Meet the Press Kit: Separating the Pros from the Flacks

Becky Vieira

March 14, 2013 · 5 minutes read

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If you have followed my blogs thus far and are still committed to this process, congrats! So far, we’ve talked about creating stellar media plans, media lists, and press releases. You can now add a working knowledge of public relations to your list of skills.

If you’ve followed the advice in my first three articles, you are now at a turning point in your PR campaign—a juncture that separates the “eh” programs from the “wow, you really nailed it!” ones.  Once a press release is written, many consider that enough content and will begin media outreach. This is a big no-no in my book. To fully support an important campaign, you will want–no, need–a complete press kit first. With just a few more documents, in addition to a press release, you will go a lot further. Trust me on this!

I may age myself here, but press kits have come a long way.  When I started out in the PR business, press kits were hard copy only, distributed in a branded folder with business cards—and each document was inserted in a carefully selected order that for some reason no one could ever seem to agree upon. These days, press kits are mostly provided in an electronic format.

It Takes A Village

Let’s be clear that I am advocating for a cohesive press kit for big news–a new product, a company launch…something major. Yes, at times you will write a press release (or a media alert, which we will cover in just a few more paragraphs) that will stand alone without the need for additional documents, but in this instance, we are talking about big news. The good stuff.

Now, you may be thinking, if I followed all the steps explained in your press release tutorial, why do I need to write even more? Because as the media begins to cover you, they will likely request additional information to learn more about your business and develop their stories; you will find you are asked for the same kind of information countless times. Also, you’ll be able to use these documents in several other areas of your business. I know that, as entrepreneurs, we always like things that serve more than one purpose, especially if it helps us save time and money.

Behind Every Great Press Release…

Supporting documents in a press kit can include a number of options, but I’ll highlight the most important ones that I recommend, and you can get creative with additional ones based on your specific needs or industry.

  • Bios. Including bios of your key players can provide the reporter with important background information on your team and leadership, and some of the information contained within can be used to supplement stories. These are some of the more straightforward documents you will write. I suggest taking one’s resume and using it as your outline, filling in important details as you go. Start with the present position and work back in reverse chronological order.
  • Fact Sheet. A fact sheet is used to present key points of information about a company or product, usually via bullet points. Much of what is written is already contained somewhere across your press kit, and the fact sheet combines it all in one cohesive document. Think of it as a cheat sheet, or synopsis.
  • Q&A/FAQ. This document goes beyond the fact sheet, providing answers to additional questions you suspect may be asked of your company or product, either that are included in the press kit (not everyone reads every line…sorry to break it to you!) or that you deemed not important enough to warrant a line in your kit, but you suspect certain media (or potential clients, etc.) may ask. Additionally, the FAQ should cover information you assume media may ask, but you don’t want to include in your press release because it confuses the tone. For example, if you are selling baby shoes you may not want to highlight in your press release that the material of the shoes will not cause child suffocation. This is a positive and important element of your product; however, in the release, you want to focus on the fabric, price, and competitive advantages of the shoes. Adding in a line about the shoes not causing suffocation would seem totally out of place—that’s why it’s better to add information like that to a Q&A or FAQ page instead.
  • Company Background. Provide the history and some backstory on your organization. Include milestones, key dates, and a mission statement. You can think of this as the bio of your company.

Again, there is no official list for what should be included in a press kit. Depending on your industry, you may have other documents to include, such as: sales sheets, customer or client testimonials, a list of retailers, or even computer-aided drawings or designs. If you have sales or marketing collateral, like brochures or DVDs, these can serve as assets as well. You will also want to have high-resolution images available.

Some press kits include media clippings, but I counsel you to be careful with that. Keep in mind who you send these to. The media can be competitive and will want exclusives, if possible. Therefore, sending a press kit to an editor that includes a clip from a competing outlet isn’t a great incentive for coverage when someone sees you’ve already been featured by an arch nemesis!

Press Release Vs Media Alert

I think of the media alert as the little sister to a press release. Call it a “diet press release,” if you will. A media alert is used to announce an event, such as a press conference or any one-time occurrence (i.e. a grand opening, groundbreaking ceremony, or other photo opportunity) you want the media to attend or know about—but doesn’t really have a place in a press kit. You may also want to use a media alert to inform media of an event where you will distribute press kits.

Once, Twice, Three Times the Use

What I love about a thorough press kit is that I can use it for more than just media. I have printed out hard copies to hand out at press conferences and events, or to distribute at trade shows. I keep the documents available online for media, and email them when I am working with a reporter on a story. I also distribute them internally and my sales team has used certain documents with potential customers and human resources has used them when luring talent.

As I mentioned, press kits are commonly shared electronically these days (you may hear it referred to as an EPK or electronic press kit), but every now and again, you will find an occasion to distribute hard copies, as mentioned above. Be sure to print out the documents on your corporate letter head and compile everything into a folder.

My next article will focus on the culmination of all this writing and list building: the media pitch!

Editor’s Note: The image above features the original 1968 press kit from The Beatles. You can read the great story behind this press kit here

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