Every business should maintain a press kit. You never know when an opportunity for good press exposure will present itself. Sometimes you will place yourself where the media is designed to find you. Other times you may find yourself in the right place at the right time, or the wrong place at the right time.
Whatever the reason for media exposure, seize the opportunity and be ready to be seen in the best possible light.
News, by its very nature is about today, so if the media show any interest in your business you will need to satisfy their curiosity immediately. By keeping a media kit up-to-date, you will have the background they seek and be timely in meeting their need for immediacy.
The five Ws remain the ground rules of journalism: who; what, why, when and where?
Whether the story is all about you, or you are just an incidental part of the story for colour, you should be ready to provide as much detail to the journalist as possible. Having it in writing is one way to guarantee it is available during the creation of the story.
Some of your information will remain relatively static, but to be newsworthy, some of the content must be timely. So take time to regularly update the portions that are changing or evolving.
Consider too the benefit of having the media kit written and maintained by a professional writer.
This can be the easiest or the most difficult part of the package. Obviously, it’s about you – and who knows you best? However, we are brought up to be modest, so it’s sometimes difficult to describe ourselves in the most glowing terms. It might be better to get somebody else to work on this section. Perhaps you can have key colleagues within the business create profiles that describe each other in terms of what each of you brings to the business.
A good news story is about people. The journalist will want a human interest aspect, no matter what the trigger for the story is.
As your business grows, there may be more people who contribute to the who of the organisation. Don’t be afraid to be inclusive in sharing the limelight. If, however, you are the solitary hero of the story, don’t shrink from it. Like a resume for employees, the biographies should be kept up to date with a person’s latest accomplishments, both business and social. But it’s not your FaceBook page, so keep it businesslike.
Remember too that this exposure is for a business. Make sure that the business name, and/or the trade name(s) of your product/service is clearly associated with the person or people involved in the story. A few well produced photographs or other graphics might be included in the kit. If your logo is present in the picture, so much the better.
Your What is the meat of your business. What do you do? What sets you apart from the rest of the world? What are you trying to achieve – for yourself, for your marketplace, for society, for your profession, for your co-workers?
In a mature business this would be the Mission Statement. For an entrepreneur it’s what gets you up in the morning, or what keeps the smile on your face every time you encounter a customer.
This too will evolve over time. It’s a good idea to have a secondary element to the Mission Statement, that’s the Vision. Where do you see the business going? This certainly will evolve. Start with attainable goals and expand them as you achieve each step.
Part of a good story is the human struggle. Don’t be afraid to include the difficulties you overcame to get to where you are.
Remember Thomas Edison: He never admitted to failure but acknowledged that he knew a thousand ways not to make a light bulb.
This is similar to, but different from, the What. This is the driving force, or the accident, or fateful event which caused you to do what you do.
Many great achievers were triggered in their quest by events or actions of their own which were not especially laudable. JK Rowling was divorced single parent on welfare before publishing Harry Potter. Steve Jobs was fired from the company he started because he was so obnoxious. The event triggered his most creative period.
Others struggled against the odds out of strong conviction or sheer stubbornness. James Dyson spent years trying to sell his vacuum cleaner designs to other manufacturers before finally starting his own factory. Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star in his early 20s because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” After an initial bankruptcy he resorted to eating dog food before finally making a success of Mickey Mouse.
While the What is the reason your customers use your product or service, it is the WHY which may attract readers to the news story and new customers to your business.
Often writing your Why will take the most time and require the deepest introspection. Whether through long held conviction or a surprising turn of events, your motivation for being where you are is an important part of your business story.
Some businesses thrive on newness and originality while others demand stability and endurance. A personal trainer needs the latest exercise regime to rapidly establish a reputation. A new lawyer better be cheaper than the rest. More problematic, nobody wants to be the first patient to have his appendix removed by a recent graduate surgeon. On the other hand, everybody wants their doctor to be up to date with the latest miracle remedy for their problem.
Whatever your field, however, you are often only rated on your most recent achievement. So by all means boast of your longevity, if you have it. But it is also important to keep this section of your media kit up to date with your most recent innovation, success, recognition, etc.
Whatever the age of your business, it must be relevant to the needs and aspirations of today’s readers to be newsworthy.
If you are new in the marketplace, note any recognition you have achieved, whether it’s day to day, week over week or month over month.
If you have a major client, ask for approval to use them as a reference, before it’s needed. If you have several, make note of one as being the longest standing and/or as the newest to join your continuing record of success.
For the journalist, and the story, this is usually self evident. It’s the convention you are attending, the mall where the triggering event is taking place or the street party which you are sponsoring.
What is more important, to you, is where the readers can find you afterwards. Ensure that the journalist knows where to: contact you, learn more about you (e.g. your website) and send a copy of the article or notify you of the publication date.
To the journalist, your five Ws are small parts of an inevitably larger narrative. Much of the detail you offer may be lost in the writing and subsequent editing of the article. What’s important is that you have provided as much useful and accurate information as possible.
And remember there is always the possibility of follow-up. If the story achieves feedback to the journalist, there may be enough additional material to trigger another article. Other media outlets may see value in the article too. Keeping your media kit current will ensure that should a follow-up occur, you have another angle to the story, or are ready with another story to tell.
Guest post: Len Ashby