Morphing of the Digital Press Kit

OK, everyone back in the PR trenches. It’s time to get to work on those press kits. But let’s take a step forward, save some trees, and do things right (digitally).

In the award-winning CD-ROM “electronic press kit” for Best Picture of the Year, “Forrest Gump,” the famous box of chocolates served as an interactive visual, metaphoric table of contents from which users made their selections: news, bios, clips, stills, etc. Very cool.

Those were the good old days of what are still generally called “electronic press kits” (EPK), as pioneered by the Hollywood studios before the CD-ROM bust. The term EPK was derived from ENG (electronic news gathering), EFP (electronic field production), and like argot, but times have changed and the electronic press kit has morphed into a much more potent communications tool. As such, it might more appropriately be called an interactive or digital press kit (DPK), as it evolves into the online, virtual press room.

But why DPKs? Does the mail no longer go through? Have we arrived at the end of the era of collating parties and back-breaking mailbags? No matter what size the agency or the client, do it now! If your press kit is not interactive, not available 24/7, not in digital form, ditch it!

We live in the age of pull. Today’s media generation wants what it wants when it wants it, which generally translates to “on deadline.” Most journalists enjoy fast connections and will go online for background searches, as well as to locate and pull logos, art, and graphic files. (Yes, editors do, too.)

If your client has a web site (duh?), that’s where his or her digital press kit (the nascent virtual press room) belongs. If your client participates in trade shows, then digitize the kit (just print the news release and URLs). If your client is introducing a new product or service, do it with an interactive digital press kit, complete with live action video or animated demos, executive interview clips, colorful diagrams, plus all the routine ephemera that is required.

Why put the press kit online? So the larger universe beyond journalists (investors, customers, prospects, employees, students, etc.) can access material as needed. The cost savings and return on investment are tremendous when you produce one DPK, even when it contains audio and video (no more copying, duplicating, overnight mailing costs), and serve it to interested parties, right from your client’s (and/or agency) web site.

Now that you’re a believer, visit the Intel corporate web site, which features a massive press room, with an introductory page that contains navigation instructions, and a lengthy table of contents. It’s well beyond most company needs, and wasn’t built in a day, but provides an excellent example to online press room newbies.

While online press rooms are springing up across the web, oftentimes they miss some of the fundamentals. Remedy this with the following tips, which will help you get the most from your digital press kit and virtual press room.

In a prominent place, include:

    Key contact names and information (phone numbers and email addresses). Many sites forget to or don’t want to, which is another issue.

    Company profile and mission statement, if not displayed elsewhere on the site.

    Corporate, even PR staff, bios, plus photos.

    News, and news archives. Yes, the lowly news release lives on as a vital part of the corporate history.

    Product press kits, individually filed with complete contents. Make it interactive and use video, audio, and animation whenever applicable.

    White papers, columns, bylined articles, speeches, research, etc.

    Financial disclosures and annual reports (five years is nice). Lengthy materials are generally better archived as PDF files.

Once you’ve got the press room up, what next? Host an open house. Send email teasers to your black book of all the journalists who cover your corner of the world; include a hot link to the new press room. Just don’t ask or expect journalists to register to gain access, but build a list by trading the promise of timely distribution in exchange for email addresses.

Next steps? Don’t forget your online press room. Keep it up to date. When news releases are issued, they need to be posted online. Same with new product information, photos, etc.

Finally, maintain good journalistic practices and provide answers to the five “Ws” on all news releases: who, what, when (date all items), where, and why.

Lastly, periodically review the press room (at least quarterly) even if you are not responsible for its maintenance. A fresh view will help spot filing, layout, or navigation problems in time to make amends.

See you online.

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