Made in Austin

Projects + Events
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When we were thinking about what kind of opening party we wanted, the idea to make it a Made In Austin themed event was an easy one. Five Two SQ Integrated PR was born in Austin (New Integrated PR Agency, Five Two SQ Opens its Doors in Austin, Texas). Not by birthright, but I have grown into my Austin-ness over the past eight years. Our community of business partners, clients, influencers and most importantly, our friends represent the core of what makes this town great: people who work smart and also know when to chill, we enjoy the culinary and music scene and then we walk, run, hike it off and get ready to do it all again another day. We like to meet, in person, face to face. We like to share resources and ideas. We root for each other. We celebrate each of our successes. And, we say “welcome to Austin” when we meet newcomers. Toto, we are not in San Francisco anymore. I was excited to finally host my official opening party in our beautiful space in downtown Austin. I knew it was the ‘home’ for Five Two the moment I walked in. I have enjoyed the proverbial corner office, as well as the corporate cubicle – I was done with all forms of traditional office space. So the minute I walked into the warm natural light and Edwardian style architecture, of what was surely someone’s private residence before it became a part of the downtown office space, I knew I was “home.” For Five Two, I wanted a space that I could re-imagine as my own, modern elements and contemporary style, but with functional office needs in mind. While the decision to move in was very quick, the settling into and actual “move in” took much longer. But after six plus months, we were ready to officially open our doors and share the space we created. Before we get into the party details, what’s an opening party without a branded swag bag? So, we reached out to our same Austin friends, colleagues, past and current clients and asked them if they wanted to participate in our gift bag.

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As you can see, the who’s who and what’s what of the best media, the best in beauty, spa, eco lifestyle and specialty foods – all Made in Austin brands were present. We love you – BlueAvocado, Eliza Page, Kohana Coffee, Milk + Honey, Oatmega Bars, RAE Cosmetics, Sikara & Co, Society Diaries, Sticky Toffee Pudding and Tiny Taiga. And the party? With local hot spot Contigo Catering providing the nibbles and Daily Juice Austin‘s addictive Mr. Resistor super energizing organic shot of lemon juice, cayenne pepper and ginger – this was not going to be your ordinary get out the Titos party. Last but not least, our former client and now friend, Paige Davis of Soul Sparks was on hand to ground us with a thoughtful and spot on mini mediation to mark the evening’s intent and to capture all of the positive energy in the room. And that, my friend, was our Made in Austin opening party for Five Two SQ.

What Makes You Smile?

Projects + Events

Imagine asking this question to some of the most iconic, celebrated, and successful names in NFL history: Marcus Allen, Ronnie Lott, Roy Green, Jonathan Ogden, Eric Dickerson and Greg Lloyd. Well, I recently sat down and interviewed them for the making of a launch video. Be jealous, it was a surreal, pinch me moment. These amazing professional athletes were all charming, gracious and perfectly willing to help us film the story. Um, Mr. Marcus Allen can you repeat that line, but this time, with more of a smile?

How did this happen? Our client, Smile Brands Group, a national dental services organization has a wonderful foundation, Smiles For Everyone, a 501C3 charitable organization that has been giving free dental care to those in need, living in the most impoverished countries all over the world. The foundation had set a goal to deliver the same FREE dental care to underprivileged youth right here at home.

With the help of Monarch Dental offices in Dallas, and the individual members of the NFLPA Dallas chapter, a completely new project to address this need was born, Healthy Huddle Community Smile Project.

Why youth?

In the process of researching the dental care space and youth health, we were surprised to learn that 25 percent of the nation’s children have nearly 80 percent of the cavities (aapd.org/FastFacts). Clearly self esteem, good health and ability to smile go hand in hand.

And football is as American as, well, apple pie. Who better to deliver the message about good dental care than these sports heroes?

Check out the video and let me know what you think. When I watch this, seeing these football greats smiling, I know they’re smiling at me 🙂 .

Interview with Roy Green
Interview with Roy Green

We showed it for the first time to Dallas area media and the members of the Dallas chapter of the NFLPA at a recent launch event.

I’ll post a VLOG later that will show you some of the back story in the making of this video. Enjoy!

Maximize Trade Shows for Media Success

Projects + Events

We recently attended 2014 Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim (see my story, Where the Brands Are the Stars from the 2013 show) and International Housewares in Chicago. Both shows were incredibly successful in terms of brand story telling to media, conversion into placement wins and overall relationship building for our client. After many years of attending trade shows such as Fancy Foods, Gourmet Housewares, Expo and now Housewares, we have developed a go-to trade show strategy that has proven to be successful time and time again.

From a branding and PR POV, every show offers very different opportunities, but following are some tips to maximize industry trade shows for PR success.

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Think Ahead. A three-month lead-time from the date of the show is ideal. This gives you enough time to research, plan, develop materials and conduct outreach and follow-ups.

Develop a Plan. What are you hoping to achieve from a PR perspective? Help your client define the show objectives and integrate PR planning into their overall trade show thinking. I present a creative brief for clients that drive the execution of all tactics. The brief begins with the objective(s) – what are we hoping to accomplish? This is not about # of impressions or placements, this is a bigger vision statement of what success looks like. What is the story we are telling, how does this particular trade show help to tell the story, what do we want to accomplish by telling the story to this audience and of course what does a media coverage win look like?

Be Creative. Don’t simply re-hash what worked last year. It’s about more than a press list and massive email campaign. It’s critical to come up with new and targeted strategies to win. How does the booth presence help us to tell the story? How can we use the assets created by the marketing team to engage with a media audience? What are the key materials needed to garner the right audience, engage, romance and win? The brief also contains a week-to-week timeline of PR action items and deliverables. This timeline keeps everyone on track and ensures that the big pieces are not forgotten in the race to get everything done. Details matter.

Stay Focused and Drive. For companies, trade shows are about driving sales, winning PO’s and if the company has been around a few years, shows also become a great way to engage with former and new business partners. The PR plan often becomes a last minute after thought. This has always seemed so crazy to me. The amount of cost and resources put into a trade show, from entry fee, booth production, signage, product displays etc., creates the PERFECT platform to tell the company brand and product story to a qualified media audience. As the PR partner, it is our responsibility to drive this vision and make sure the PR plan is in place and executed.

Everyone is a Spokesperson. Hopefully your client values PR enough to send you to the show. Even assuming you have a prepped and ready media spokesperson at the show, you still need to have everyone from the company trained and ready to engage with media attendees and key influencers. I like to hold a pre-show all hands meeting. Have your client walk through the product features and benefits one last time as well as the sales PO process. This grounds everyone on the sales priority. This is also the perfect time to share the key messages PR has been sharing with the media. Anyone walking into your client booth is important – a retailer, partner, or media prospect. Everyone from your company should be enthusiastic and ready to speak with the same voice.

Follow this as a guide to get you or your client started when thinking and planning for your next trade show. Trade shows are a perfect platform, especially for retail brands that are not multi-channel (i.e. do not have stores, catalogs or other channels for media to engage and to “see” the brand and product story in a meaningful and memorable way). A trade show booth can become the platform for communicating the best piece of the brand story. Plus, you get to see and to meet all the other wonderful products and brands that play in the same space! And, don’t forget to have FUN.

Getting a Head Start on a New Year

Projects + Events
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Don’t get me wrong, I love, love each and every moment of the holiday season. Extra time with family and friends, festive parties, and the demonstrated expressions of giving and gratitude are especially sweet. But as the Thanksgiving turkey and pumpkin pie buzz begins to lift, it feels like we are suddenly ringing in the New Year. The year’s end signals the time to prepare for the year to come. As we celebrate another great year at KSPR, here are just some of the key mantras buzzing in our heads as we plan for an even better 2014.

Don’t hit repeat. Data is your friend. Look at the initiatives and key programs that were successful and, more importantly, take a look at those that did not meet expectations. Define the metrics that matter. It’s tempting to stick with what you’ve done before but that’s a mistake. We are so busy and so focused on next, next, next that often we forget all that we accomplished. The year’s end is an opportunity to look at the big wins once again (this part is fun) and record best practices for next year. Just as critical, it is a chance to take a good, unemotional look at the efforts that did not yield the desired results. Best lessons to carry forward are often learned when things did not execute perfectly.

Reinvent. Learn from wins and losses but always keep space for something new and brilliant. We are not about plugging into existing templates and calling it done. This is not strategic and will not garner the big, shiny wins. One of my favorite anecdotes occurred early on in building my company; a prospective client asked within 10 minutes of our very first meeting, “Well, what will you do for me?” Sorry, but if what you do is so generic that I can plug it into a PR playbook, than you need more than PR, you need a really big, really robust marketing and advertising budget. The intersection of fresh ideas and focused execution is what differentiates us from the rest.

Focus on the product. Our clients are firmly in the consumer products and services space. We meet with them to understand where they want to go next. What are the key investments planned? What products and services did their customers buy and what was left on the shelf?  Why? What products and services continue into next year? What are the new introductions and when? What is marketing and sales planning to do to support? In the course of these discussions, we plan accordingly for seasonal, launch and event initiatives around core and new products and services. Deep in the trenches of metrics and planning, we never lose sight of the product.

New metrics. Once key product manufacturing and deliveries are confirmed, we put ourselves in the planning stages of these marketing and sales discussions so that PR initiatives are aligned with the business. If we can influence and align at the planning stages, we are doing all that we can to ensure that efforts and resources are aligned with the important metrics for business success. This is how we ensure our relevancy and seriously, this makes what we do much more interesting. No one here likes execution for the sake of execution. Results tied to metrics of business success are where we live to work.

In our world, Christmas in July is a reality as the consumer magazines search for the best of the best for their holiday gift guides. By the time the holidays are under way, feeling a little ‘been there done that.’ But the planning and strategy for what’s next has always been the fun part. Thinking about next year won’t take my enjoyment away from the actual holiday festivities. In fact, they will be that much sweeter with the knowledge that we are prepped and ready for what’s on the horizon. Here’s to a wonderful holiday season and anticipation for more to come in the New Year.

Be Creative and Keep it Real

Projects + Events
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This week we had an event in LA for our client, BlueAvocado.  Not just any event, this one was special. For anyone who has planned big events, you understand the many challenges as well as the immense satisfaction of a job well done when everything aligns and perhaps even exceeds your expectations. This was one of those events.

Our client recently announced the second XO(eco) collection designed by Lauren Conrad. A news release and press kit delivery is fine and good but we did not think it was enough. Although there were some very real challenges to making it happen, in this case, we felt strongly, maybe a little insistent that our client let us plan a media and influencer launch party – the real kind, not virtual.

When we plan an event, we see every element as an opportunity to tell the client’s story. One of the reasons we love working with BlueAvocado is that their story is fun to talk about and they have many assets that make for a compelling story— a woman-run sustainable design company that delivers on their promise to the environment, to customers, to partners, and to shareholders.  We felt every element of the event needed to communicate this marriage of sustainability and style. From our electronic-only invite to the eco paper all collateral pieces were printed on we looked at each element to ensure authenticity and consistency.

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We integrated the design patterns from the XO(eco) collection into many elements of the event from the invitation to the table settings (Why use boring table numbers when a beautiful print is much more memorable?).

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Last but not least, what’s a great party without great food? The menu Bouchon, Beverly Hills created for our event reflected the eco + sustainable theme of the XO(eco) collection.

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Hope this inspires you the next time you are contemplating an event. Or the next time you get to be a guest and just enjoy someone else’s efforts, you may look at all the details and custom touches with a different point of view.

Don’t Call Us Party Planners

Projects + Events
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The entertainment industry loves to promote the image of public relations as an industry filled with glossy, shiny, stiletto-heeled party planners. Think Samantha Jones of Sex and the City or Gwyneth Paltrow sitting at her desk every day, looking perfect and unruffled while waiting for the phone to ring and springing into action only when attending fabulous parties in the late 90’s film, Sliding Doors.

For those of us in the industry, these inaccurate and simplified portrayals of our profession have always been mildly annoying at best. Do we throw parties? Absolutely. Events are a great way to call people to the table and to let them experience your brand and product story in a meaningful, memorable way.

The downside of events is that the cost and resource allocation can be overwhelming. No matter how well you budget and allocate resources, planning events is like a construction project. It will invariably cost more, take longer and hit you with unanticipated challenges. This is not to say that events are not terrific vehicles to grow your brand and to tell your story. Well executed events can pay dividends well beyond the life of the event itself.

How to maximize your investment and garner measurable impact? An intentional, results-driven approach is crucial. Following are some big-picture strategies and tips to help you create an influencer event for impact.

  1. Clearly define your primary objective. Is the goal to generate media coverage? Then everything you do should be a direct connect to that objective.
  2. Who is the audience? If your objective is to generate media coverage than the audience is relatively simple. But media is not a homogeneous whole. Who represents the media already covering your industry? Who might be interested in covering your space? What about media in the social space, including relevant bloggers? Who are the industry influencers? It’s not always about numbers here. Dig deeper, do your research and qualify your list of tier one and tier two media and influencers.
  3. Do the math. In general, plan on 30 percent rate of rsvps from your invitee list. If you are planning a 50-person event, you should qualify and invite close to 150 people to conservatively get you to your planning number. There are exceptions up and down on the rate of return but this is a general, conservative approach. Better to have too many attendees than not enough. Plus, there are always unanticipated contingencies and no-shows. Be prepared to have staffers seated (if it’s a seated event) to “fill in” obvious empty spaces.
  4. Keep the messaging consistent. When looking at all event elements, from save the date, to invite, venue, décor, signage, gifts, food, entertainment/presentation etc., the “story” should be consistent. For example, if you are an environmentally minded company all event elements should be consistent with this positioning. Electronic invitation delivery is no longer taboo for a premium event. If you have to do printed invitations, think about using a vendor that offers recycled paper, perhaps look at carbon offsets for travel and the like. Be consistent in all executables.

Again, these are big picture strategies to keep in mind before green lighting an event. An intentional, results-driven approach will ensure that your event will provide the ROI needed to ensure success. Right now, we are in the final stages of planning a media/influencer event in LA. Will share the fun event details such as décor, staging and entertainment in our next post.

How to Pick the Right Video Maker?

Projects + Events
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We recently completed an amazing video project for our client, BlueAvocado. This particular project was so seamless, embodied such pitch perfect collaboration and most importantly, produced an end product that our client loved. This got me thinking, why are some projects so easy and at-times even magical and others are ‘good enough?’

 If I have to distill it down to one key success factor – hands down – success hinges on picking the right video partner to produce it. Beyond technical expertise, they have to ‘get it.’ They need to be able to translate the look and feel of a premium lifestyle brand in an interesting, engaging way. So, once you commit to a video project – how do you pick the right video partner?

First, understand the options:

  1. There are production studios that have professional, dedicated recording studio space, great for voice-overs, working with a voice actor and recording sound in a controlled environment. They may or may not be able to do the actual filming with in house staffers. Often, studios will outsource to a trusted film person to capture the footage and they in turn pass off the unedited film to the studio person to edit and work in graphics, sound etc.
  2. There are film and video professionals that can film, edit and produce. They don’t usually work in a production studio but unless you need to record sound in a controlled environment, you don’t need one. Generally, this is the most cost-effective option
  3. Full service production house has it all, studio production facility, videographers, editors, sound mixers etc. This is the most expensive option but if your client has the time and the budget, this can be the most fail safe and robust method.

Our client base tends to be young, disruptive companies with interesting, multi-layered stories to tell. Often they don’t have the runway of time and scale to create these pieces in a full service way, but at the same time as care-keepers of these developing brands, we don’t want to give up production quality. With the variety of talented video and filmakers, you really don’t need to go full service route. I also appreciate the quick turn and flexibility you get when working with these folks.

For this most recent project, we were tasked with creating a short three minute video to launch an eco men’s collection of travel and lifestyle pieces designed by up and coming designer, Ross Bennett. We worked with Christian Remde, award-winning filmmaker who happens to be based in Austin. His portfolio is impressive and his approach to the project aligned with our vision to communicate a premium feel but with a playful attitude.

The video will push live as part of the overall launch for the collection in the fall of 2013. Will post video here as soon as our client’s official launch happens.

Where the Brands are the Stars

Projects + Events
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If you have never been to one of the big consumer trade shows, you are missing out on a great opportunity to really get to know an industry and marketplace from an on-the-ground perspective.

As a consumer, it is the one place you can learn, explore and experience hundreds, sometimes thousands of consumer products by industry (electronics, games, food, natural, housewares etc.) all in one place. If you work in a particular industry or you are interested in getting into a new one, I highly recommend the experience. It can be overwhelming — wear comfortable shoes and sport a positive, engaging attitude. Be prepared to absorb, listen and learn.

Our agency focuses on specialty, premium and natural brands, and clients often use trade shows such as Fancy Foods, International Housewares, and Natural Products Expo to introduce new products or to launch a new brand.  In fact, I just returned from Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim. I was there to support two of our eco specialty brands – Tints of Nature and BlueAvocado. Tints of Nature no longer sets up a booth at the show (their sales distribution channel is pretty set). They now attend the show to see what is happening with other beauty brands and more importantly to meet with their regional field sales reps and acknowledge their success and hard work..

Our eco lifestyle essentials client, BlueAvocado, attended Expo West to preview their 2013 product collections for buyers and media. They had an amazing show.  The NPE is the show for specialty natural and organic products to showcase among their peers. The audience is educated and interested in all things eco + sustainable. Since BA has a great sustainable impact story on top of beautiful, chic and functional eco products, this was the perfect place to show their new collections.

I spent most of the show at the BlueAvocado booth. Because our clients are generally young brands, time at the booth provides a fantastic opportunity for face time with the founders and/or C level executives. Nothing beats listening and learning from the people whose vision and hard work created the company itself. I also learned a lot from the sales teams. While sales and PR are certainly different worlds, I have always understood the value of being engaged with the P&L folks. If these people can’t sell the product, the company will not survive. I love to listen and to learn from this core crew. What they say and do does not directly impact the creation of press materials and messaging, but they influence all. When creating press materials and key messages I always have an eye on the company’s direction and focus, this team has a large, if indirect, impact on how I tell their story.

For me the best part of this show was the opportunity to walk around and see all of the natural and organic products that I personally love and use every day — I was more than a little giddy. I was also able to meet a few aspiring eco entrepreneurs and to hear about and test their new products. Many of these impressive business people happened to be women: such a great reminder that we can all make our dreams happen. Many of the big “rock star” brands at the show all started with a single vision and a dream for a better, more sustainable future. I was more than just a little star struck at this amazing show where the brands really are the stars.

To Gift or Not to Gift?

Projects + Events
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The proliferation of gift bag opportunities has created an overwhelming array of product placement opportunities for companies to consider. The practice of placing a company’s product into select event gift bags has spawned cottage industries among marketers, event producers and PR folks. The question becomes, when does it make sense to place a company’s product into a gift bag and how do you determine if it’s the right opportunity?

For most start-ups or small businesses it’s a matter of scale – can you ramp up enough units of a quality product and deliver on time?  Many of the biggest, high profile ones i.e. celebrity events such as the Oscars, People’s Choice, Grammy’s and the like charge a hefty “sponsorship fee” on top of the products themselves and then there’s the shipping costs to consider. Shipping is almost always expedited, which only compounds the cost benefit analysis.

Generally, I am not a fan of gift bags.  You are competing among many products and if your product isn’t stand out and well branded (unless the brand is Tiffany, who wouldn’t keep anything silver with Tiffany logo) no one wants your logo pen, calendar or t-shirt. Really, sorry, no. So then why place your product if the brand is not clearly communicated on the product itself or packaging?

I do gift bags only when I know I can position the product in a special and identifiable manner. Sometimes, this rare gem of an opportunity does present itself and everything aligns — core audience, right influencers, right event platform, alignment of brand values, ability to execute large quantity of products AND the price to place is not ridiculous (Sometimes the case can be made to waive a fee or at the least, negotiate it down by a reasonable amount so that everyone still feels good the next day).

Recently we procured such an opportunity for our client, BlueAvocado. BlueAvocado is a young, passionate and authentic eco impact brand noted for its stylish and sustainable shopping totes and accessories. The company eliminates many of those single-use, landfill-building, products we use and throw away every day.

We placed two of their most-popular products in the celeb /VIP gift bag at Global Green USA’s 10th Annual Pre-Oscar party held at the Avalon Hollywood. This event brought eco-minded celebrities and Hollywood activists together for a night of entertainment, collaboration and celebration. The evening was a benefit for Global Green USA’s work to build greener, more resilient homes, schools and communities in areas hit by Hurricane Sandy.

But of course to make the most of the product placement you have to leverage the opportunity. I decided to focus on the live social media aspect of the event. To prepare, my team and I wrote content for Facebook and Twitter, the two strongest and most active audiences for our client, to post before and during the event. We first explained what the event itself was on our client’s page, leaving a teaser as to why the event mattered to our client. During the event itself, we posted about our product’s placement in the celebrity gift bags.

We began our Twitter campaign by wishing Global Green good luck on their event and began engaging with them as the host. During the event, we shortened Facebook posts to leverage on Twitter as well. I also had my team live tweeting and monitoring Twitter for appearances of the hashtag for the event (#solarforsandy).  As you can see, we hit twitter gold with this exchange. Note to self: Calling someone a rock star eco chick is liable to get you retweeted!

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Overall, this event was clearly and most definitely The Right Gift Bag opportunity for our eco client. Plus now that we’ve worked with Global Green and have witnessed the high-quality event they put on, it will be an easy decision to make next time. Done and done.

A Print-Worthy Press Kit

Projects + Events

The last time I blogged about press kits was back in February, 2010, “The Press Kit.” Reading back over it, not too much I would change. There is a good section toward the end with advice on working with a graphic designer. Worth a read.

In the years since that original post, we have created fewer traditional press kits but the ones we have done, I can say have definitely met the threshold of print-worthiness i.e., worth the cost of printing + postage. Our most recent press kit was for a UK based family lifestyle brand, Pink Lining. Their product line includes all things baby, kids and family. From a chic new weekender collection for adults to kids rucksacks and their iconic proud, new momma diaper bags that all stand out for their original print designs. This brand had some great visual product imagery as well as a super cute backstory of how they were formed. The designer and founder, Charlotte Pearl is a stylish, creative and photo friendly young mom with an authentic story of inspired design vision.

Since they already had sales books for each of their collections – we simply re-purposed those as their lookbooks and included the relevant season and collection book into each press kit, depending on the media source we were sending to i.e. travel, family, kids, women’s, pregnancy or design.

What are the essential elements to create? For Pink Lining we wanted to highlight and leverage the best assets: product images, original design textiles used on all their pieces, and the designer herself, Charlotte.

  1. Press Gift. Something that will not be tossed in the trash and represents the company in a meaningful way. In this case we included a small PL luggage tag that featured the navy bow from the upcoming spring 2013 collections. It was the strongest design, made a great gift and most importantly we could tie a little gross grain ribbon (matched to the color of the PL logo – natch) and we could package it nicely into the folder. Sometimes the smallest detail or logistic can ruin even the best plans…
  2. News Release. Put current news release on top. Let your audience know why they are getting this packet.
  3. Pitch Letter. Absent an official news release, create a tailored pitch letter that also communicates the same elements in a news release (Who, What, Why, When and Where)
  4. Designer Bio. We put this as the second most important piece because it was Charlotte that provided the “hook” of credibility for the entire design and founder story. Plus it was such a pretty piece; we had to show it off.
  5. Inspiration Board. For PL this was a design story. We created a Pinterest style board that pulled through the main design theme (In this case spring season 2013, PL’s strongest textile design from that season was based on a navy blue bow which we used to show the importance and evergreen nature of nautical for springtime)
  6.  Some Bling. Most people that you mail a press kit to will not even get to the last page. But for those that do, we wanted to give them some good eye candy. Not mission critical to the story but still something bright and shiny to look at. PL had sponsored the Golden Globes and actually had some decent images of a few celebrities holding product against a PL step and repeat logo wall. The images were not super strong or even high res but we cut and pasted them into a cohesive branded design and included it as the last piece of the press kit.

And of course since it is a KSPR creative mailer, we looked at every detail of the packaging and delivery to ensure a thoughtful and enjoyable experience for the recipients. We did not have the time to have a custom branded folder designed and printed so we put the press kit pieces in a simple, super chic clear envelope with a color laser printed Pink Lining label affixed to front.  Not bad.

Every company brings their own unique story to be told. When deciding if a press kit is the route to go, make sure you evaluate the project through the print-worthy test. In this day and age of digital communiqués, not every launch or news story makes the mark.

Press Kit Pages
Pink Lining Press Kit Pages