We’re Busting These Seven Common PR Myths

We’re Busting These Seven Common PR Myths

The practice of public relations (PR) desperately needs a rebranding. I encounter people every day with a very outdated understanding of what PR professionals do or the value we bring to an organization. With that in mind, I’m here to set the record straight by busting a few of the most stubborn PR myths. 


Myth #1: All Public Relations is Media Relations

This notion may have been partially true thirty years ago when TV, radio and print media were the only available channels for sending a corporate message. However, the internet dramatically shifted the media environment. While media relations certainly plays an important role in PR, the press is not always the primary audience. Oftentimes it’s your employees or other critical stakeholders. Today, PR professionals focus on defining their important audiences and then determining the most effective and impactful methods of communicating with them.


Myth #2: PR is Only About Press Releases

PR professionals also write blog posts, internal and external newsletter copy, social media posts, bylined articles and nearly any other form of written communication that serves our broader strategy. The most important copy we write is a pitch, but that’s only for media relations which is one component of our overall approach.  


Myth #3: PR Needs a Special Story 

Not all things in the news are viral; sometimes, they’re just news. It’s a PR professional’s job to find those newsworthy stories and pitch them in a way media members will respond to. We do that by following a process and scheduling moves that tie in with predictable things happening in the news.


Myth #4: PR is a Distraction

Too many people see PR as just “one more thing to do.” In reality, our role is to maximize and leverage what other teams are already doing. We take our cues from our clients by meeting consistently, filling in the team’s pain points and using our expertise to enhance their existing work. 

Myth #5: PR Can’t Prove ROI

This myth oversimplifies the process of attracting customers in the digital age. The industry is working on our ability to demonstrate ROI, and new media management solutions — like Muck Rack — include Google Analytics integrations. But organizations should also ask themselves where their clients actually come from. Did they really come from clicking an ad, or has there been a longer journey? This question is particularly important for businesses with a longer sales cycle. PR activities play an essential role in the consideration phase of a sales funnel and can reinforce a customer’s decision to make a purchase. Regardless, PR professionals should work with internal or external marketing and sales teams to find effective ways to measure results.


Myth #6: The Media is Irrelevant 

We agree that the media may not be relevant to all organizations or situations. The PR person’s role is to simply disseminate messages either inside or outside organizations, depending on goals. One way we do this is by building internal newsrooms. Because all our work is done online, we don’t have to rely on the press. Instead, we use the same digital tools to tell relevant stories on our owned channels. This approach allows us to control the message, build employee morale, and catalog important accomplishments. Often, the internal work we do is so compelling that it gets picked up by the press. However, that’s just an added benefit.


Myth #7: Marketing is More Valuable 

Some argue that it’s easier to prove the value of marketing services than it is to justify PR. In reality, PR and marketing use many of the same skills and pursue similar goals. However, organizations are likely to find that PR services provide better value than traditional marketing services. For example, any organization can purchase an ad. But not every organization gets mentioned by the media. The ancillary benefits that come with PR can include award wins, crisis mitigation, better SEO and more. All of this generates higher-quality content, which in turn generates higher-quality leads. 


The Work is Most Important

Unfortunately, we may never fully do away with some of these more persistent myths, and the outdated image of a well-connected spin master will live on forever in the minds of many. That’s why the most effective means of proving the value of competent PR will always come through the work. Even if we never get the rebrand we deserve, PR professionals can continue demonstrating value through the thoroughness, dedication, diligence and planning we bring to every task. Those qualities always bring superior results. 

Two Ways of Determining When to Write a Press Release — Plus, a List of Topic Ideas

Two Ways of Determining When to Write a Press Release — Plus, a List of Topic Ideas

Your dog learned a new trick? You ordered a new iron? Would you like a press release with that? Press releases have become such a mundane part of public relations, that they’re synonymous with the typical drive-through question of: “Would you like fries with that?” In reality, there’s little reason to write a press release if it’s not going to get placed in the media. And even if your story does get placed, a press release isn’t always the best or most efficient way to go about pursuing media coverage. 

Regardless, I am not surprised to get odd press release requests. What surprises me is when there’s been little thought about what happens after the release has been drafted and disseminated. Beyond just the simple question of the likelihood of the release even getting placed, many people don’t understand that there’s more to it than just writing and sending a release. The totality of embarking on a successful release campaign includes maintaining a well-researched media list, sending customized emails with the release and diligently following up all important steps in the effort to achieve placement.

And yet, there is still a place for the press release. But, along with that comes knowing when, and when not, to write one. Let’s break down the mystery once and for all. 


What’s New With You?

The first key is remembering that the news writes about what’s new. It’s as simple as that. Therefore, in A Modern Guide to Public Relations I ask readers to go through the exercise of writing down what’s new with their company and/or executives. Do that now. Jotting down a messy list will get your brain going without pigeon-holing it with too many ideas that will only serve as a distraction. 

Think about what company and/or executive updates have occurred most recently and what’s on the horizon. There’s no need to go back past a few months, nor project too far into the future. Stay within a 12 month framework. 

Once you have that list, here are the two keys to look for to determine if your press release ideas have merit or not.

Two Important News Components

Press releases must hold one of the following two characteristics for them to run:



There are a few ways in which your press release or news topic could be timely. 

For instance, whatever you’re announcing shouldn’t have occurred too long ago. Last year’s news must stay in last year (unless last year was just a few months ago), which is why I suggest not going too far back in your list of new happenings.

But even better is if the press release could hook into something that is coming up soon, such as the announcement of something that your company will be involved in or will host.

Or, timeliness could be found by tweaking your news to align with current events/news, popular culture or other things that are already on people’s minds (such as the change of seasons with Back-to-School approaching and/or a specific holiday such as Labor Day). 

And finally, timeliness should always consider when to send the release out. Send the release in a timely way that fits best with how each medium (print, TV, web, etc.) works. For instance, don’t send a release about an event happening tomorrow to a print outlet since they wouldn’t have time to print the information. And in that same vein, don’t send a release to TV now about an occurrence happening in six months because that’s too far out for them to plan. 



Hooking into the timeliness of what’s going on in the world, such as Back-to-School, ties into the second concept: newsworthiness. Generally, newsworthiness considers whether or not your news is something that people would actually want to know. If your news doesn’t affect a particular news source’s audience, why would they want to tell their audience about it? 

One way of ensuring that your news is in fact, newsworthy, is to pay attention to current news and how it may have a direct impact on, or connection with, your company. If you find a story there, you can add that angle in the lead of your press release. This is called “news jacking” and likely best done with a clear and concise PR pitch that is sent either along with your press release or instead of a press release. Regardless, if you have to write a press release and can add a current news hook into the release (otherwise known as making it newsworthy), you’re on the right track. 


Putting Pen to Paper

Now that you have a general idea of how to approach gaining PR placements, remove anything that isn’t either timely or newsworthy from your list of news ideas before comparing them against the list of press release ideas below. 

The ideas below range from the relatively mundane (such as an executive joining a board) to the very exciting (such as new scientific research). The mundane ideas are meant to be written as straight-forward announcements that could garner a few lines or a paragraph within the typical local business journal, business section of a local newspaper, or a trade journal. The larger ideas are strong enough to stand alone with a press release, but may be better encapsulated with a short, compelling pitch to be sent with the release to either summarize the release topic or convey something that you weren’t quite able to get across within the formal release structure. 


List of Press Release Topics 

  • Join a board/committee
  • Donate to a cause
  • Open a new location
  • Create a new service or product 
  • Hire a notable new person
  • Construct new development/building
  • Launch of a new scientific study or a study’s results
  • Obtain substantial funding
  • Win a notable award 
  • Community involvement/volunteering*
  • Events, photo ops and press conferences*
  • Recap what you did (events, fundraising and company results, such as growth)*

*The asterisks indicate that there is more to these particular topics and the release may need to look different, such as in media advisory format, or again, you may not even need a press release. In A Modern Guide to Public Relations, I explain these three categories in more depth, along with when a pitch may be a better course of action for all ideas. 

It’s important to remember that no matter how similar they seem, no two situations are identical, therefore your course of action is going to vary. While many of us desire clear and concise rules, the best PR people are instinctual and learn with time. The creative aspect of PR, along with the ever-changing nature of news and the way it is consumed, means we’re constantly reassessing the rules. This brings the variety and flavor that many of us crave and thrive within as creative types. 

However, when in doubt, come back to this blog post to strengthen your resolve, especially when it comes to telling your boss or client “no, you may not have a press release with that.”

Streamlined Press Release Template [Free]

Streamlined Press Release Template [Free]

If you’re a no-nonsense kind of person, you may benefit from the more streamlined press release template below. After reviewing the press release “template” I’d originally created in “A Modern Guide to Public Relations,” I realized it’s not a template. It’s a creative way to explain the inner-workings of a press release instead. So, if you like a little more explanation, be sure to check that out, but if you’re all about the facts, this is for you!

While this press release template is possibly more straightforward, I should warn you that there really isn’t a way to create a general press release template without knowing what the topic of the release even is! Hopefully soon we will be able to create templates for specific press release topics, as listed below:

The theme here is New because the News is about what’s New

  • New board/committee: either your leader has joined or your organization is announcing new member(s)
  • New charitable donation: your organization either receives or gives more than $5,000
  • New office opening
  • New service or product creation
  • New notable hire
  • New development/building construction
  • New scientific study launched or results announced
  • New award win
  • New or returning event announcement 
  • New funding received or going public

What’s New with your organization? That’s your press release topic, unless…. You are following up on previously sent news with a recap, such as:

  • Recap event announcing results, i.e. funds raised or attendees drawn
  • Recap community effort, such as how many bags of trash collected
  • Recap organizational growth/hiring/funding efforts previously announced.

It is fine to “recap” news in a press release, it’s just more retro-active news. If you’re recapping news, you’re likely creating a follow-up press release to news you’ve already sent. 

Photo opportunities/media events:

  • Photo opps such as volunteering or groundbreakings could be written as straightforward media advisories or fun pitches that paint the visual if you’re inviting the press. A press release may not be needed as long as your invitation is clear and at the top of the pitch.
  • Press conference announcement (if you need a template for this, you’re not ready to host a press conference on your own).

If none of these scenarios fit with your announcement topic,  perhaps give more thought to whether your announcement should be formatted as a press release. Or, would it be better served by an email pitch? Many of our best stories were not generated from press releases, rather they were generated by pitches that were customized, not just by topic and client, but mostly for the press medium (TV, podcasts, or print/web, etc.) and/or press contact.

Should You Write a Press Release

Headline Summarizing All Content with

 Location or Industry Mentioned 


[City], [State abbreviation], [Date] FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Today [insert organization name with link to website] announces [insert announcement]. [Insert one-two sentences about the announcement and/or when, what, where details. Include information about the organization, but don’t overshadow what’s being announced].

“[Insert how you, or someone else, feels about this announcement in quote format,]” said [insert first and last name, title, organization]. “[Insert how this announcement will help either people, local community/market, industry, or all of it].

[Add points of reference, such as research (cite sources), stats, etc. to back quotes].

“[Insert another quote if there is more to say or someone to highlight, such as a sponsor, community member, client, notable VIP, etc.], said [insert first and last name, title, and company if quoting a new person. If it is the same person as quoted above, only insert last name.]

More information could go in this paragraph, if necessary. If quoting a new person above, include their involvement with the announcement, either after or before their quote. If introducing them (with full name, title, and company) in text before their quote, only list their last name with their quote. 

More about [insert organization name]:

This is the “boilerplate” meant to offer the organization’s background. It is the same in every press release. It can be updated as the organization evolves. [Insert 2-5 sentences about organization and link to website. Include services or products organization provides, location(s), and/or industry(ies)/ location(s) service or product it helps].  [Insert social handles].

[Insert Media Contact Name and Contact Info, including cell phone and email address]

# # #

Video on the Types of Press Releases

Here is a video I recorded to support my book, A Modern Guide to Public Relations, specifically on the various types of press releases:

Feature image courtesy of Markus Winkler via Unsplash

When to Use a Press Release [Podcast]

When to Use a Press Release [Podcast]

When a Press Release is Better than a Press Pitch

In this episode of PR Talk Amy and Mike talk about when using a press release will provide additional value to “just” sending a pitch. They review some specific instances or topics when a press release can get you coverage or enhance a simple mention to a bigger story.

If you write about what’s new in your organization (your homework from the Forget Your Story episode), those are the topics that you may want to write a press release about. The press release provides structure and helps layout your thoughts, insert a quote and provide additional pertinent information.

“A press release can change two sentences of coverage into two paragraphs.” – Amy Rosenberg

Here’s a cheat sheet of the types of things a business section or local community paper/section might cover:

Do something within the community or industry where you want coverage to create Press Release ideas: 

  • Join a board/committee
  • Donate to a cause
  • Open a new location
  • Create a new service
  • Hire a notable new person
  • New product or service
  • Construction of a new development/building
  • Launch of a new scientific study/results of a new scientific study
  • Community involvement/volunteering*
  • Events, photo opps & press conferences*
  • Recap what you did (events & fundraising)

*Typically more of a press advisory.

See our Media Advisory Template and Press Release Template.

This episode of PR Talk is brought to you by PRSA Oregon

Throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington, PRSA provides members with networking, mentorship, skill building and professional development opportunities – whether you are a new professional fresh out of college or a skilled expert with 20 years in the industry. Check out PRSAoregon.org for more information on how membership can help you grow and connect.

The Media Advisory Template

The Media Advisory Template

Media Advisories

With events, press conferences—or anything you are inviting people to—it’s best to follow a Who, What, Where, When, Why format which is listed underneath a headline and possibly a subhead. This is technically called a media advisory, as opposed to a classic press release. I often switch the order of these categories depending on which messages I want to convey first—remembering that the farther your eye travels down the press release or media advisory, the more likely you are to lose readers.


Headline (give us the gist of what is going on, be clear and concise but try to make it compelling or timely)


Subhead (secondary header listed under the main header which goes into greater detail if necessary, which it isn’t always)


Dateline (City & State of where your news is happening — Date of when you are issuing the press release) followed by introductory paragraph if you want.

WHAT: Concisely state what is going on. Try to hook readers by painting a visual of what they’ll see (very important for TV and photographers), or capturing the sounds they’ll hear (very important for radio), and/or tying in what is newsworthy or timely about what you’re sending them.

WHEN: Include the date the event is occurring. Duh. An editor told me event listings failing to include the date will sometimes grace his in-box. Do not be this PR person.

WHERE: Think beyond only the location. Include special instructions for where media can park, clearance for live truck towers, etc. here.

WHY: If you are incorporating a charitable cause, include it here (as well as in the header or “what” section because people might not read this far down), along with any newsworthy or timely bits you’ve surely included up top too.

WHO: This can be a nice place to list the BS, such as sponsors who are paying to be in your press release. However, if they are presenting sponsors you must include them once in the title of the event. Not in the headline but in the body of the release. Like this: Event Title, presented by Sponsorship Name. Or if you want to give more information about who is organizing your event or more about how the event’s beneficiary (your charity) was founded, by all means, do it here.

We end with the classic boilerplate, you don’t always have to use it in media advisories.

“Boilerplate” means that it’s the same in every document. Many clients or bosses think this is very important. But because it’s at the bottom of the press release by now you know that it’s not. Humor them anyways. This shouldn’t be much longer than five sentences explaining what your organization is about, who (including geographical areas) it serves, unique or specific products or services, general organizational website and social media handles.

# # #

Insert your contact information here at the end. Including your name, organization, phone number where they can reach you both before event day and at the event: which any respectable PR person would consider to be a cell phone.

Photo by Helloquence on Unsplash

The Press Release Template

The Press Release Template


Headline Summarizing Everything: It’s Clear,  Concise, Compelling & Timely


Subhead: secondary header underneath the headline going into greater detail if necessary, which it isn’t always


Dateline — We are in the first paragraph now. Introduce your news here. It might help to think of this in a who, what, where, when, why format — paragraph style. What is going on? Who is involved? Where (area or population) does this affect? When did or will this happen? Include the timely piece if you don’t have a when because you always need somewhat of a when. Mention the company/client and link to their website.

Possibly the why or even more specific who, what, where, when details would fall here, in the second paragraph.

“You would include your first quote either here or in the second paragraph if it makes more sense to encapsulate your details in a quote,” said first & last name, title, organization. “Do not bury your quote too far down and follow this exact format. Never bury a first quote inside the words of a bulky paragraph either — make it stand out as it’s own paragraph.”

More specifics here. You could further explain your why with some statistics or supporting research, although quotes are also grand places to detail why’s if you don’t have hard cold info. I also don’t like a press release that simply lists quote after quote. I guess you could do this in a pinch or when working with multiple parties that must add their two cents into the quote. But know that it is lazy.

“Here is where your second quote would go. You could either further explain something by quoting the same person, in which case you’d end the quote with just their last name because you don’t need to re-introduce their organization and title,” said last name. “Or you could introduce another person you need to kiss up to, such as a sponsor. It might be very important that the sponsor is included in the actual news that results from this press release, in which case, quote them first saying something that’s necessary to the story.”

You can end here with the boiler plate or if you have just a few more supporting lines to your who, what, where, when, why — add them here. You can of course have more than two quotes in a press release but this probably means you’re trying to make multiple people happy. Just remember that the farther down the eye travels in the press release, the less likely your external parties will get included in the actual news. This is great because it gives you some semblance of control in a truly uncontrollable field. This kind of strategic thinking is what PR is about. It’s not about putting down fancy words in a pretty press release.

We end with the classic boilerplate. “Boilerplate” means that it’s the same in every document. Many clients or bosses think this is very important. But because it’s at the bottom of the press release by now you know that it’s not. Humor them anyways. This shouldn’t be much longer than five sentences explaining what your organization is about, who (including geographical areas) it serves, unique or specific products or services, general organizational website and social media handles.

# # #

Video on the Types of Press Releases

Here is a video I recorded to support my book, A Modern Guide to Public Relations, specifically on the various types of press releases:

Feature image courtesy of Kaleidico via Unsplash