How to Create a Winning Press Kit?

Successful press kits not only deliver timely information to editors but they also make you look and sound credible. Editors can’t risk their reputation on questionable information or sources, so make sure your message is clear and your brand represented.

To create a great press kit you must:

  1. Have something newsworthy
  2. Understand your target editors/writers
  3. Write and design your kit to those editors/writers while supporting your brand

This article focuses on writing and designing a winning kit.

Good Creative Supports Your Goal.

Great press kits go beyond photocopied releases in plain manilla envelopes. They can include digital media and be delivered electronically. They can also include samples or giveaways. Many are downright wacky and fun. But it is a fine line between enough and overkill. Highly innovative and gimmicky press kits may be the in-thing for movie launches and fashion shows, but they could fall flat without the substance to back them up or when editors are focused on widgets or financial services. Be sure your kit is designed appropriately for your niche. If your story requires bells and whistles, by all means, make some noise. Just make sure your kit doesn’t upstage your news. Pay special attention to:

  • Grammar and spelling. Poor grammar and spelling make you look careless and untrustworthy, not to mention a little dim. And for heaven’s sake, don’t rely on spell check. Remember, editors and writers care about dotting i’s and crossing t’s.
  • Kit design. Don’t undermine your brand by tossing simple press releases in a blank folder and calling it a kit. A strong brand that’s consistent within the press kit wins points with editors looking for the next great thing from a credible source.
  • File formats. Make sure your photos are high resolution. It also doesn’t hurt to include both RGB and CMYK since most publications have online components.

Creating a great kit improves your chances of becoming tomorrow’s news.

Getting Front Page Placement.


Here’s an example of a press kit that won prime placement on opening day of the annual International Housewares trade show in Chicago—exactly the right day of the year! Although this is example from a very specific niche, the same principles apply no matter what business you’re in.

Out of the thousands of new products introduced at the show, this client’s innovative and elegantly simple table cloths were included in the Chicago Tribune’s list of top 14 innovative products—with photo and above the fold—on the front page of the Home & Garden section of the Sunday edition.

How Was This Accomplished?

Nailing prime placement in key publications is never a sure thing, but it’s more likely with a combination of a great product or service, a great story and a well-done press kit.

What to Include.

Start by using product storytelling, well-written press releases and, if applicable, demonstration videos. You can also use an unusual container format to make the kit feel special. In this example, we used sleek black portfolio boxes to grab attention. It’s okay to stand out from the plain envelopes and folders gathering dust in the editor’s in-box.

Included within the kit were:

  • A press release
  • Company backgrounder
  • Product glossy (written and designed specifically for editors and writers)
  • A CD-ROM containing high-resolution photos, digital copies of the releases and a video demonstration showing how the fabric table cloths protected against spills

You can also consider including product or service fact sheets, a short list of frequently asked questions, brief and succinct testimonials and samples in your press kit. If you’re going to include any kind of glossy product info in the kit, make sure it’s targeted to the media. Do not include catalogs and sell sheets as they contain too much hyperbole and may turn off editors. Remember, keep the kit brief and valuable.

Distribution and Follow Up.

Don’t rely on a single method of distribution. This particular press kit was distributed to media giants at the Houseware’s Show Media Event in New York three months prior to the show as well as mailed to editors who did not attend. Standards today also include posting your kit’s components in the media section of your website or blog. Follow up all distributions with a phone call. No hard sell—be helpful and find out if they need or want more information.

Make sure your staff is ready for follow up and does so quickly. The Tribune requested product samples as a result of this press kit, and they were sent overnight. If your product is making specific and demonstrable claims, be prepared to have editors test the product and grill you for more information.

And smile when you’re talking with an editor or writer on the phone, they can hear that.

— by Julia Moran Martz

Mastering PR Basics.

Building a basic public relations program requires as much perspiration as inspiration. You must have a commitment to doing PR activities consistently and in a professional manner that will create demand for your news and subject matter expertise. The better you understand the rules, the better you’ll be able to play the game.

Here’s what you need to gain more exposure:

  • Learn how to develop a media list. There’s nothing more important than this database, so you have to spend some time getting the appropriate contacts and keeping the list updated. Determine the right local, regional, national and international media (newspapers, magazines, newsletters, blogs, radio and TV stations) contacts for your organization. Most of the information you need is readily accessible.
  • Learn how to develop relationships. Commit time to getting to know your media contacts. If possible, arrange a media tour, which is a series of individual meetings or a single event to promote your organization, product, or service to members of the media. For example, you might arrange meetings with the local newspaper business editors, or travel to see key members of the trade publications that cover your segment. Another approach is to invite members of the trade media attending a trade conference to a briefing. This works especially well if you have a newsworthy product or service to introduce.
  • Learn how to create a press kit. Regardless of your approach, make sure you prepare and have something to say. One of your goals is to establish your organization as a thought leader worthy of being quoted in an article—or perhaps even authoring the article—so be sure to look the part. That means having a press kit (See “How to Create a Winning Press Kit” in this issue), presentation materials and either an internal or external representative trained in interfacing with the press.
  • Learn how to write a news release. The better you do this, the more likely you are to receive free publicity. Not only do professionally written and presented news releases make you appear more credible, but increasingly understaffed media outlets also value copy that provides a solid foundation for an article without heavy rewrites. When you’re composing a news release, focus on the “news” element while emphasizing the basics of who, what, when, where and why. News releases with a good, crisp, relevant photo also tend to get more play. Digital cameras and the fact that most news releases are now submitted via email make the entire process easier and less expensive than ever.
  • Learn what’s newsworthy. There is likely more news in your organization than you think. A good practice is to form an internal “news team” that identifies newsworthy developments. You should set a goal of issuing at least one news release per month. Here are some items you should consider newsworthy:
    • New staff additions or promotions at the manager level and above
    • Capital investments in facilities, equipment and systems
    • Major new contracts or customer acquisitions
    • Company milestones—significant company and product anniversaries (AARP Turns 50, etc.)
    • New products, technologies or services
    • Significant customer benefits delivered in cost savings, time-to-market or quality improvement
    • Awards and honors—remember you usually have to enter to win
    • New corporate initiatives—sustainability, internships, etc.
    • Community relations—sponsorships, major contributions, scholarships, employee service programs, etc.

And remember this important takeaway: PR is for your customers too. Be sure to mail or email your news releases to your clients as well as the press. There’s no better way to continually let your customers know that you have an exciting, growing business and remind them of why they chose you in the first place.

What if You Don’t Have the Internal Resources?

MondoVox helps companies of all sizes with their PR programs. We can perform key services from developing a media contact database to writing your news releases and creating an effective press kit. Most importantly, we can help you develop a winning PR strategy that fits your budget and business requirements. For more information, email Julia Moran Martz.

— by Larry Bauer

Getting Top of Mind.

Do you ever feel like your clients are having parties and you’re not invited? That’s exactly what happens to many companies when it comes to staying top of mind. They are simply not part of their customer’s “in” crowd.

Too often companies remain outside the circle of influence because of an inability to establish personal customer relationships. It’s easy to fade into the background after the sale, missing opportunities to cross-sell, up-sell and generally deepen the relationship.

Think you have nothing to say? Customers actually do care about issues like:

  • Marketplace trends that impact their lives or businesses
  • Pertinent new product developments
  • Products that enhance the performance of what they purchased from you
  • News of how other customers are using your products
  • Your company initiatives from sustainability to community involvement
  • Loyalty discounts and offers

So How Could a Newsletter Improve My Social Life?

The truth is a newsletter won’t help much if the entire focus is on you. If you want the cool rich kids (translation: leading customers) to notice you there has to be some credibility established.

A well-positioned newsletter can help make the case that your knowledge extends beyond the manufacturing of your product to an understanding of your customer’s desires and challenges. And if you are in a business-to-business environment, you can send the newsletter to C-level execs who set strategy and influence decisions but are not part of your everyday contact base. Consumer marketers can benefit from pass-along circulation and offers to sign up friends with similar interests.

How Do I Communicate the Product Message?

The best way to promote the value of your product is by providing content that lures customers while still weaving in the product message. For example, a feature article about asthma sufferers who successfully compete in endurance events might be appealing for a pharmaceutical company.

A secondary article by a member of the company’s physician team might talk about how asthma patients can participate more safely in athletic endeavors by following a certain preparation regimen. Then the copy introduces the effectiveness of the company’s asthma drug.

Who Will Write the Articles?

The obvious answer is to go outside if you don’t have the inside expertise. Check with your media contacts for good freelance writers. Or contact Larry Bauer and the Mondovox® Creative Group. We write and design award-winning newsletters as well as provide support services ranging from managing your marketing database to electronic distribution and real-time results tracking.

Regardless of your approach, the takeaway is that you need to build credibility by demonstrating knowledge of the issues impacting your customers. Then you have a chance of making your customer’s “A” list of companies with which they prefer to do business. Newsletters can provide the vehicle.

— by Larry Bauer

Print vs. Electronic Newsletters.

Try to forget for a moment whatever preconceived ideas you might have about print and electronic communications. If you were developing a newsletter, you would want to use the most effective means, right? So let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of each channel:

Print Newsletter

Pros

  • Ability to reach everyone in your database
  • Easier to rent print lists for expanded circulation
  • High resolution reproduction that delights the eye
  • Portability—easier to take to a coffee break, read on an airplane, etc.
  • People tire of reading computer screens all day
  • Less competition—fewer print newsletters being produced
  • Research shows that people enjoy receiving relevant print publications

Cons

  • Relatively expensive
  • Slower production and distribution process
  • More difficult to present timely news
  • Limited tracking ability for generating marketing metrics

Electronic Newsletter

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Virtually instant distribution
  • Easier to present timely news
  • Trendy
  • More interactive capabilities—instantly link readers to deeper, related information or direct contact with you
  • Superior tracking ability for better marketing metrics

Cons

  • Permission based
  • Email address availability tends to be spotty even in customer databases
  • Limited list rental options for expanded circulation
  • Easily ignored, deleted or canceled
  • Lots of competition

And the Winner Is…

There is no winner. They are different channels with different sets of pluses and minuses. The answer is a milk toasty “it depends.”

What is clear is that different channels work best in combination with one another. Our most successful newsletter clients use a blend of print and electronic media to communicate their message.

They produce quarterly print versions, usually in 8-page formats, then provide short, one- or two-topic HTML editions on a bi-weekly schedule. This approach not only allows the companies to communicate important information on a timely basis, but also demonstrates that they are multichannel players who understand today’s media environment.

— by Larry Bauer

Who Cares About Newsletter Design?

You may be the best player in your region or niche, but it won’t matter to prospects and clients if you don’t appear and act credible and knowledgeable. Good newsletter content is only half of the equation. Without equally good design, your newsletter won’t instill a favorable impression, get read and ultimately help you get that foot in the door.

Design is not about using favorite colors and looking trendy. It’s actually a complex outcome of the same marketing information you use to create your key sales messages and expand your service offerings. Design deftly applies that same information to the components of your newsletter (and all your sales tools for that matter).

Keep the following in mind when planning and designing your newsletter:

  • Know your target audience and tailor your newsletter design to their needs. This includes aspects such as making sure type is legible for the age group of your list and selecting colors that are suitable for their demographic.
  • Design to support your market message without over-designing or losing yourself in a plethora of trendy design motifs. Make sure the newsletter’s design supports rather than upstages your message.
  • Look strategic by using images and copy that focus on solutions for your customers rather than your products, building or warehouse. This will position you as a company that thinks strategically and can contribute to their bigger picture and ultimately, yours.
  • Differentiate yourself from your competitors by purposefully designing to NOT look like them. Being different and distinctly recognizable allows prospects to spot you a mile away.
  • Don’t be a copycat by using the same stock images that all your competitors are using. These won’t reinforce your brand or your need to be seen in a different light than your competitors. Remember, when all things are perceived as being equal, price wins.
  • Be consistent by always using the same high-quality design for your newsletter. Consistency reinforces your prospects’ expectations of you.
  • Follow through on your design promise by acting the part. Once you have a well-designed, well-written newsletter based on a solid communications platform, you must have the ability to follow through. Make sure your sales staff is sending both verbal and written messages consistent to the quality and content of your newsletter.
  • Instill trust by consistently integrating your newsletter into your overall brand image. This will visually link the publication to your other customer touchpoints, creating cross-media recognition that reinforces your sales messages to everyone—prospects and existing clients.
  • Increase accessibility by using design to improve the reader’s experience. Articles should be easy to find and clearly differentiated from each other. Landing pages are helpful for extended articles but keep links under control. Five to seven jumps is a good number to shoot for.

Use Good Design for Every Touchpoint, Including Newsletters.

Good design gives you the power to change, reinforce and expand positive perceptions of your company. It also shows that you pay attention to detail and are able to understand the precise nuances of your customers’ needs. Customers want to know that important details won’t escape your discriminating eye when you’re part of their team. The design quality of all your sales and marketing literature creates as much of an impression as the suit you wear to that first meeting. And if done really well, good design will differentiate and position you more favorably than the next guy, giving you the edge.

What’s the bottom line?

It’s simple: Good newsletter design creates distinction between you and your competitors while consistent design keeps you visible during long sales cycles. Good design does matter.

— by Julia Moran Martz