Public relations encompasses much more than press releases, but press releases remain one of the most effective ways to get the message out about your business. Take every opportunity to celebrate your successes. This may include new employees, new product lines, or simply a new office or retail location. If you are handling communications efforts for your company, familiarize yourself with the local media and what type of news they are likely to run. You may only get a line or two in the business section, or you may be contacted for a feature story. Use the following tips as you prepare your press release:

Determine the relevance of your news: Does it relate to the community, a hot issue, or a prominent person?

Timeliness: Does your news relate to a holiday, an event, or a time of the year?

Uniqueness: Is there any part of your news that is unusual or thought provoking?

Readability: Will people want to read about your news?

Don't compete with big news stories or the holidays: For example, it may be best to wait until January for news that is not in some way related to the holidays.

Create a template for your releases to save yourself time later. Keep in mind the following tips when creating your release:

Include a release date if the news is time sensitive. "FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE" works well for most releases.List a contact name and phone number.

Use a strong headline (sometimes called a slugline) to call attention to your news. The headline should be only one line, all capital letters.

The lead paragraph should tell your story in a nutshell, limited to three sentences.

In the next two paragraphs, use quotes from spokespeople.

Keep your language simple.

If you are rusty on punctuation for quotations, brush up before preparing the release.

Limit the release to one double-spaced page.

End the release with "###" or "-end-"

Include a black-and-white photo whenever possible. A photo can greatly enhance your chance at publication.

When distributing your release, consider your media and select carefully. Don't waste your time on media that aren't a good fit for your news. Decide on fax, e-mail, or mail.

In some cases, you will want to follow up your release with a short phone call, especially if the release is about an event.

If you do not already have a media list, you may be able to buy one from your local PR council.

Update your media list on a regular basis.

Copyright © 2000 Kimberly L. McCall