PR TECHNIQUE: PRESS RELEASES - Tailoring the press release to different audiences. The press release can be an extremely powerful tool when tailored to different audiences. But with customization comes a list of possible problems. Sherri Deatherage Green

The world may be getting smaller but the potential audiences for PR expand constantly. Globalization, localiza- tion and digitization may require that you customize and translate your message to make sure it reaches diverse media and consumers.

The world may be getting smaller but the potential audiences for PR expand constantly. Globalization, localiza- tion and digitization may require that you customize and translate your message to make sure it reaches diverse media and consumers.

The world may be getting smaller but the potential audiences for PR

expand constantly. Globalization, localiza- tion and digitization may

require that you customize and translate your message to make sure it

reaches diverse media and consumers.

When it comes to the trusty old press release, opinions are split on

whether more is better. Suppose a company introduces a new product. Some

PR pros advise writing several versions of a press release to reach

different markets, while others say you run the risk of muddling your

message by doing so.

Those in favor of tailoring releases remind us that everybody likes to

feel special. Showing a producer that you understand her program’s

specific editorial needs can go a long way toward getting your news on

the air, or at least keeping it out of the circular file. Your story’s

significance might not stand out to the editor of a niche publication if

the release he scans is generic and not accompanied by a focused tip

sheet or pitch letter.

On the other hand, some PR pros say fragmentation leads to

ineffectiveness and inconsistency. ’The message is the message is the

message, no matter if you are talking to customers, employees, analysts,

competitors or the media,’ asserts Bodine Williams, director of Hill &

Knowlton’s New York media group. Recognizing that reporters don’t write

stories based solely on press releases, Stan Levenson of Levenson Public

Relations in Dallas views them as documents of record or reference


Those who frown upon issuing multiple releases for the same announcement

recognize the occasional need to localize geographically, to use

different verbal pitches for varied media or, as Levenson suggests, to

customize accom- panying cover letters.

About 30% of the press releases handled by Media Distribution Services

are part of campaigns that involve sending the same information to

different outlets simultaneously using different leads or angles,

estimates Don Bates, MDS managing director of marketing and new media.

The rest may be more generic but are often targeted to one specific

market or media category.

Clients most often specialize to hit technology trades, financial or

investor communities, ethnic markets or specific geographic areas, notes

David Armon, PR Newswire’s SVP of customers and markets. Clients also

frequently draft different versions for print and broadcast media, and

healthcare releases are sometimes adapted to reach medical journals and

consumer publications, he adds. ’If you tailor a release, you get better

pickup,’ Armon claims. For example, a company might send its earnings

report along with one or two charts to business journalists while adding

several other graphs for the analyst community.

Probably the most common and longstanding use of focused releases is the

’hometown’ story. Employee awards, local projects and test markets

aren’t the only reasons to focus geographically. When Prudential began

offering individual long-term care policies, the company sent the

message out to agents in places like Florida through its grass-roots

network, says PR VP Mary Flowers.

Tailoring releases, or at least pitches, becomes crucial in the booming

technology sector as mainstream media take note of hi-tech gadgets. ’The

number of people using technology and the media covering technology has

become extremely diverse,’ says Kathleen Bowden, VP of Cunningham

Ventures’ consumer technology practice in Austin. In years past,

technology coverage usually meant complex articles in engineering trades

or coming-trend pieces for early adopters. But magazines like Glamour

and Mademoiselle have created technology sections within the last 18

months, Bowden notes. ’The sexy part of the story for them is almost

never the technology itself, but the cool way real people are using


Yet releases for different media should all tell the same story, if in

slightly different language. Revisions shouldn’t be sweeping, says

Bonnie Quintanilla, managing director of global technology for Manning,

Selvage and Lee. Adapting a technology release for a consumer audience

usually means cutting out details about bits and bytes, she


Tailoring for Hispanic, Asian or African-American markets may include

identifying an executive’s ethnicity, notes Lisa Skriloff, president of

New York’s Multicultural Marketing Resources. ’The ethnic press is

interested in chronicling the success of the people of the heritage they

cover.’ Prudential’s top domestic insurance agent happens to be African

American, Flowers says. The release Prudential sends to magazines like

Black Enterprise likely will be revised slightly to reflect that.

Reaching the ethnic or international press can become more complex if

language translations are necessary. ’Someone who translates Spanish

literature wouldn’t necessarily have the kind of experience with spoken

Spanish you would need,’ Skriloff says. She advises seeking translators

who are familiar with not only PR and advertising terminology but also

with the industry and region to which the release is targeted.

By tailoring press releases, you may run the risk of overexposure if

your distribution lists overlap, according to Dan Savio, PR manager for

Business Wire. ’You need to be very careful that you minimize your

redundancy and that you are, in fact, reaching a fresh, unique, targeted

audience.’ Journalists generally appreciate pros focusing on the

specific angles that might affect their readers or viewers, but don’t

individualize the message so much that they wrongly assume you are

giving them an exclusive, Quintanilla adds.

Being familiar with the lingo of a particular industry is helpful, but

effectively specializing releases requires a genuine grasp of the issues

affecting it. ’It has to go much deeper than the buzz words,’ Savio


PR pros advise against taking customization too far. More than a few

variations are too many, and personal e-mails, letters or phone calls

pointing out specific implications to diverse editors may be more




1. Use cover letters, e-mails, phone calls, distinct lead paragraphs or

tip sheets to play up different angles.

2. Keep your message consistent and your revisions minimal.

3. Take local implications and sensitivities into account when

announcing closures and layoffs.


1. Take a one-size-fits-all approach to media relations.

2. Dilute your message by drafting too many different versions of the

same press release.

3. Send the same release about company downsizing to affected

communities that you distribute to the national media.

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