To many marketers, the press release is something of a "one sizefits all" proposition. You want to get media coverage, you knockout a press release, send it to some journalists and sit back andwait.

Of course, smart Publicity Insiders already know that’s aprescription for failure. You know that your press release hasto have a "hook", be well-written and sent to appropriatejournalists in an active, not passive, manner. But there’sanother part of the puzzle that even savvy publicity-seekerssometimes miss -- you can’t just write "a press release", youhave to write the right kind of press release.

There’s no such thing as a "one size fits all" release. Smartpublicists have variations of the press release model ready to bego, depending on the occasion.

(Note: for a general introduction to press release writing andformatting, see:

Let's look at some releases suitable for "harder" and more timelynews...

The News Release

To some folks, "news release" and "press release" areinterchangeable. Not to me. I use the phrase "news release" torefer to a release that, well, carries actual news. Let’s faceit, most of what a business has to say to a journalist isn’texactly "stop the presses" kind of stuff. But, on occasion,something of real significance occurs. A merger, a stock split,a major new contract, winning a national award...something that’struly timely and important. For these sorts of events, don’tmess around. Craft a solid, hard-hitting News Release that’swritten in pure journalistic style (lead includes "who, what,when, why and how", language is in 3rd person and completely freeof hyperbole). Use journalism’s "inverted pyramid" -- mostimportant information at the top, next most important info in thesecond paragraph and so on down.

Tell the entire story in the headline and subhead. Again, don’tget cute -- get straight to the point. The headline "AcmeCorporation Selected by Pentagon to Supply Troops with Widgets"is far better than something like "Guess Who’s Making Widgets forUncle Sam?" or something "clever" like that. In the subhead,fill in some details: "$18 Million Contract Largest in Company’sHistory". Talk about getting straight to the point! You’ve justgiven the journalist the meat of the story before she’s even readyour lead.

Add a "dateline" (Akron, OH) at the beginning of your lead(first) paragraph. In the dateline, use your company’s home town(or the location where some news has broken. You can be a bitcreative here, if it helps maximize your impact. For the aboveexample, you can dateline it Washington, DC and say that "ThePentagon today announced that it has selected an Akroncompany...").

In distributing the release, use e-mail, fax, distributionservice such as PRWeb or PR Newswire, or even overnight courier.The goal is to get it into journalists’ hands on the same day youdistribute it.

Executive Appointment Release

Most businesses send out a brief release and headshot whensomeone new is hired or a major promotion is made. That’s fine,and it will get them in the "People on the Move" column on page 8in the business section. It’s an ego stroke for the employee,but that’s about it. Savvy publicity seekers use the ExecutiveAppointment release to generate real publicity. Here’s the key --don’t just announce that someone’s been hired or promoted.Rather, explain why the move is significant to the company -- andperhaps the market -- as a whole.

For example, Jane Smith has been hired as your company’s newdirector of sales. Not so exciting. However, the reason youhired her is because she came from a major online retailer and isplanning to overhaul your sales system to compare with the state-of-the-art systems used by the big guys. Hmmmm...that’s a lotmore interesting. So why not tell the media about it?

The key ingredient is context. Your headline may still look likethat of a typical Executive Appointment release (Acme Names JaneSmith New Director of Sales), but starting with the subhead, youbegin your journey off page 8 of the business section and ontopage one (Hiring of Key Figure in Online Sales Explosion MarksImportant Shift in Acme’s Sales Strategy). Ah, now you’ve enteredthe realm of news, not business as usual. And a sharp businesseditor will see that a local company is doing something far moresignificant than just making a hire.

Dateline the release, fax (or even messenger), email or regularmail it over to your local business editor and follow up with aphone call. Offer Jane Smith for interview, too.

The Media Alert

The Media Alert is a deceptively simple creature. It’sessentially a memo from you to TV, radio and newspaper assignmenteditors, city desk editors and others who decide whether aparticular news event is worth covering. They’re used to alertthe press about news conferences, charity events, publicity"stunts" and other events.

The point of the Media Alert is to, in just a few seconds, tell ajournalist about the event, how to cover it and why it’simportant that the media outlet, in fact, covers it. Mostpublicists are pretty good on the first two points -- almost allmedia alerts do a decent job of telling what the event is, whereit will be held and what time it starts. It’s the third aspect-- the "why" -- that will make the real difference, though. Andit’s the thing most publicists do a lousy of job of conveying.

First, a word about format. Use standard press release headings(contact info, "For Immediate Release" and headline). The restof the document should be a few paragraphs, spaced at least threelines apart from one another. The first paragraph, should beginwith What: and continue with a one or two line description of theevent (WidgetFest 2004, a celebration of young minds). Nextparagraph, When:, after that Where:

Now here’s the key paragraph,

Why You Should Cover WidgetFest 2004: The brightest young mindsfrom around the region will gather to present their inventions,as Acme Corp. celebrates the state’s top high school sciencestudents. The event will be a visual feast, with a host of awe-inspiring inventions, many colorful, active and exotic, ondisplay. As part of the event, more than $10,000 in scholarshipswill be distributed to budding Einsteins by John Smith, Ohio’sScience Teacher of the Year.

The key? This line: "The event will be a visual feast, with ahost of awe-inspiring inventions, many colorful, active andexotic, on display." I just spoke an assignment editor’slanguage, telling him that this will provide lots of coolvisuals, making for great video or photos. The bit about thescholarships and the Science Teacher of the Year assures him thatthis won’t just be a promotional stunt. So what are we offering?A non-promotional, feel-good event with great visuals. Just whatan assignment editor is looking for.

Author's Bio: 

Bill Stoller, the "Publicity Insider", has spent two decades asone of America's top publicists. Now, through his website, eZineand subscription newsletter, Free Publicity: The Newsletter forPR-Hungry Businesses's sharing -- for the very first time -- his secrets of scoringbig publicity. For free articles, killer publicity tips andmuch, much more, visit Bill's exclusive new site: