From dwindling newsroom budgets to the emergence of digital journalism, the media landscape is rapidly evolving, and so must press kits. As reporters are tasked with more responsibilities and online media becomes commonplace, all PR practitioners need to move beyond the traditional two-pocket, paper folder. I’ve practiced media relations for nearly 20 years, and have learned that if you want maximum media exposure, you need to make covering your story as easy as possible. Whether you’re preparing for a major policy conference or an arts festival, these three tips will help you transform your press kits from outdated to accessible.
Move beyond the folder: Many of us got our start in PR stuffing endless amounts of press materials into folders, and then lugging them to an event. The good news: This is not necessary anymore. Consider storing your press materials electronically on a flash drive, preferably one branded with your organization’s logo and Web address. The digital press kit allows journalists to quickly copy and paste important facts straight to their computers, saving time and energy. They can also reuse the flash drives, which serve as a reminder of your organization if you opt to brand them.
Rethink what to include in your kits: There are traditional items that should be included in press kits, such as releases, fact sheets and contact information. But think outside the box (or the folder in this case) and consider other items reporters might find useful, especially given the shift to online media. First though, you must take into account the type of news you’re publicizing and what reporters need to file their stories. My firm works with clients in both the arts and public affairs industries, so as you can imagine, reporters’ needs vary immensely.
Distribute your kits as soon as possible: If you’re handling the PR for an event, such as a conference or festival, you want press kits in the hands of reporters prior to the gathering—weeks in advance if possible. Journalists will do their own research leading up to an event, so it’s crucial they have your materials—and messaging—ahead of time. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t have press kits available at your event, but consider ways to distribute them in advance.
I recently handled the publicity for a nationally renowned film festival, and we wanted to raise the bar with our press kits. One of our goals was to generate film reviews before the festival, so we included every film in its entirety in our digital press kits. We also provided high-resolution images, descriptions of each film and contact information for each filmmaker so reporters would have every tool necessary to file their story.
If you’re creating press kits for a policy-focused event, perhaps a political conference, you have to alter your strategy. Consider sharing policy papers, speaker bios and contact information, along with traditional press releases and fact sheets. Also think about logistical concerns. You might want to include wireless network names and passwords, the location of filing centers and maps with designated areas for press to sit or shoot a stand-up.
In my experience, hosting a press preview event pays off tremendously. I’ve hosted luncheons where reporters learned about a film festival, as well as gatherings where critics got a sneak peak of theatrical performances. While these preview events are inherently informative, they’re also the perfect opportunity to hand out press kits prior to the big event. If a reporter can’t make the preview, simply send a press kit to them in the mail or, if possible, drop it off in person.
Changing the way you create press kits is crucial to helping journalists as their roles shift and they take on additional responsibilities. But don’t completely eliminate the folder approach. Always keep some traditional press kits on hand. After all, the media landscape has changed, but that doesn’t mean every reporter has, and in the end, your job is to make his or her job easier.
Laura Gross is the founder and president of Washington, D.C.-based public relations and event planning firm Scott Circle Communications. She can be reached out firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Twitter at @lgross.