If you send out a news release, you'll also need a media kit. "A media kit is an information package," explains Mathews. "It's usually prepared to be part of some event, like a news conference, where reporters are going to be. It can also be used to distribute any time a customer or media person calls."
Mathews suggests carefully choosing what you include in your media kit. "More is not better," she warns. "Reporters don't want to carry around five pounds of paper--they don't have time to read through it. They want information, not information overload."
Begin your media kit with a fact sheet--a single page that contains all the important details about your business. Include a black and white photograph of yourself, as well as a brief autobiography. Mathews also recommends including clips of any newspaper or magazine articles that have been written about your business.
"Reporters like to know other publications have written something about your business," explains Mathews. "If somebody else thought you were important enough to write about, that reporter is more likely to write about you, too."
Also include a nontechnical description of your main products or services. "But keep it very short and simple," warns Mathews. "A lot of businesses try to use a media kit as a sales kit, and include product brochures and detailed information. You're not going to sell a reporter by giving them product specs."
Baird is careful to ensure that his media kits contain more than just information about his company. "We also include industrywide information," he says. "We're in the marketing business, so we take articles out of marketing publications that would be of interest to the editor. Because then it doesn't look like you're selling your company, as much as you're including information. But those articles give great credibility and also provide a resource for the editor or writer to go back to."
Assemble this information in a presentation folder, with a cutout in the front pocket for your business card. Like news releases, Mathews recommends keeping media kits simple. Florescent colored folders or strange fonts can make you look like an amateur, so stick to a simple, professional presentation. Inexpensive folders and stationery can be purchased at most office supply stores.
A good media kit is one that gets results. "One newspaper writer has solicited us for three different articles," says Baird. "And that exposure is unbeatable."
Finally, be patient. "I look at public relations and news releases as a long-term commitment," explains Baird. "You're trying to build a relationship with a writer, editor or publication, so they will write about you or quote you. It took us two years to get mentioned in the Arizona Republic, and we must have sent them 20 news releases before the first one got picked up." But for Baird, the results from the media attention were worth the wait.
Sue Clayton is a writer specializing in buisness topics.