Public Relations Tools for PR Pros

Public relations (PR) can sometimes sound like an ambiguous job title or industry. Many people confuse it with marketing or advertising and often don’t understand exactly what a PR professional’s job is and what their day-to-day work consists of.

The simplest way to explain the public relations profession is through PRSA’s (Public Relations Society of America) definition: “public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

PR Basics

The single most important thing to know about PR is that it is primarily about building and fostering relationships between a company and the public, as well as between a company and the media. Unlike marketing or advertising, PR does not involve any form of paid exposure. A PR professional doesn’t take out an ad in a local newspaper, and they don’t pay for a sponsorship or partnership.

By not paying for exposure, the public relations aspect of a company lends more credibility to them by working hard to gain and maintain the respect of its consumers and its community.

But how can someone successfully build a relationship with their community and the media without paying a dime? This process can be one of the most time consuming aspects of a PR job. In order to get your business or client coverage on a local or national news station or in the paper, you not only need to have a good story, but you need to have credibility and a good relationship with the media outlets you are working with.

So if you want to get the word out about your business in your community, or even on a national scale, there are three PR tools you constantly need to have in your back pocket. These tools include:

  1. Press releases
  2. Media alerts
  3. Pitches

Maybe you have heard of some of these tools in the past, or maybe they are all brand new to you. Regardless of your level of experience with them, this article will walk you through exactly what these items are and how they can help you be a successful PR professional.

Many people who aren’t familiar with the PR profession can sometimes confuse these three items, so it is of the utmost importance to distinguish the difference and utilize each one at the proper moment.

Press Release

Of all the PR tools, the press release is the most commonly known. Many companies distribute these pieces of information when they are announcing news about their company. Whether it’s the announcement of a new CEO or the launch of a new product line, a press release gives a detailed description of a news-worthy event.

Press releases are generally about one page long, but sometimes can be up to two pages long, if there is enough information to warrant it. They typically incorporate quotes and commentary from stakeholders or decision makers about whatever the news may be.

For example, if the press release is announcing a new CEO, there would most likely be a quote from other C-suite executives about their enthusiasm for this addition to the team, along with some qualities this person has and what they can bring to the table. There may even be a quote from the new CEO, promising increase in profits or more streamlined efficiency in the company.

Even though a press release can act as a narrative, it first and foremost needs to contain the important details that would appeal to different audiences. Depending on your business and what the release is announcing, there are several different audiences you need to appeal to with a release:

  • Traditional media
  • New media
  • Consumers
  • Investors
  • Affiliates
  • Search engines

Appealing to all of these audiences at once may sound like a tall order, but once you have practiced writing a few releases, it becomes second nature. Regardless of what style or format you choose to follow for your release, there are a few crucial aspects that should be incorporated into every release you write.

The first few sentences are where you hook in your audience. If those aren’t compelling, most people will stop reading. Especially when you are sending these releases to the media in hopes of getting coverage; you need to make it interesting enough to hold their attention.

Even more important than those first few lines is the title of your release. Again, much like an article in a newspaper, your title consists of a headline as well as subhead. Try to encompass the important aspects of the release into this area so it can give your readers a strong sense of what to expect in the rest of the content.

After you hook in your audience with the title and the first few lines of copy, you can start moving into more of the important details. For a press release about a CEO, you can announce their immediate plans of action for the company and their Q1 goals.

At the end of a press release is where you will put the general information. This is the area where you can include the CEO’s working background and their other credentials.

Last but not least, add in your boilerplate and PR contact info, and you are good to go!

The best way to learn to write a release is to look at ones that have already been published. By seeing their layout and style, you can start to get the hang of this dominant aspect of the PR field.

Media Alert

A media alert can be viewed as an abbreviated version of a press release, and they are primarily used to announce events that are occurring at a specific place and time. If there is a grand opening of a new restaurant, a press release can be followed up with a media alert that announces the specific details of when and where this grand opening will be taking place.

If a business is hosting an event or sale, a media alert would work perfectly. A media alert addresses the most important details that people want to know: who, what, when, where, and why.

The bullet-like format of a media alert tackles all of these questions quickly, without forcing your audience(s) to shuffle through excess information to find it.

These alerts can be sent to local news outlets to try and encourage them to attend an event or do a story on it, they can also be used to distribute to the public or to event calendars to encourage community members to attend.


This final tool is one that can make or break the success of your PR career. A pitch is where you have to sell yourself, as well as your company, to the media. If you don’t take the time to research and write a good pitch, the reporter, producer or blogger you are reaching out to most likely won’t take the bait.

Pitches generally accompany a media alert of press release, and they are always directed at members of the media. A pitch tries to encompass all of the crucial information about the news you are trying to spread, and it must do so in a way that appeals to whatever media outlet you are reaching out to.

Many people make the mistake of writing a generic pitch that they send to everyone on their media list. This is a method that members of the media see through immediately. It can even get you blacklisted by that person or publication, meaning they won’t cover any stories you pitch.

Before you write a pitch, be sure to research everyone on your media list and tailor each pitch to that person’s publication and the beat that they cover. You wouldn’t want to send a foodie pitch to the local crime reporter and you wouldn’t want to send a pitch about education materials to a fashion blogger. Knowing your audience is everything.

Whoever you are pitching to, read their articles or watch their segments before reaching out to them. Educate yourself on the types of stories they have been running, relate your pitch back to those, and make an argument for how this story will benefit their audience.

Even though this is one of the most time-consuming aspects of PR, it will help you build long-term relationships with reporters and media that will benefit your business, as well as the local media, in the long run.