A business will typically prepare a press kit in conjunction with some important announcement to be made in a public forum—at the company’s headquarters, at a hotel, at a conference—to which members of the press have been invited or where members of the media may likely appear. At a trade conference, for instance, trade press will usually be present to cover the conference itself; a press room may be part of the conference—where the company’s announcement can be posted.
Press kits, as the very phrase implies, go beyond press releases. They will contain narrative materials (the press release being one of these) along with other ancillary documentary items (statistics, resumes, handbooks, and the like) as well as photographs and other visual materials suitable for reproduction by a magazine or newspaper.
Occasionally it may be possible to provide samples of a product or miniatures to draw and hold the attention of reporters. If a business goes to the effort of making a public announcement, it is only reasonable to put sufficient effort into a press kit to make it an effective communications tools conveying in its appearance, design, graphics, colors, and contents a composite message in tune with the company’s own desired image.
In the Information Age, the Media Age, the “Age of the Image,” everybody appears to bend over backwards to catch the eye of a generally bored and jaded press. PR Week caught the flavor of the thing in an article writing: “Look on any reporter’s desk (or the floor, shelves, and trash bins around it), and you’ll likely find more than one press kit. These staples of the PR world have evolved from single-sheet releases placed neatly into folders to major UPS deliveries with gifts, samples, and swag dressed up in sometimes clever, more often corny, packages.” Small business is as adept at playing at this game as major companies—if the will is present. Whether a company wants to go all out or keep things modest and dignified will depend as much on the event as on the temperament and style of the company’s ownership.
A small business, typically, will either be making announcements in an industry context or unveiling a new facility, operation, acquisition, or outlet in the local community. In the latter case coverage is almost certainly forthcoming from the local press (if notified) because the business is creating genuine news. If the announcement is directed at the trade itself, favorable treatment by the trade press is also reasonably assured if the announcement is not “manufactured news” of little value. Francis Solomon, writing in Policy & Practice offered good advice by counseling companies: “Don’t lie, don’t hide.
Creating news rarely works; the business, however, should not be shying from contact with the press, even though much experience indicates that they’ll probably get something wrong. But to err is human. If the business is not particularly gifted with individuals familiar with media relations or hype, the best approach to making a press kit is to play it straight but light: a sense of humor helps. Thus the package should be attractive, may even feature something novel and eye-catching, but its contents should be factual and designed to help the recipient write an accurate and complete story.”
A press kit should be put together with the reporter’s perspective in mind. “What would I need to write a story about this event if I knew nothing about it and fell asleep during the press conference?” Reporters are always looking for unusual facets to make an ordinary story interesting to their readers. Interesting background should therefore be featured. Some companies have fascinating start-up stories. The company’s headquarters building may have historic importance not generally known. The product or service may have a colorful inventor. The product may have novel and unexpected uses. Reporters also like to write their stories quickly and avoid a series of follow-up calls to get facts of obvious importance never mentioned in the press kit because, inside the company, “everybody knows.” No knowledge on the Media’s part must be assumed. It is not only reasonable but sensible to give blatant emphasis to names people always spell wrong. So if the owner or the company is called Quiglly, a bold reminder, all in caps that QUIGLLY is spelled with A DOUBLE LL is not out of place.
Technical subjects need to be explained in layman’s language and, ideally, accompanied by diagrams.
Phrases like “torque-resistant topography” or “PostScript-generating package” may be English inside the company but may be Greek to the reporter. All else being equal, a carefully prepared, complete, factual, and interesting content will always win out over a clever package that is puzzling—especially some days after the event was held.