Thursday, November 16, 2006

100 Years and Counting for the News Release

Speaking of the status of the news release, it just turned 100 years old. On October 28, 1906, Ivy Lee created the first news release. He was working as a consultant with the Pennsylvania Railroad when an accident occurred that killed at least 50 people. The same day, he urged the company to release a statement with facts before the rumor mill took over. He also invited reporters to the scene and provided a rail car to transport them there. Impressed by the tactic, the New York Times printed the release in full. This new approach was highly praised by media and public officials.

A few months later, another incident with another client led to much criticism of the news release. One biographer says critics called them “ads disguised as stories sent to manipulate news coverage.”

So Ivy Lee issued a Declaration of Principles, which stated: “This is not a secret press bureau. All our work is done in the open. We aim to supply news… In brief, our plan is, frankly and openly, on behalf of business concerns and public institutions, to supply to the press and public of the United States prompt and accurate information concerning subjects which it is of value and interest to the public to know about.” This is just one of the reasons Ivy is regarded by many as the father of modern public relations.

Greg Jarboe provides more info about the first release.

Karen, who writes the Teaching PR blog, has supplied the full text of Lee’s principles.

All this discussion about the new media release (aka the social media release) in the context of this 100th birthday has led me to wonder. In addition to re-evaluating what elements ought to be in a news release these days, perhaps we can re-look at our principles for the news release.

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