13 Nov

5 Must-Haves of a Perfect Press Kit

Press Kit quote

Press Kit quoteSo this journalist mails you. She’s the vice-sub-deputy head of blogging at this paper out of Wichita and they’ve got this neighborhood news thing going and you’re going to be in an actual newspaper! Like, wow!

So you give all your best answers and you’re really clever and witty, if you can say so yourself. And then she asks you for an image.

“Sure,” you say, “sure. Let me just email you something, all right?”

And you scramble around and dig up a fresh photo from when you went bass fishing, and that’s all right because your project is all about bass, and you send it in and they crop it like crazy and you look like a slightly fuzzy psychopath.

Don’t worry. There are actually some simple guidelines to creating the perfect press kit. Here’s how.

First off, what is a press kit? Here’s the Wikipedia definition: “a pre-packaged set of promotional materials of a person, company, or organization distributed to members of the media for promotional use.”

Note what a press kit isn’t: it’s not a press release. A press release may include a press kit (mostly it doesn’t but has a link to it), but a press release is a way to plug your new book/game/concert/product. It’s a short story focusing on the unbelievably cool/amazing/saleable aspects of your thing and is written in such a way as to hook the reader to know more. A press release is temporary and time specific – there’s nothing sadder than seeing an old press release – while a press kit is not time sensitive. You should be able to use an old press kit almost as well as your new one.

Basically a press kit is a bunch of promo materials that make you look good and that are adapted to the formats used in media.

Key phrase here is “make you look good“. You don’t want to show how you attended school, how you struggled through those awkward dental brace years, your first attempts at coding a website. You want to show the best you’ve got and do it in such a way that it will seem that this is your genuine core (if you feel like a fake doing it, don’t worry – everyone’s got awkward dental brace experiences, they’re just don’t show it).

And you do it in a way that will fit what the media needs. So what do you need in your press kit?

1. Contact details

It may be that the journalist loses your contact details. Or they send your stuff to an editor or layouter and they need to contact you for some last minute clarifications. Or the file shows up somewhere and no one is sure who the hell this is. Contact details are a MUST!

Bare minimum

Name, email, phone.

Added bonus

Web site, LinkedIn/G+/Facebook etc. profiles. Use all your professional profiles, don’t send your personal ones.

Over the top WoW

Snail mail. References to friends who can talk you up if need be. This is usually quite unnecessary.

2. Photo

That’s right, a photo is the key component of the press kit. You’ve already spoken to the media, they aren’t interested in your press release. They want to have something to spice up the page.

A good image says more than a thousand words, a bad image says only four: “who is this clown?”

Bare minimum

For Personal press kits: A professional, high resolution portrait (half-portrait actually, think from the belt and up) of you against a light, uniform background.

You’d be surprised how important that light, uniform background is. You need something that isn’t overblown and isn’t about to distract the viewer. No bookshelves, forest meadows or unicorns. A professional image will be taken in such a way that you can have bookshelves or leaves in the background but unless you know that you’re doing – don’t. Stick with a plain, off-white background. Think image of the VP on a corporate website.

High resolution, neutral colors and good sharpness is assumed – you’re not a yokel, are you?

For Product/Company press kits: Product shot! A professional product shot that doesn’t say that you are a clown. Include screenshots from your game, an image of your cover art and similar.

Don’t forget your logo! If you’ve got a logo it’s best to send it as an .eps (that’s encapsulated postscript) vector art file which will allow the publisher to scale it without loss of detail. You don’t want your logo to look like a bloated sausage when it appears in print. Unless your logo does look like a bloated sausage, in which case I recommend hiring a decent graphic artist.

A note on resolution: Simple math – if you think a certain resolution is adequate, multiply it by 4 and send that (unless you’re a pro, in which case ignore this entire post). If you don’t have high resolution images, send what you’ve got and pray. Then hire someone who can fix you up with ones.

Added bonus

As above plus: a crop of your face (close portrait) and images against both a light and a dark background. Most news publications and blogs use a light background for their pages so light to light works well. Some use a dark background where the light photo would clash so a portrait against a dark background is a nice bonus for them.

A landscape mode portrait (and if that isn’t a contradiction in terms then I don’t know what is…). Basically you send a portrait where there’s a lot of dead space to one side of you so that it is wider than it is high. Think “TV screen”.

A professional photo of you in your element. Remember, professional. Taking a decent photo of someone in action, whether writing, coding, painting or burlesque dancing, is hard. Get someone who knows how to do it.

Remember to credit the photographer if it’s someone else than you.

For Product/Company press kits: More screen shots, alternative logo (if you’ve got one). Logo usage rules (large companies who have a specific graphic profile manual sometimes state stuff like “use this logo when the aspect ratio of the bounding box is X by Y or more or the background color is Z or you’ve dropped mustard on your keyboard”, usually this is unnecessary).

Over the top WoW

As above plus: photos where you’re looking left and aligned to your left, and a similar photo where you’re looking right. That way the editor can use the photo that is best depending on whether they want to right-align or left-align it on the page.

This is usually completely redundant. Especially for Wichita Awesome Blog, Inc.

3. Fact sheet

A fact sheet summarizes what you’ve done that is relevant to your career. It’s not a CV, it’s not a personal introduction. It’s a list of things that have lead you to this point in your professional career, including any relevant publications.

Bare minimum

Personal/Company press kit: Your name, age, place of residence (town/city and state/country), and occupation. What you’re famous for (not famous? why are they talking to you at all then?). Any products related to the thing that you’re famous for (bibliography, ludography, peer-reviewed research articles, what have you). Tour locations and dates if you have them.

Product press kit: Advantages over similar products, technical specifications.

Added bonus

As above, plus: Family status (married, single, co-habitating with a ballet dancing hippo), siblings/children, flavor (think backside copy on a novel: “before publishing her steamy gay panda potboiler, the author has worked as an alligator wrestler, a professional nurse and the cleaner of Snoop-Catty-Cat’s 12 golden Rolls Royces”).

Product press kit: Endorsements

Over the top WoW

As above, plus: dirty secrets and personal stories, in bullet form list. Something that the journalist can use to spice up their copy at the last minute (“Oh, she’s been a truck driver and a professional puppeteer, cool”).

4. Personal Background Information

Ok, a history is different from a fact sheet. This is where you go gushy and personal over your achievements. “Oh, I wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t been for Mrs. Moldy in my third grade yoga class.” The point of the background isn’t to give your background, that’s included in the fact sheet, but to give your personal flavor on your story. Think of this as a personal letter that you send with a job application. Be personal without being private.

Bare minimum

Nothing. That’s right. You don’t actually need this, this is just added bonus for the journalists.

Added bonus

Personal press kit: A brief overview of where you’re coming from, what your influences have been and some interesting personal experiences you’ve had getting to this point in your career.

Company press kit: Anecdotes from the company’s early history, or from key employees. That late-at-night-overfueled-on-coffee story that you tell people in bars.

Product press kit: Personal stories from users (more than endorsements), stuff about how you came up with the product, all the kittens your product has saved.

Over the top WoW

As above plus: Longer stories written in your voice where you tell tales of your joys and woes. Something that the journalist can use as a quote if she needs the article to be longer at the last minute.

5. Works

This is something that differs from industry to industry. In music it’s standard to send a CD or MP3 download with a press kit. In the game industry it’s pretty common to give away Steam access or download codes for the games in question. In publishing you don’t usually include a book in the press kit, that’s reserved for reviewers who get ARCs (that’s Advanced Reading/Review Copies).

Bare minimum

Nothing, or download codes, based on your industry.

Added bonus

Physical product of some sort. Downloads of earlier works.

Over the top WoW

Autographed, physical copy. This is pretty rare and turns your press kit into a collectible item. Also, it can make you look desperate, especially if it’s numbered. Don’t do this if you’re selling soap or cornflakes.

So there you have it, the perfect (or at least fully adequate starter) press kit. Let me know in the comments if you’ve got any problems or questions and I’ll try to help out.

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