News releases are not the best way to get major media coverage, but they can be used to increase the frequency with which your company name appears in the press.

Press releases will get you coverage in set features like business notes, and new personnel columns. They also provide a good way to let allies, employees and customers know what you are doing. For these purposes, post releases on the company website, send out by e-mail, or distribute by one of the services like PR Newswire or PR Web.

Here is a quick list of 33 possible reasons for you to write and distribute a news release.

* New Products

* Business Start-Up

* Partnership

* Strategic Alliances

* New Or Innovative Business Strategy

* Restructuring The Company

* Going Public/Going Private

* Company Comeback From Adversity

* New Employees

* Important Executive Retiring/Resigning

* Executives Comment On Business/Economic Trends

* Employee Promotions

* New Branch Offices

* New Divisions Established

* Headquarters Relocating

* Research Results Announcement

* Major Anniversary

* Major New Client Acquisition

* Company Revenue, Sales or Profit Growth

* Company Name Change

* Winning Major Awards Or Receiving National Recognition

* Company Presenting An Award

* Receiving Important Accreditation or Certification

* Holding Free Seminar or Workshop

* Employee Appointed To Civic/Government/Professional Board

* Availability Of Guest Articles Or White Papers

* Issuing A Position Statement On Topical Subject

* Free Consumer Information Available

* Company Speakers Bureau

* Company Philanthropic Support

* Major Company Milestone

* New Board of Directors

* New Website

Some recent surveys of journalists and reporters indicate that most prefer to use online media rooms/press kits as opposed to the old-fashioned hard copy press kits. Why? The Internet is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A busy reporter on deadline can log on and cruise from one online press kit to the next without having to wait for an overnight package or fax.

Many businesses and publicists are embracing this new technology in media relations and are in a mad dash to develop online press kits of their own or for their clients. Like a Web site, an online press kit should contain certain elements, should make some features more prominent than others, and be simple to navigate. Here are some “do’s and don’ts” to consider before you dive in and begin creating an online press kit.

Online press kits Should:

Be easy to locate if linked to a main Web site. For instance, if ABC Bottled Water has a public or consumer Web site already established, a separate media room can be linked to the Web site’s home page. This link must appear prominently – either in the site’s menu or on the home page. Reporters don’t have time to search for it. Also, if the media room is linked to a “main” site, the media room should share the main site’s “look and feel,” so that reporters don’t feel link they’ve been forwarded to some unrelated site.

Provide materials commonly used by the media. A general press kit usually contains a backgrounder, FAQ, and profiles of key individuals/spokespeople. This is what a reporter will want to see when he or she visits your online media room. The purpose of providing these common documents is to minimize any extra work a reporter will need to do to get what he/she needs. Other important items to include are high-resolution, digital photos, high-resolution digital logo graphics, and of course, press releases. A good online media room will come equipped with a media library where all types of files can be uploaded, stored, and distributed, including general press kit materials.

Include the media coverage already received. When a company, organization, or individual has been covered by the media (preferably favorably), it helps to “legitimize” them. Be careful about copyright issues when reposting articles, though. If you or your organization has appeared in the media, use anything from audio clips, video clips, and links to media outlets’ Web sites in your online media room’s “In the News” page. Check with the media venue for reprint permission.

Include media contact information prominently. If the person handling media relations is not an employee of the company/organization, be sure that the contact info in the online media room directs reporters to the person who is. If a reporter reaches out and his/her request is lost in cyberspace, chances are, they won’t come back.

Online Press Kits Should Not:

Combine info for both the public AND the media. Ideally, the information provided for the media should be separate from content intended for the public or consumers. One reason is that it makes it more difficult for the media to find what it wants, and another is because it reduces your control over the info provided to the media. Messaging is very important, and while it can sometimes vary for the public, it should always be consistent for the media – after all, your messaging is what they’re using to cover you with.

Require a reporter to make numerous requests for additional info. There are always going to be some things that you do not want to provide online on a constant basis. This could include certain photos or ebooks. Keeps these instances to a minimum! In cases like these, it is fine to say “please contact us for photos of this event,” or “please contact us for a sample ebook.” Some media rooms have very limited file space, which may require you to upload low-resolution photos to save space. Asking reporters to contact you for high-resolution photos is all right, too. The point of an online media room is to provide the media with most of what it needs.

Be out of date. Update press kit materials as needed, and try to keep a current press release available – even if it wasn’t distributed on the wire or to reporters directly. By keeping a timely supply of “news,” in your media room, it will be obvious to the media that it receives your attention.

Other Helpful Tips:

Use links – not e-mail attachments! Media rooms with media libraries should allow you to upload your documents and create a URL to their location online, which you can provide to the media instead of an e-mail attachment. When was the last time you opened an e-mail from a stranger that had an attachment?

Have a blog? Link it to your online media room. Blogs are a great way to discuss your company, cause, or industry and are often used by members of the media when researching someone/something for a story. If you have one, add the link to your media room. If you don’t have one, consider getting one.

By following these tips and by putting yourself in the shoes of a journalist, you will be able to develop an online presence that is both informative and convenient. Do this and you’ll meet the demands of the media and increase the likelihood of gaining editorial exposure.