Freelancing / General Journalism

Pondering about press releases.

For both the local magazine work I do, and my full-time job, I receive a LOT of press releases. Combine the two, and that’s a lot of emails received on topics that, to be honest, are rarely relevant. Of course, they can be a great source of information, leads for stories, and be just what you are looking for… sometimes.

After using a press release that I was sent recently, and then asking for additional information, quotes and research, it wasn’t welcomed very well… “It’s all in the press release” I was told. Surely, with the amount of people this press release is sent out to, there would be hundreds of duplicate articles if this was the case?

It’s a starting point. They make you aware of information that you might not already know, but it’s unlikely to have everything you need. Using the idea, the angle, the research or the quotes used might initiate sparks in how you could use this to develop a story or a feature.

Make the story your own. I hate taking the words and duplicating them exactly, especially for the local magazine I write for. Make sure you write your story so that the style matches with that of your own publication. Find additional quotes and data to back up what you are saying.

Find relevance to your situation. If it is a national press release, how is this relevant to a local publication? For example, I received a press release about Shelter’s national Christmas campaign – I emailed the PR lady, asking if she had any further information or a contact who I could speak to in Sussex, to tie in with the local magazine. This then allowed me to contact a woman in my area, and discuss how the campaign was being played out around here. You can pick out bits of press releases and take them further to suit who/what you are writing for.

What is the correct way to use press releases then? I found this poll online… see what they think!

Is it okay to use press release copy in your stories?


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