Friday, December 11, 2009

Putting together your media kit

Happy Friday!

Thank you to those who have been responding to the blog, it’s always nice to get feedback.  Plus it’s a way to hear what YOU would like to know about.  There are so many things about PR, so many nuances, we could go on forever.  Which is exactly what I plan to do, actually, go on for as long as I can.

Anyway, I had planned to write an entry focused on when you should actually call a producer or editor.  It was really a tip of the hat to my friends who work the morning shifts at TV and radio stations who are constantly complaining about when they get pitch calls.  I promise to put that entry up next, so, you know, keep an eye out for that.  It’s chock full of knowledge and tips and even some calcium for your growing bones.

With that said, in the past week, I’ve had a handful of questions about something that I was going to put off for a little bit, but seeing as how this blog serves the masses, I now want to talk a bit about the dreaded, “Media Kit.”

What is it?

First, there are two types of media kits.  The first is a basic package to promote an event or specific news announcement.  The second type is a more thorough detailing of your organization; it’s history, the important officers, mission statement, it’s goals and basic facts about the cause or business that you are involved in.

What you should know is this; while both types of media kit are used in different ways, the information compiled for both can be interchangeable.  In other words, once you put together your first media kit, you can continue to go back to the well of information you assembled over and over again.  They’ll both have similar pieces, with the biggest difference being what you leave out and what you add in, depending on why you’re sending the kit to newsrooms.

Confused?  Don’t be.  “Media Kit” is a term that often gives PR folks the chills, draws heavy sighs from interns and is a source of endless mockery in most newsrooms.  But “Media Kit” is a term that nearly every client knows and is therefore one of the first requests they make when approaching a PR firm.

You might have put together a “Media Kit” yourself for your small business or non-profit at one point.  I truly hoped it worked well for you, because, in all honesty, media kits are a bit of a dying breed, at least they are in the form they used to take.

Let’s look at what a traditional media kit would entail:

1.    Press Release
2.    History of the company
3.    Information on the important officers of the company
4.    Photos
5.    FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) sheet
6.    Quotes sheet (optional, depending on the reason for the kit)
7.    Food or trinkets (seriously, trinkets)

The kit could come in a neat little folder with the company logo emblazoned across the front, or it could come in a basket, surrounded by biscuits, or it could come in a bottle, or a boot, or, basically anything that paper can be attached to. 

I remember once the National Western Stock Show sent out their invites to the annual pre-party in cowboy boots.  It was cool.  The boots had buffalo jerky in it, some hay, a tiny cowbell, and, of course the press release and invite.

The jerky was gone in about thirty seconds, the cowbell was quickly confiscated by an assignment editor who proceeded to use it to annoy producers, the release and hay ended up in the trash post-haste.  The cowboy boot?  It stayed in the newsroom.  It actually became a bit of a prize, given to a newsroom employee for doing something particularly boneheaded. 

This is an unusual situation simply because the Stock Show is an annual event that knows it will get coverage and knows that with an open bar, nearly every journalist in town will attend their pre-party.  So the boot wasn’t necessary and they knew it, but it was fun and they knew that newsrooms across town would appreciate the effort.

But here’s something else they knew.  They understood that while the contents of the boot would quickly disappear, they were pretty certain that the boot itself would remain, and they were right.  Now, every time someone sees the boot, they are reminded, in some way, about the Stock Show.  It puts it in their mind.  It might even conjure up a few questions, send a reporter to their computer to look something up about the stock show.  That boot did its job and more.

Now I’m not saying that you should go out and send your press releases and media kits out in cowboy boots.  First of all, that’s expensive, and secondly, the boot was something unique to the stock show. 

There are a few guidelines you should keep in mind when considering the packaging for your media kit or release. 

1.    It should be unique AND unique to your organization -  If your company makes wool hats, then by goodness, package it in a wool hat, or something that will automatically make people think of your organization and what you do. 
2.    Don’t make it too big or too small – If you’ve ever been in a newsroom, you know how cluttered and messy they are.  Things get lost pretty easily.  If it’s something too small, it will get lost, if it’s something too big, it will end up either in the trash or someone will take it home with them.  Both results are bad for you.
3.    Make it fun or make it useful - The boot was fun.  No one was going to throw it away, but no one was going to wear it, either.  If you know only a few things about journalists, know this…journalists are lazy and they love, love, LOVE free stuff.  Especially if it’s stuff they can use.  Things like bowls with your logo on it, or a lamp, something that can actually stay in the newsroom and get used.  If you can’t go that route, think of something fun.  When I was at KUSA, we once got a media kit attached to one of those old time electric football games where you turn it on and all the players vibrate around the field.  Trust me, that game did, and probably still does, get used quite a bit.

What I’m saying is this.  Put some thought into how you package your kit.  A bag is nice, but it doesn’t have any staying power in a newsroom, and that’s what you’re looking for.

The Kit:

Now that you’ve figured out what you’re going to put your kit into, you have to decide what you’re going to put in it.  There are two ways you can go about this.  The first is a simple release, announcing an event or major news item.  The second is a full on media guide-type of kit that gives all kinds of useful information about your organization and what you do.  This kind of kit is a favorite of mine and can actually become a kind of reference book in a newsroom.

Regardless of which way you go, here are the absolute essentials you need to put into a media kit:

1.    Press release
2.    Short background sheet on your organization, a brief history, your latest accomplishments, mission statement and future goals.
3.    A list of important people within your organization
4.    Photos  and photo disc.
5.    ***Video (I’ll get to this in a second)
6.    Quote sheet
7.    FAQ sheet

Look familiar?  It should, it’s essentially the same list as above but with a few minor changes and one major difference.

First the small things.  You background sheet should not just be a history of the organization.  It should tell reporters what your organization is about, right now, not how it started.  This sheet needs to tell them in simple, quick terms what the organization does and, most importantly, HOW it does it.  Remember, the Who, what and where are all easily answered on the press release.  The how and why should be the focus of the rest of your media kit.

Don’t give long bios on the bio sheet.  A short synopsis of what they do, title and contact information will suffice.

The photos can be generic to your organization, or they can be specific to an event.  Check with your local newspaper to find out the best format for photos.  You only need a few printed photos, the rest you can put on a CD-ROM and let them pick through them if they choose.

The quote sheet should come from individuals you want to represent your company or event and can either be generic about the organization or, again, specific to an event.

The FAQ sheet sounds harder than it is.  Think about the kinds of questions you get from customers or volunteers or friends and family.  The questions can be generic to your organization or specific to an event.  No more than ten, tops.

Video may sound daunting as well, but trust me, you need it.  You can get a cheap video camera or borrow one or buy a flip camera and shoot some basic video of an event or the daily happenings of your organization.  This is an area that will require some basic technical knowledge and getting help here is probably necessary, however, for $50 to $100 bucks, you can get someone to help you out on this.  You’re not looking to put together a video story, you’re looking for what is called B-roll; video that can be used to illustrated your organization during an on air newscast.  I’ll spend a lot more time on this subject in the future, but if you have any questions, get back to me and I can discuss this with you in more detail.

Now you have a basic media kit.  You’re basically talking about five to six pages, tops.  For a more in-depth media kit, one that could end up being used as more of a reference book, you can take more time, provide more detail, but what is most important about this kind of kit is its versatility.  Don’t use this kind of kit to promote an event, use it to focus on your cause. 

In other words, if you work with a non-profit that focuses on aid to Africa, you can use this kind of kit to address the many issues that your organization faces.  A note here, do NOT use this kit to preach.  You want to give facts, facts that can be proven.  Provide the media with facts that they can use, and they’ll love you forever.  I don’t even like to call these kinds of kits media kits, I prefer to call them guidebooks or even factbooks (factbooks works better, really).  These kinds of kits take a lot more time, but they prove themselves worth it in the long run.


Here’s something else you have to consider, and that’s the use of the interent when getting your kit to journalists.  Everything that is listed above can be scanned in or created online.  It’s pretty easy to put all of that stuff into a PDF format and email it to various reporters and editors and producers.  At the same time, you can have all of that information on your website as well, including the video.  You can follow all of this up with your nice, pre-packaged kit that you handwalk into your local newsrooms.  There’s not an issue of overkill here.  Just because you email the kit to a number of journalists, doesn’t mean you can’t also give them a kit they can hold in their hands.  Plus, it’s a great way to meet local journalists and give them food, which, as you know, is always important.

Your online kit, the one on your website serves as a great way to get information out to your constituents, shareholders, clients or other members of the public who casually peruse your site.  Plus, bloggers love the online environment and will go back to your site if you give them a reason to bookmark you as a trusted resource.

You can spend hours and hours on a media kit, or you can put one together in just a few hours while watching the game on Sunday.  It really depends on how much information you feel you need to get out to journalists.  I recommend taking a day and putting your kit together.  It might seem like a lot of work up front, but once it’s done, it can always be tweaked to fit a particular event, plus, you’ll always have that information handy whenever someone asks for it, and hopefully, if you do your job right, you’ll get asked for it a lot.

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