The media kit is a package of information that allows a company to present itself as it would like to be seen. The public relations professional uses the media kit to make it easy for the media to use supplied stories about their clients. Press kits can be found online in a company’s media room, however, for live events, the media kit can be supplied as a printed package. There are several components included in the media kit. In this discussion post, I will highlight six items commonly found in a media kit – the press release, backgrounder, fact sheet, key contacts, social media links and audio / video. Some other items that can be included are Q&A, biography and position paper.
The press release / news release is communication directed at members of the news media to announce newsworthy items. In the media kit, the releases should be placed in reverse chronological order. The backgrounder is a lengthy report that uses subheads. It supplies historical perspective about a company or event for staff writers’ use in publications. The fact sheet is a one-page document, bulleted for easy access, that lists items of interest about the company, event, product or service. It provides reporters with details that can easily be inserted into their articles. Key contacts must be included in media kit. This provides the media with the contact information for a company representative if they need to clarify a point or obtain an answer to a question. Social media links allow reporters to easily find RSS feeds, company blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram accounts and YouTube videos. Audio / Video can include high resolution photographs, streaming video, podcasts, audio recordings, logos and PowerPoint presentations, among others. Providing a Q&A section saves time by eliminating the need for company employees to repeatedly answer the same questions. It is a section to provide answers to commonly asked questions. A position paper is a persuasive editorial that provides the official company stance on an issue.
Both the print press release and electronic news release are effective methods of delivering newsworthy information about a business. They are similar in nature, and the requirements for each include effective writing, grammar, planning and critical thinking. The main differences between a print and electronic news release are audience and channels of distribution. Traditional press releases target newspaper reporters, magazines, radio stations and television stations. Electronic news releases cut out the middle man and are crafted to address the end user. Print releases pitch to media outlets, while electronic versions pitch to media and directly to consumers.
Several features distinguish the two news release types. For instance, electronic news releases are distributed by email. It features a strong call to action, electronic contact information and includes links to photos and biographies. The online release includes mostly summary data with links to where additional info can be obtained. Also, electronic news releases don’t include a boiler plate paragraph. Print releases are generally longer and tend to include more quotes.
There are many challenges associated with writing for the media. Several pitfalls related to media writing coincide with the reasoning for disdain aimed at PR people. Historically, public relations professionals held careers beginning in journalism; practitioners would come directly from the newspaper industry. This enabled strategic communicators to think and write like journalists. Both journalists and PR professionals are skilled communicators. On one end, you have media gatekeepers and on the other, you have professionals seeking to gain access to media outlets on behalf of a client or cause. PR is rooted in persuasion and conviction, however, people don’t like being “sold” on things. PR people are hired to research, plan and develop a strategy to deliver a message and mold perception. Understanding the scope of the profession inherently makes people skeptical.
PR people are responsible for disseminating factually accurate, grammatically-correct, timely and localized information of interest to the publication’s audience. In many cases, PR writers craft releases to pitch to media gatekeepers. The approach used should differ from tactics used when writing directly for the reading public. With the increased use of internet-based media outlets, many publications are eliminating editors. Poor writing becomes a matter of contention between the media and PR writers. Reporters and editors resent PR people dumping news on them that isn’t truly newsworthy. Other negative attributes include formula writing, bad verbs and quotes, excessive titles, subjective adjectives, overhyped statements and fluff.
PR professionals are often placed in a difficult position when the clients they represent are adamant about the inclusion of certain information. An example of poor insertion at client request include direct quotes from the CEO in the lead. Other reasons for media professionals disliking PR people include not adhering to the AP Stylebook, and not including all information in the release such as social media links, audio/visual links and key contacts.
Writing is the most important and sought-after skill for public relations professionals. Other types of writing are different than PR or strategic writing because of tone, audience and objective. PR writing strikes a balance between art and science. Creative writing has more artistic freedom and is written to entertain. Public Relations has creative license, but it’s aimed at persuading the reader. Literature and other forms of creative writing can leave room for interpretation. Strategic communicators must be clear and concise in their writing. Messages are planned and carefully executed.
Authors in academic writing, technical writing and scientific writing pride themselves in crafting complex messages. At times, these styles of writing are long, wordy and difficult to read. The use of jargon in these types of writing can present the author as a subject matter exert. This is different than public relations writing where complex information is crystalized into easily understandable terms.
Of the various types of writing presented, public relations writing shares the most similarities with journalistic writing. News media is the preferred mode of promoting products and services. Strategic communicators take journalistic approaches since they pitch information to reporters to disseminate. Journalistic writing is objective in tone and presents information to educate an audience. This is different than public relations where information is presented on a client’s behalf to persuade publics and manage reputation. PR writing anticipates objections and messages are crafted with persuasion and conviction. Another key distinction between journalistic writing and PR writing is that reporters write for the readers of their respective media outlet. Strategic communicators address various audiences including both internal and external publics.