say, what goes around, comes around – Google now penalizes you for it. And what’s more…the media hate you for it.

At JoTo PR Disruptors, we know the formula for a hard-hitting news story. In fact, we’ve found that if you’re not putting out professional, newsworthy press releases regularly, you’re not on the media’s radar.

But what’s considered newsworthy is a whole ‘nother ball of wax…. until next time.


1. Lee, Ivy, “The Founder of Public Relations” <Wikipedia>
2. “History of public relations” <Wikipedia>
3. Kennedy, Mickie. The History of the Press Release <“The Origin of the Press Release and its importance to Public Relations


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