This week’s Journchat was lively as usual. Question one lead to a good discussion on press releases used as news.  (You can view the Archived Chat.  Question one and the comments start at 7:07pm.)  I answered as soon as I saw the question. 

Last night was a no brainer.  As I’m shouting out to coworkers about an email from Denver Police on a missing grandmother and her two-year old grandson, I’m saving the press release, a PDF file, so I can upload the release to Twitdoc.  I knew the Web team would have an article posted quickly, but getting the press release out was quicker.  I was able to post it in my Twitter as well as @cbs4denver.

I waited a few minutes to see if the Tweets were picked up and ReTweeted by others.  When I saw very little movement with either Tweet I started to Direct Message my Twitter followers who had recently been active.  I said: “Help? #MISSING CHILD w/his Grandmother who has alzheimers. #Denver PLS RT!!!”  In this kind of situation I have no problems asking for others to help spread the word.  At this point it’s about the information, not about me nor the station. 

Several directly ReTweeted me after that and others reworded or just posted the information in their Tweets. 

Minutes after my initial Tweet the Web team had a story posted.  I sent another Tweet on @cbs4denver with a link to the story.

Finally the information was being shared by many on Twitter.

Again in this situation it’s all about getting the vital search information and pictures out to the public in whatever way possible.  The press release alone provided that information and no other information was available.  The Web team wrote a story from that information. 

When a press release provides even a bit of content that we’re using to tell the story I believe the press release can be shared as is.  Beyond being the quickest way to share the initial and official information, it also shows transparency.   Many organizations, including government offices and emergency departments, make their press releases available on their Web sites.  Sharing the press release shows exactly what we have to work with to tell the story.  After that it is up to us to delve further into the story to find more information. 

I’ve already written "PR plea: help me help you. Please."  in which I ask PR professionals to provide press releases on their Web site.  There are many events and much information the public should know and it’s impossible for any media outlet to cover it all.  I believe by sharing the information I’m empowering the public.  They can take that information and do more on their own with it, such as attend an event they didn’t know about originally, or conduct their own research further into a topic, or even request the media to do a story.