What does it take to get the media to cover your grand opening, ground breaking or other special event? It's not exactly brain surgery, but it's no no-brainer, either.

Your first impulse might be to flex your might as an advertiser and alert the advertising representatives of the publications in which you spend a lot of money. That seldom works.

At most publications, the separation of advertising and editorial is sacred. Most often, an ad rep's suggestion to the news staff, however valid a client's news event might be, will be looked upon as a suck up. Thus, it will usually be ignored.

The best way to generate coverage for an event is to make it interesting to the general public. That means thinking about what's important to the reader, listener or viewer.

Ask and then answer these questions:

1. "Why should the public care about this?"

2. "How is this information valuable to the public?"

The best way to alert the media that an interesting event is taking place at your dealership is to send a well-written and informative press release to the news or assignment editors at the various media outlets in your market.

Before sending out your press release, make sure your event truly is newsworthy. Remember, the first three letters of the word news are "n-e-w."

Create your press release using the following five steps:

1. Contact name.

At the top of a page of your dealership's letterhead, put the name, phone number and e-mail address of someone who knows about the event and is relatively easy to reach and knowledgeable about the subject.

2. Headline.

Write a headline that will make a newspaper editor want to send someone to your event.

3. Lead.

Media people receive hundreds of pieces of mail every day, so the lead will dictate if your release will be kept for consideration or thrown away. Always include the five "W's" - who, what, when, where and why - in your lead.

4. Body

This is the place to expand on the information you included in the lead

5. Closing paragraph.

This is the place to put basic information about your dealership that you'd like the media to know, but might not be vital to the event you'd like covered. This paragraph should be used at the end of every press release you send out. Even though it may never be used, it is a constant reminder to the media about your store.

If you follow these basic guidelines, there's a fighting chance that your press release won't find the circular file and a reporter will act on it.

Tim Keenan, senior editor of Ward's Dealer Business, spent more than four years working at a public relations agency before joining Ward's Communications.