Press release services have played an integral role in the success of businesses worldwide. However, until recently distributing a news release was something viewed as "out of reach" of most individuals and small to mid-sized businesses. But as a result of the rapid breakdown of communications barriers and the advancement of media technologies, press releases can be written and submitted by anyone who understands the traditional protocols of press release writing and distribution. This knowledge begins by examining the history of the press release.

According to Colorado State University, the practice of issuing press releases began in Washington, D.C. In the last two decades of the nineteenth century, congressmen would often make their presence known on Newspaper Row – a section of 14th Street where a number of newspapers and other publications were headquartered. These congressmen and other government officials were said to self-advertise by delivering bits of news about themselves directly to the media. (Jacobs, Geert History of Press Releases (Copyright 2003-2004, Geert Jacobs) Colorado State University, Accessed 10/29/2011)

But while a press release is technically any piece of news deliberately distributed in any format to a media source, the birth of press release writing and distribution practices as we know them today didn't actually occur until the turn of the century.

In 1906 a deadly train accident occurred in Atlantic City, New Jersey. 50 people were killed.

Journalist and public relations expert Ivy Lee advised the owner of the train - Pennsylvania Railroad - to preemptively release information to the media about the accident with the hope of controlling the story before reporters got the "scoop" elsewhere. The railroad agreed and the first official press release was born and distributed via wire to media all over the country. (Wikipedia, Press Release Accessed 10/29/2011)

Legend has it that the release as issued by Lee was accepted for publishing verbatim by media agencies. The overall format has changed very little since then. As a result of the damage-control power this afforded Pennsylvania Railroad, Lee was hired in 1912 by the company to become the first-known executive-level public relations manager.

For decades after this time, press releases were the exclusive territory of big businesses, government and the elite. Press release services relied on closed, private networks to distribute news directly to the media. Getting access to these networks was virtually impossible for anyone outside the industry.

With the advent and proliferation of the internet all of this changed. Today anyone who can write well and understands how to format a press release can create a smashing news release – provided they have a story the public (and by proxy journalists and editors) will be interested in. However, press release distribution isn't as easy.

There are a few sources where you can submit a news release for free, but these sites provide little value in the way of publicity and search engine optimization. Additionally, many press release services indiscriminately distribute news to completely unrelated editors/publishers/media. Therefore, you should only work with a professional press release service that distributes to a highly targeted list of media contacts.

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Author's Bio: 

Mahrek started his career as an intelligence officer for the United States Navy. After achieving the rank of Warrant Officer and training in a classified rate, he retired early and began to use his communication skills for select clients. Today Mahrek is a powerful writer and runs a successful writing and editing firm in addition to many other pursuits.