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Putting Together Your Press Kit

If you're looking for publicity, a stellar press kit isn't optional--it's a must.

We're not tooting our own horn or anything...but the press (yep, that's us) has a lot of power when it comes to positive buzz about your business. A mention in a magazine, a small story in an e-zine or a good review on the radio can catapult your business to the next level.

Want to get the members of the press to take notice? We went to Deborah Schwartz, founder of Bethesda, Maryland, communications firm Media Relations Inc., to get the skinny on how an entrepreneur can put together a press kit and wow all those cheeky Woodward & Bernstein wannabes. Here are her tips (along with some of our own observations) on how to wow 'em, without boring them to tears.

  • Target the right press person. Nothing is more frustrating for a writer than getting a detailed press kit about franchising when she covers the money markets. It'll only take a bit of research on the publication to find out who does what-do your homework, and your press kit has a better chance of being read.
  • Get basic. Include short background info on the company: the who, what, when, where, why and how of your venture. Also include brief bios of all the founders-emphasis on brief. "I don't think people care too much about all the different places you went to school, but more what your background is and how it fits in to what you're pitching," says Schwartz. So unless you're pitching to the alumni press, you'll probably want to stay mum on your 12 post-graduate degrees.
  • Be selective. When deciding what to include in your kit, be your own harshest critic. As great as your company is, you don't want to overwhelm a reporter with too much clutter (i.e., every clip that's ever been written about you). You're trying to whet their appetite and get them to call you asking for more-why would they write about you if every publication in North America has already done it?
  • Make it current. If you plan to include a press release in your kit, make it as topical as you can. "If you can relate it to something topical, something going on in the world, and you can fit your [company] in there, that's going to be an easier sell than just trying to toot your horn about your [business]," says Schwartz. If you can tie your company into industry trends or current events, reporters will be more receptive (and more likely to pick up the story).
  • Get visual. Schwartz notes that some of her most successful campaigns were the ones with a visual element. Promoting an orthodontist client to the press, for example, she included colored rubber bands (like the ones his young patients were wearing) in the press kit. For a story about a Santa Claus taking photos with pets at the mall, Schwartz included a small dog biscuit in the kit. "You've got to be clever," she says. "Do something that will get noticed."
  • Do it online. Consider an online press kit as a cheap (and increasingly popular) alternative to paper press kits, particularly with the recent anthrax scare. To get reporters to come to your site, e-mail them a simple press release with a link to the online press room. Important note here though: Most reporters don't want attachments. With the ever-present threat of viruses, they're not likely to open any attachments from sources they don't know (and yup, that means you). If you really want to send the info, cut and paste into the body of the e-mail.

Remember, the key to getting press is pumping up the unique side of your business. Put on those creative hats, and think of new ways to let all those journalists know why your start-up is so stinkin' fabulous.

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