Small Business

Tapping the Power of the Press


By Karen E. Klein Q: I just finished reading your response to the urban clothing company in which you mentioned the term "press kit" (see BW Online, 11/18/02, "Clothes Encounters of the Urban Kind"). I have a vague idea what a press kit consists of, but by no means any great detail. Are there any general guidelines available on creating one? -- L.M., Chicago

A: A press kit is a packet of information on a business and its principals that is distributed to the media to provide a background briefing and encourage publicity. That way, when a local business reporter writes about your company, he or she can refer to the package for details of your outfit's history, what it does, the number of employees, where it ranks in the industry, and so forth.

As a general rule, press kits are typically put out by public-relations or marketing firms, whose job it is to garner some positive articles about their clients. But there's no reason why a savvy entrepreneur can't put together a press kit and distribute it to both local media and industry publications without outside help.

Ed Klinenberg, president of Precise Communications of Pasadena, Calif., includes the following elements in the press kits he puts together for his PR clients:

A basic, ready-to-publish news release that explains what the company is and how it serves clients. There is a chance that smaller, local papers or industry publications that do regular profiles of businesses occasionally will run such a "canned" story.

A partial list of clients and a brief note about what each client does. Emphasizing well-known and impressive clients will generate instant credibility for your business and its products or services.

A company brochure. Most businesses produce at least a pamphlet about themselves at one time or another as a marketing and sales tool. Make sure yours is current when you include it in the kit.

A list of five suggested article ideas. Here is where you might brainstorm with key employees or a marketing consultant. Understanding what makes for a good article for a particular publication is vital, as is coming up with valuable, interesting story ideas to whet an editor's interest. If you have an in-house PR or marketing expert or one who works for you as a consultant, that person could also offer to write the articles for the publication.

A summary sheet of the principals. More than a list of names, it should include concise biographical sketches of each major player in your outfit. This information is not likely to make it into print, but it will help to define your company. If one of your executives has a particularly interesting or noteworthy background, be sure to emphasize it.

Two or three black-and-white photos (4x5 glossy prints) with captions. "It is always a good idea for a company to hire a photographer to shoot head-and-shoulders portraits of each major principal -- president, CEO, board chairman, etc.," Klinenberg says. "In addition, a few more photos should be shot that illustrate what the company does."

If you own a service business, it will take some imagination on your part -- and the photographer's -- to illustrate your mission, since you lack a concrete, visual product. You might have a photo taken in your offices during a meeting between one or two of your principals and a client. If you can develop any props -- such as charts that illustrate your service or issues involved in your industry -- you could blow them up, mount them on boards, and place them in the background of the meeting on large easels.

"Using photos with news releases gives each article a lot more visual punch if the publication uses one or more of them with a caption," Klinenberg says. "Captions should encapsulate as much of the story as possible. Research has shown that people look at photos and read captions before they read the articles. If the caption doesn't grab the reader, he or she may never read the article." Have a question about running your business? Ask our small-business experts. Send us an e-mail at smartanswers@businessweek.com, or write to Smart Answers, BW Online, 46th Floor, 1221 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020. Please include your real name and phone number in case we need more information; only your initials and city will be printed. Because of the volume of mail, we won't be able to respond to all questions personally.


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