I recently graduated from a university and was selected to participate in an exciting team event that likely would interest the public. One member from my time suggested that I either: (1) Write "press releases" to journalists, or (2) Contact the Public Affairs department in the institution I recently graduated from and see if they can assist me with reaching the media through their networks. I am excited about the prospect of generating public interest in our team event and am aware that the research we are doing could reflect positively for my old institution.

I may be incorrect, but it seems that "press releases" tend to written by the main subject (in the third person tense). As silly as it sounds, I am having a hard time writing this piece because I worry that, should these "press releases" be published, an unintended consequence could be undertones of tacky self-promotion. I worry that it would clear such a "press release" was written by myself, and this changes my language to be much more soft and modest and ambitious.

There is a lot that remains unclear to me about this process, even after watching many tutorials. What I am curious about is:

1) Do journalists usually make it clear that the "press release" was primarily written by the main subject? Would it even be stated "This article was based on a press release from [me]", making it clear that [I] wrote it?

2) Are there methods to ensure any possible pieces written up do not appear as aggressively self-promoting? Particularly, leaving some ambiguity of by whom the article was written (and/or not making it clear it was originally written by [me]?)

3) If press releases have a connotation of being self-promotion (main subjects contacted sources with a template), are there other methods for reaching media about exciting research from a recent alumni?

I would be grateful to hear any advice from others who went through this process. As someone so focused on my research for years in an ivory tower, I am excited to get involved with sharing my research with the public (but also hesitant that I will regret these issues if I do not fully understand the process and/or my options).


You are wise to realize that the passion and enthusiasm you feel for your research could be your downfall with regards to writing press releases. This self-awareness serves you well. I draw on my experience in writing objective graduate research papers from which one was obligated to remove personal ambitions and biases for the sake of a professional presentation, even when writing in the first person.

My skills in dispassionate discourse were further honed answering thousands of questions on Quora.com to their strict policy of political correctness, often on controversial issues and/or in trying situations though I have never written a press release. To remedy this last, I consulted a retired English teacher who has written press releases on topics close to his heart, to which he devoted much time and energy.

I emphasize dispassionate discourse because that is the way to go. "You have to write almost as if you were the reporter," said the English teacher. "I don't know about the American press, but here in Canada reporters are so pressed by deadlines they often lift entire paragraphs from the press release."

He sent me two press releases he wrote in recent years. Both read like newspaper articles. Were I not involved in the projects the press releases regarded, I would never have guessed the passion--the enthusiasm, the sweat and the blood--poured into them. It was hard to realize that he wrote them himself. So dispassionately were they written.

In other words, present the facts. Provide the who, when, where, what, and why as required by the newspaper's template. Stick to the academic analysis of why, not your personal motivation to save the world. But don't short-change yourself. To prevent your soul from shrivelling at the sterility of it all, have a warm talk with your heart and remind yourself of the positive results you expect for yourself and your beloved institution.

You may even want to write your first draft like a journal entry or letter to a friend with all your passion and enthusiasm intact, then ruthlessly go through it and screen out every last trace of passion. I have used that approach on things I found very difficult to write. That allowed me to express my inner feelings and also get the facts down. The end result--after all the screening and deletions--was great, even professional. Just don't let the recipient see the first draft--or the second or third. To be sure it's suitable, get a third party to read it before submitting.

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