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Fundamentals of communication,

Press releases, special events and sponsorships: PR specialist

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Hopefully by now, as readers of this book, you have become more familiar with the history of public
relations and you should easily recall the fact that the field's founders were professional journalists who,
prior to becoming P.R. practitioners as consultants, were earning their 'livelihood' as reporters or editors
of newspapers. In this chapter the readers will become familiar with the basic tools public relations
personnel use which include, but are not limited to, the classic 'press release', the conception, planning
and execution of 'special events' for the private and public enterprise or organization that employs
them on a full-time basis or uses their expertise as a consultants applying the necessary techniques and
innovative processes in acquiring 'sponsors and sponsorships'.

An in-house P.R. specialist vs. the services of a P.R. consultancy

Public Relations activities aimed at fulfilling the needs of private and public corporations or organizations
demand the existence of a strategic plan encompassing specific techniques and activities which will
help materialize well delineated and clearly stated goals. These demands presuppose the existence of
both expertise and time of the specialists that will be called to successfully carry them through. There
is an ongoing debate, not only among P.R. practitioners and academics, but among corporation and
organization executives, as to the pros-and-cons of hiring a P.R. manager as a full-time employee or
paying appropriate fees to a Public Relations consultancy for undertaking and delivering ad hoc services.

It is a given reality and a widespread practice among private and public Large Scale Enterprises and
organizations to employ as staff members one or more P.R. specialists on a full-time basis. When,
however, specific events and occasions demand it, they purchase the additional services of established
P.R. consultancies. Small and medium size private enterprises and public organizations usually prefer to
'buy' ad hoc services from established P.R. consultancies judging that their vast expertise will help them
deal more efficiently and effectively with challenges and problems as they arise. This choice, of course,
will also cost less than will the full-time employment of one or more P.R. specialists.

There are various points of view concerning the above dilemma and they seem to differ as to what
constitutes the proper choice. There are those among academics and practitioners (including myself)
who believe that the needs of a medium sized private or public corporation or organization will be better
served by a person hired as an employee rather than by a large P.R. consultancy. Understandably, the full
time P.R. specialists will devote all of their time, efforts and expertise to their employer while the private,
well established and recognized consultancy will see them as a 'small client account'. Furthermore, the
variety of activities an in-house P.R. specialist may develop and handle usually 'pays-off' the costs related
to his/her full-time employment. Be it as it may, it remains unfortunately true that the old maxim which
described the P.R. specialist 'as the last person to be hired when business is brisk and the first to be fired
when business slows down' still holds true in today's private and public enterprises and organizations
to some, not so negligible, extent.

The 'press release' or 'news release'

The basic tool of the first public relations practitioners, Lee, Bernays, Creel, Byoir and others less known
persons operating in this emerging field was part and parcel of 'the trade' they were starting to be active
in, namely, writing and editing newspaper news, stories, feature articles and editorial comments. The
work of the P.R. pioneers brought forth the concept of the 'press release' for the various announcements
they made to newspapers and magazines concerning the private enterprises or public organizations that
were using their services. Nowadays, parallel to the classic 'press release' title of announcing a noteworthy
event or activity of the private or public enterprise or organization they are employed by or for which
they dramatize the role of consultant, modern P.R. personnel use also the title 'news release'.

Prepared and forwarded to the various Media by the P.R. personnel as either a 'press release' or a 'news
release', these basic communication texts should be created in the best possible form of structure, style
and content in order to be successful, that is to realize the desired aim of being published. As we shall
briefly discuss below, the 'press or news release' must incorporate specific techniques in order to gain
the attention of the journalists or editors whose desks or computers it will reach.

Harrison (2000, p. 21) presents the now historic 'Declaration of principles' circulated and given to the
Press in 1905 by Ivy Lee and considered to have been the 'first press release' published as part of P.R.
activities and his longest lasting contribution to the profession. The 'Declaration of principles' was
distributed to the media when Ivy Lee was in partnership with George Parker and both were advising
anthracite coal operators on how they could respond to a strike. It is safe to assume that they issued the
declaration in hopes of countering the rising hostility which journalists were expressing for ghost-written
press releases, ads disguised as news stories, and other efforts to manipulate news coverage of corporate
or organizational events. Lee's 'Declaration' was designed aiming, and to a considerable extent succeeded,
to lift the emerging P.R. field from a questionable pursuit to a professional discipline. Indeed, a profession
capable of winning public confidence and trust through communications based on sincerity and truth.

Lee's 'Declaration of principles' was the focus of an article by Sherman Morse (1906) in the American
Magazine and a quote of the now historic 'Declaration' follows below:

"This is not a secret press bureau. All our work is done in the open. We aim to supply news. This is not
an advertising agency; if you think any of our matter ought properly to go to your business office, do
not use it. Our matter is accurate. Further details on any subject treated will be supplied promptly, and
any editor will be assisted most cheerfully in verifying directly any statement of fact. Upon inquiry, full
information will be given to any editor concerning those on whose behalf an article is sent out. In brief,
our plan is, frankly and openly, on behalf of business concerns and public institutions, to supply to the
press and public of the United States prompt and accurate information concerning subjects which it is
of value and interest to the public to know about. Corporations and public institutions give out much
information in which the news point is lost to view. Nevertheless, it is quite as important to the public
to have this news as it is to the establishments themselves to give it currency. I send out only matter,
every detail of which I am willing to assist any editor in verifying for himself. I am always at your service
for the purpose of enabling you to obtain more complete information concerning any of the subjects
brought forward in my copy." (The American Magazine, vol. 62, 1906 p. 460).

Form & structure of a 'press' or 'news release'

A typical 'press or news release' should be printed in the official stationary of a private or public
enterprise or organization bearing their relevant title and logo (as they exist). In special stationary
used exclusively by the P.R. specialist (and approved by management) for issuing 'press releases' the
enterprise or organization's title and logo are printed on the top left side of the page and underneath it
appears the date of publication. On the right hand side of the stationary appear the name and contact
details (telephone number and e-mail address) of the person to be contacted in case the journalists or
the editors might need and require some clarification or further information.

The designation 'PRESS RELEASE' or 'NEWS RELEASE' is printed (usually in capital letters and in bold
characters) in the middle of the page a few spaces below the company or organization title and logo.
Nowadays, although some 'press or news releases' are still printed on paper and posted by mail to the
recipients, it is common practice that the vast majority are composed and transmitted electronically. A
word of caution is needed here in the case your release necessitates the familiar note with the emphasis
on 'embargo until…' designation. In practical terms there is no 'guarantee' that the 'embargo' the P.R.
specialist is requesting will be respected by all journalists, editors and media and, therefore, serious
thought and careful evaluation of given realities and empirically gained experiences with the various
media and journalists or editors are necessary in order to avoid embarrassments.

Content and Style of the 'press or news release'

The aim of the 'press or news release' is, to put it in public relations practitioners' terms, to catch the
journalists' or editors' attention considering that press people are inundated daily with a large flow of
private or public enterprises and organizations 'news' on activities and events. Experienced, and successful
in their endeavours P.R. specialists, will attest to the fact that the usual style of content for a 'press or
news release' hoping to gain attention is that of an inverted pyramid. What this implies, in practical
terms, is that the significant 'news' are provided in the first, the lead paragraph of the text, while the
other paragraphs going down the page contain relevant information in a decreasing flow of significance.
At any rate the maxim of 'who, what, when, where, how and why' details is advisable to be included,
smartly, in the 'press or news release' you will create and send by post or e-mail to journalists and media.

Considering, however, both the well known 'lack of space' in printed or electronic media and the need
to provide succinct, interesting and useful information to the reader, the 'press or news release' should
be as short as possible, avoiding on the one hand the lengthy several page document and, on the other
hand, the laconic statement of a twit, SMS or telegram.

Each one of the paragraphs that make up the 'press or news release' should be as self contained as possible
and, in cases where it is not possible to contain all the information we wish to provide to journalists
and editors in one page and a second page becomes necessary, as a rule of thumb reflecting proper
composition based on experience, the breaking-up of a paragraph between the bottom of the first page
and the top of the second page should be avoided.

The desirability of 'self-contained' paragraphs concerning the message and meanings they carry is a
necessity emerging from everyday practical experiences with members of the media. It is not at all
unusual for the lead paragraph and one or three more paragraphs of a 'press or news release' to appear
in print, as editors may decide to skip some paragraphs to fit the space they have available on the day
they decide to publish your press release.

This is fairly common and it should not constitute a source of disappointment for new and less experienced
P.R. personnel who see their original text subjected to the editor's surgical intervention as, by being
published, your 'release' has fulfilled its goal of being published.

Different 'releases' to different Media

At the beginning of the 20th century when P.R. came to existence when a select few journalists changed
professions and became public relations consultants and practitioners, the only available media of
communication were the printed media in the form of newspapers and magazines. As time progressed
radio and, much later, television were added and, finally, in the last few decades a whole array of modern
information technology media have come into existence assuming, in some cases, the role of protagonists
in carrying messages to small, medium or large size targeted audiences.

Modern public relations personnel employed by private and public enterprises and organizations,
either as full-time employees or as outside consultants, cannot afford the luxury of overlooking the
existing reality of the vast variety of communication media. This reality dictates the need of creating
and composing 'press or news releases' to be structured in the format in which the various media would
expect to receive and to use them. Thus, while a document aimed at printed or electronic media such
as newspapers, magazines or websites should be kept at a limited length and contain only a few concise
paragraphs made up of crisp and clearly written sentences, 'press or news releases' aimed at radio and
television stations, as a rule, should be of even shorter length.

Given the realities of this High Information and Communication Technology era, however, the 'lopsided
pyramid' style described earlier is still the proper and productive way to compose a 'press or news release'
and so the major news communicated to the recipients should be provided in the lead paragraph aiming
to immediately catch the reader's eye.

There are practitioners who suggest that antique forms of sending a release to the media, such as
printed on paper or faxed, may still be accepted by a minority of journalists and editors while the vast
majority do prefer to receive them in the e-mail form obviously requiring much less effort in the process
of 'editing' them. Many successful P.R. practitioners would suggest that a telephone call preceding or
following the dispatch of a release may prove helpful as long as there is a possibility a journalist or an
editor will respond to such a call. In conclusion, I would emphasize that it is useful to know who, in the
media you are contacting, will be happy receiving a printed or a faxed release and who would prefer it
in the e-mail form. The danger, however, always exists that as an e-mail may be 'deleted' in a split second
before it is even opened it is advisable, practical and imperative that the 'subject' line of the e-mail has
an eye-catching title.

Emphasis on ethos, pathos and logos

At this point it would be useful to reiterate that your 'press or news release' should follow the old
Aristotelian model comprised of the three significant elements in the art of persuasion which in a
summary form are presented below in the spirit which suggests that 'repetition is the mother of all
learning'.

Place particular care in utilizing 'Ethos' which refers to the character or credibility of the author or
speaker. Ethos is conveyed through given and existing reputation, through the listing of credentials, and
the proper utilization of tone when the presentation is oral and style when it is written. The manner
in which 'ethos' is secured will ensure that it will appeal to the audience. A 'press or news release' will
reinforce the presenter's ethos (the company or organizational image) by demonstrating knowledge,
fairness, and by stressing shared values, assumptions, and benefits for the audience.

In your communications dispatched to the media 'Logos', the Greek word which as you recall is translated
in English bearing the meaning of either 'word or logic', makes it imperative that you have to find, choose
and use the right words as nouns and epithets in your text. Your text must be clear and your arguments
must be logical and based on facts. Keep on a state of alert in your mind the logical processes of deduction,
going from the general to the specific and induction which follows the exact reverse direction of going
from the specific to the general.

You are human and so are your audiences which means that 'Pathos', the term that refers to emotions
and can create motivational appeal if it impacts properly on the receivers, should be paid equal attention
to as 'ethos' and 'logos'. As noted by Aristotle almost twenty five centuries ago and still holding true,
the three terms as components in the process of persuasion constitute an equilateral triangle. Try to
evoke positive emotions in your audience, use, if it is deemed appropriate and not offensively egotistical,
personal experiences and relate your material to real life and real people.

Special events and sponsorships

Particular importance among the P.R. specialists and consultancies special activities and responsibilities is
placed on the creation and management of special events. As special are characterized the various events
which will help the public or private enterprise or organization to bring into closer contact company
personnel and the various publics. Such events provide appropriate opportunities for the private or public
enterprise or organization to show its human side and, simultaneously, for a variety of publics ranging
from the families of employees to neighbourhood people, from vendors and suppliers to schools and
educators, from Media opinion-makers to specialized journalists and politicians of local, regional or
even national level, to gain a better understanding of the company or the organization.

An event usually referred to either as 'Family Day' or 'Open Doors Day' has been adopted and is held
at semi-annual, annual or bi-annual time intervals by large numbers of private and public enterprises
and organizations. In a most widespread and usual form this is the day during which the members of
the families of personnel employed by a company or organization can visit the factory or the physical
facilities of the company or the organization. During this 'special day' they will become familiar with
the physical-working environment in which a member of their family employed by the company spends
his/her working hours. In such events, in addition to the physical visit and the presentation of company
activities, children and adults are entertained by illusionists, clowns, and acrobats, they are treated to
food, beverages and pastries and, if weather conditions and the availability of needed physical space
permit it, a small size amusement park may be set up and made available to the guests.

Many companies have a tradition of holding special events on special holiday occasions such as Christmas
and New Years Eve when parties are organized for employees and their families. During such events
Santa Claus offers presents to the employees' children, special raffles and lucky drawings take place and
winners are drawn from among all the participants in the event. Other types of special events may be the
participation in or the organization of sports activities in which company employees, if an organized team
in a special sport does exist, compete against other teams in the presence of company or organization
employees and members of their families who have been invited to attend such matches.

Company participation in various expositions and fairs, the opening ceremony of a new store or a new
company branch or the move to a new location and into new building(s), are also great opportunities for
public relations personnel to offer their creative services. Properly handled such events provide ample
opportunities for gaining benefits for the company or the organization, improvement of corporate or
organizational image, and strengthening the existing corporate culture and the public' perception of the
company's or organization's efforts related to matters falling in the areas of Corporate Social Responsibility.

Some events may necessitate that the management of the company or the organization will decide to
hold a 'press conference' in which, depending on the nature of the event, invitations may be extended
exclusively to journalists representing various media. In some occasions the management may decide
that the invitation to partake in the 'press conferences' beyond the representatives of the Media may be
extended to members of the local or regional Authorities and representatives of other stakeholder publics.

The organization of a successful 'press conference' demands careful planning starting with the choice
of venue. If the company or organization has adequate and proper spaces needed for such an activity,
then this should be the venue choice as it will give a chance to media representatives and representative
of other stakeholder groups to appreciate or even admire the existing physical facilities. If such space is
not available, another location may be chosen offering the possibility for providing a buffet and drinks
after the event has come to an end. For such events ample provision for proper timing must be made
so as to ensure maximum possible participation and attendance. Special care should be taken by P.R.
personnel for the proper set-up of microphone and audio visual aids and the preparation of a 'press-kit'
to be distributed to all participants. The 'press-kit', as a rule of thumb, usually includes relevant press and
news releases relating to the event and outlining the reasons for holding it. Proper care must, additionally,
be exercised by P.R. personnel in having prepared answers to questions of a general nature members
of the media might pose. This can be successfully achieved by including in the 'press kit' various data
about the company or the organization, its history and development through time, its personnel, success
stories, products and services offered to the consuming public and, if deemed necessary, some relevant
financial and other statistical data.

Sponsorship of a variety of educational, social, civic and sports activities also fall within the purview
of positive and creative public relations for companies and organizations. Academic texts and popular
books and articles, testimonies of practitioners and, along with them my personal experiences as both
a practitioner and an academic, verify the fact that usually a well conceived, organized and delivered
event of the sponsorship type has a much higher and unexpected 'ROI' (return on investment) that is
return on costs incurred, that could pleasantly surprise everybody involved and especially the company's
or organization's top management.

Crisis management

A crisis is an unexpected, serious, event that may involve an accident resulting in serious bodily injuries or
even loss of life among employees, flooding or fire in the physical facilities, faulty products that affect the
health and safety of consumers or accusations of poor services delivered by a company or an organization.
In essence, however, one cannot overlook the existence of a significant dichotomy between real crises
affecting people, facilities, products and services and symbolic crises related to the endangerment of a
company's or an organization's reputation. Public relations specialists and experienced consultancies
as practitioners, and along with them P.R. academics, know that in proper crisis management the
Hippocratic maxim stating that 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure' constitutes the 'alpha
to omega or A to Z' procedural requirement. Surely this presupposes that all efforts have been made and
there are no loose ends or unforeseen loopholes in the preparation of products or in the dissemination
of services by private and public enterprises and organizations that could give rise to a crisis.

In everyday reality, however, even the best optimally set up and operating companies and organizations
may be faced with a crisis and the possibility of a crisis arising unexpectedly cannot be overlooked or
shelved under the 'most unlikely' or the 'extreme possibility' file. Most certainly the proper strategy,
methods and techniques for handling a crisis cannot be left for the time it might occur and cannot be
suddenly delegated for handling to the P.R. specialist nor does it constitute 'ex post facto' that is after it
occurs responsibility of top management.

Crises do occur and handling them can prove to be a crucially critical process in destroying company
or organizational reputation, if mishandled, or augmenting existing positive public perceptions when
handled successfully. There are, surprisingly, numerous examples of disastrous handling of crises even
by leading international companies and organizations as there are impressive examples of successful
handling because someone thought and acted following the Hippocratic maxim of 'prevention' or the
well known boy-scout command stating laconically, 'be prepared'.

Experienced P.R. specialists and consultancies offering their services to a company or an organization
usually have a well spelled out, step-by-step 'crisis management plan', which covers all necessary aspects
of handling a crisis and designates persons and teams that will be involved should a crisis occur. Usually
such 'crisis management' plans designate the make up of the 'crisis management team' within the company
or the organization, steps to be followed when a crisis erupts, handling of the necessary information flow
to the media and journalists, identification of contact persons with the Fire and Police Departments and
area Hospitals. Usually the designated crisis management team is coordinated by the P.R. specialist or,
if a high level management person is placed in charge, the P.R. specialist acts as his top aid. The crisis
management team is briefed at given time intervals, unannounced 'alarms' are called to check the team's
preparedness as 'tests', and the evaluation of handling the 'test crisis' is analyzed as a follow-up activity.
Based on such 'tests' the experiences gained through them are incorporated in the initial plan if they
are missing, while, simultaneously, strengths and weaknesses in the handling processes are identified
and evaluated.


  1. Communication is a universal phenomenon: system of 4 components
  2. Human Communication: scheme of human communication, defining
  3. Body Language: darwins contribution, intrigue of body language
  4. Mass Media & social media: stone inscription, printing process
  5. The Role of attitudes in human communication: defining attitudes
  6. The birth of a speciality: roots in antiquity, historic glimpse
  7. Publics, Public Opinion and its moulders: historical evolution, term
  8. Rhetoric, Persuasion and Propaganda: rome, love, definitions, variety
  9. Corporate Communication & Responsibility: corporate communication
  10. Press releases, special events and sponsorships: PR specialist
  11. Leaders and Leadership: pantheon of leaders, persons, injustice
  12. Leadership, Power, Authority & Charisma: events, political, financial
  13. Leadership research at the Universities of Iowa, Ohio & Michigan:
  14. Modern theories of leadership in Private and Public Enterprises and Or
  15. Instead of an epilogue: Women leaders remain under a ‘glass ceiling:
  16. References: Bibliography
  17. The Author: Dr Georgios P. Piperopoulos, sociology, psychology