Who is the Hero of Your Press Release?

The press release is one of the most ubiquitous elements of higher ed communications, but it is also one of the most static. Lately, there has been a lot of discussion about how to bring the press release into the 21st century. But how about looking for inspiration from centuries past? In this blog post for PR Newswire, VP of user experience design and workflow Rod Nicolson draws on the insights of mythologist Joseph Campbell to outline the elements of a compelling press release. What changes have you made to your press releases to make them more effective?

We like well told stories, but we really love the ones we can identify with. If a press release can plant the image of ourselves using that product, attending that event, buying that stock, it’s been a story well told.

Source: Storytelling Rules & Writing Better Press Releases by Rod Nicolson, PR Newswire’s “Beyond PR” blog, March 28, 2011

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About Georgy Cohen

Georgy Cohen is associate creative director, content strategy, at OHO Interactive in Cambridge, Mass.. Prior to OHO, she worked with a range of higher ed institutions, including stints at Tufts University and Suffolk University and as an independent consultant, on content strategy and digital communication initiatives. Keep going »


  1. I think this invites a larger question – has the nature of the press release evolved? In the older newspaper model, press releases were meant to serve as a a blueprint for a reporter – they’d pull relevant facts and information from the piece, but rewrite the release as an actual feature for the newspaper.

    But as newspaper and other editorial bullpens are shrinking, more and more these outlets have to cut corners and use press releases almost verbatim to keep up with the demand for content. This is shifting the need for the original press release writer to take on the role of writing the news story or the feature article and sell it as the release. It’s a shift in writing style that many higher education communications channels are not yet prepared to make, but they better do so quickly.

    • I agree, Jeff — many higher ed news offices are writing (and distributing) news releases in a manner befitting an earlier era. There are so many questions — If releases are being sent to a different kind of reporter, or a different kind of news publication, how should we adapt? Also, if we’re posting news releases on the web — perhaps even as the core content of our news sections/sites — who is the target audience? Are we writing for a reporter but pushing the content toward an alumni, student, etc. audience? It’s a messy situation, with a lot of unanswered questions. Have you come across anyone doing it right?

      • I don’t have any examples to share, but I would argue the best possible solution for higher ed news offices is to hire directly from the talent pool that is being forced out of newspapers. There’s a ton of experience right there – people who know how to write feature stories and could transform university communications into out-of-the-box ready-to-go feature producers. And, they’ll have the connections already in place to pitch the stories.

What do you think?