Be Creative and Keep it Real

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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

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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?

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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.

Qualifying New Media Sites and Blogs

When working with non-traditional media sources – how do you separate the good from the bad?  In PR speak, how do you qualify a good source? Traditional media metrics don’t apply.

Since our clients play in the retail, consumer goods and services space, there really are no good Technorati type sources for us to reference. Over the years, we have come up with our own checklist of how to qualify the best new media sources and blogs for our clients.

Each and every time we reach out to or respond to a new online news site or blog, they are evaluated on our specific criterion. Are they a credible, worthwhile news site/blog for our clients?

1.  Subject Matter

Is primary subject matter a fit for our client? A fashion blog for a fashion story, a business blog for a business story, an eco blog for an eco pitch, etc. Although there are many blogs and news sites that cover a broader range of subjects – do they have content that makes sense for our specific client’s product or service. Is there a natural fit and mutual interest in the subject?

2.  Look and Feel

Just as important as subject matter fit – does the site have an overall above the norm, aesthetic that looks good? Is there a wow factor? Is the layout easy to follow? Can we “see” our client’s story here? Would our client feel positive, neutral or disappointed by a placement here?

3.  Quality Content

Is the copy well written? Does it follow basic AP Style? If no, is it well written, without being littered with obvious grammatical errors? Does the content reflect a specific POV without being overly controversial?

4.  By the Numbers

How many Subscribers / Facebook Likes / Twitter / Pinterest / Instagram / You Tube followers? Do they have presence on multiple channels?

5.  Influence

Numbers don’t tell the whole story. Does this site/individual have influence? How often do they post fresh, relevant content? Do they start new discussions that others pickup on and respond to and share? Do they get reposted/repined and liked? There’s no magical formula here, this is subjective but a good indicator of credibility and influence.

We subject blogs and online news sites to more scrutiny for three main reasons:

  • These opportunties can be just as time intensive and difficult to garner coverage as with traditional media. Input for output is always key. We never have all the time and budget to do it all – prioritizing is key.
  • We are responsible for the brand reputation of our clients –each new site or blog requires our due diligence to qualify.
  • We apply deeper level of scrutiny for blogs that request product in exchange for coverage and/or product reviews and giveaways.

Not all of these rules apply for every site or every blog, but stepping back and evaluating with thoughtful metrics has helped us to ensure that our clients are happy with the results and that we are able to deliver the right ones. Let us know if you have come up with other ways to evaluate and make sense of the new, new media landscape.

Where the Brands are the Stars

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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?

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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.

Lessons From Third Grade

This is me with my daughters and the third graders.
This is me with my daughters and the third graders.

Recently my children’s grade school asked for parent volunteers to speak at Career Day. It wasn’t until my husband suggested that I should do it that I gave it a second look. As a “working mother” of three school age daughters I realized my responsibility to participate. Beyond the obvious reasons, my motivation was more personal and specific. I live in a really wonderful community (some might call it a bit of a ‘bubble’) with well educated, caring and very involved families. We moved to Austin to raise our kids in just this kind of atmosphere.  However, one interesting casualty is that my daughters have very few examples of career women.

In this community, the base line expectation of the families (primarily the moms) is to be present and available 24/7 for our kids, their activities and their schools. My girls often complain to me that “other moms” come to every school event, every performance, and every activity and even eat lunch with their kids at school on a regular basis. How can a ‘working mom’ ever compare to that? Do not get me wrong, I think it is an amazing choice to stay home and be a full-time mom. It’s not a choice I have made, but I totally respect that it is the right choice for many women (and a few men).

Back to motivation. As a minority, aka career mom, once I decided to commit the effort and time, I was looking forward to speaking up and showing my daughters and their classmates that women can be both – good moms and successful career people.

The presentation was for a couple classes of 3rd graders. All my girls were able to attend as well.  It was fun. I love presenting and the kids were very engaged. My biggest challenge was to tailor the information for a Minecraft-obsessed, eight and nine-year-old crowd.

Lessons From Third Grade is attached but here are the main talking points and slides from my presentation at Career Day:

“I have a PR agency here in town called Kimberly Strenk PR. But most of you here know me as Elke’s mom, Katha’s mom or Taschi’s mom – right? Well, outside the neighborhood, from as far away as London, England to California and New York, people know me as the owner of a PR agency.

What is Public Relations?

What is PR? PR is a profession that helps companies, organizations or individuals communicate with the outside world.  Now why would it be important to do this? (Use a retail store as an example)

  • Grow Brands

My company specializes in launching and growing brands. Does anyone know what a brand is? Show 4 brand images. What do you think of when you see this? What are some of your favorite brands? Why do you like them?

Examples of recognizable brand logos.

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  • Create Stories

Another thing we do is we create stories for our clients. Has anyone here written a story recently that got a great grade or that you are really proud of? When you wrote the story, did you think about who you were writing it for? What did you want to say? How were you able to communicate that message? We do the same things, we create stories that are relatable, and hopefully interesting so that lots of people will want to learn, buy or engage with our client’s brands.

  • Build Relationships

In PR, it’s also very important to build relationships. Does anyone know what a relationship is? How do you start a relationship? Well we do the same thing on behalf of our clients.

I chose PR because:

  • Career vs. job
  • Builder
  • Writer
  • Listener
  • Problem solver
  • Social
  • I always wanted to be the boss

Education and Training:

  1. BA in Literature and Language
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Critical Thinking
  • Imagination
  • Present your best self
  • Do great work
  • Learn from mistakes
  • Move on
  • A positive attitude

 Lessons from Third Grade:

  • To listen
  • To ask questions
  • It’s ok to make mistakes
  • Be a good friend

Important Skills to Develop as a Third Grader:

—  Grammar + Spelling

—  Reading + Analytics

—  Creativity + Building

—  Relationships + Reputation

—  Find a role model

How did it go? Could not have been better.  We actually took a video. One of these days when we have time to edit it down, will certainly share.  A library room full of kids, sitting crisscross applesauce for 30 minutes? They fully engaged, contributed and brought me tons of energy. Feedback from my kids? My first grader has already requested me for her class’ career day next year.

Are we all just modelizers?

Recently one of my interns suggested that I should write a book to share some of the advice she had experienced during her tenure with me. Needless to say I was flattered and genuinely surprised by this suggestion. The idea of remembering what you learn from others brought back memories of my early role models, the people that shaped my worldview. I count a handful of executives, former managers and colleagues as inspirational to me during my career. Too many to list in one post, but my very first “role models” were the executives at Nordstrom.

When I was finishing school at the University of Washington, I worked in the corporate offices in Seattle. I found myself given the opportunity to work for, and to be exposed to, many of the executives from various departments at corporate, from real estate, PR, sales promotion and even to the Nordstrom family themselves (“Mr. Bruce, John, and Jim”). At the time, I didn’t truly appreciate the impact this experience would have on me throughout my entire career, and really my whole life.

Daily, I witnessed these incredibly creative and successful people with impressive titles, treating everyone with graciousness and unfeigned respect. Did I also mention their impressive style? My experience taught me that the retail world has its own unwritten rules when it comes to fashion and personal expression. As a young person, this ‘picture perfect’ world had quite the impact. I witnessed a genuine humility and respectful attitude for everyone; from the janitor that emptied wastebaskets to the most senior member of the board, I saw that regardless of hierarchy defined by job title and responsibility, that in the Nordstrom culture, everyone was treated as though they mattered.  Accomplished, gracious and humble, these were my early models.

Over the course of my career, I have worked with many incredible people, but my benchmark has always been that talent and hard work, married with a genuine graciousness and respect for others, was the high water mark. This is the standard that has guided me throughout. It is the standard I shoot for, though perhaps not one I’ve always achieved. It is a journey, not an end point.

In my current role running my lifestyle PR agency, I have modeled my company after my own hybrid version of work and life. With no feigned modesty, I am proud to have established an internship program that has become fairly well known and respected. It has evolved over time to become a launching pad for students to move into PR careers after graduation or it has helped them to get in the door at the top, most competitive agencies here in town.

Back to sharing learnings and advice worth remembering – while the idea of some sort of pamphlet or even a book of “PR and Life advice” is interesting, for now I will share the perspective of my former interns – what they learned from their time with me and how it has impacted them in their own career + life journey.

As I continue to get responses from my formers staffers who now live and work all over the country, I will update this post with their comments. These are un-edited responses to my query, “What advice or key learning stands out most from your time at KSPR”?

Mallory, The University of Texas at Austin. KSPR Intern, spring 2009.

“It is hard to believe that I have been in New York almost three years. I am forever grateful for all your guidance and mentorship. My biggest takeaway from you is that you showed me that you can still have a career and a family.”

Jen, The University of Texas at Austin. KSPR Intern, fall 2010.

“The thing that stands out the most for me from my time at KSPR is your steadfast devotion to only taking on clients whose vision/mission you feel passionately about or have a personal connection with. After leaving KSPR and working in the industry for the past few years, I couldn’t agree with you more on this principle. When you are working with brands that you’re passionate about, all messages come from a genuine place; the client becomes an extension of yourself. I truly believe that this foundation of trust between you and the client is where great things come to fruition.

On a more technical note, I also learned the power of having a well thought-out media list. If you put in the time and effort to research, create and qualify a good media list, your pitches are much more likely to stand out from the pack.”

Carissa, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. KSPR Intern, spring 2011.

“I think one of the most impactful lessons I learned while with you at KSPR, and something that I’ve come to appreciate much more since I have moved jobs is that having a good rapport with your supervisor/manager/CEO is critical to your work ethic. I really enjoyed getting to work with you daily, and you were such a fun person to be around. It made me want to work hard to do what I could to make the company successful. I appreciated that most about you. You made the relationships we had with you fun, engaging and mostly you were a friend, not only a boss.”

Katie, The University of Texas at Austin. KSPR Intern, fall–winter 2011 and fall 2012.

“Your passion for not only your clients and their vision, but your family and friends has truly inspired me to work for clients and products that I can stand behind and be proud to represent.  The best career advice that you have ever given me is “Don’t Burn Bridges” and “Follow Up.”  I always knew that the first was important, but I didn’t truly understand its importance until leaving KSPR. Working in both an agency and client-side role showed me how small and tight-knit the PR community really is and I will never forget that advice.  The latter is also just as important.  PR is not advertising.  It isn’t a fiscal transaction for ad space.  Therefore, you have shown me how important it is to follow up.  If you ever do write a book, a chapter should be titled, “Follow Up.”

As far as life lessons, I believe that, while I don’t think that you ever specifically said this to me, you have taught me to go above and beyond in life and work and that anything is possible.  I know that the latter sounds extremely idealistic, but what I really mean is that someone doesn’t have just one set role in life.  You showed me how it is possible to have a strong career and be a super-mom.  As far as “go above and beyond” goes, I know many people say to do your best, but, to me, you must always be striving to do better.  I am never more confident at work then when I have added a bit extra to the original task.  The extra is what stands out and shows your passion and enthusiasm for your client and career.”

Sydney, The University of Texas at Austin. KSPR Intern, summer 2011

“My experience at KSPR was incredibly valuable. You afforded me true to life experience in pitching, branding and networking. I left my internship every day in awe of how you were able to satisfy your passion for work, your husband and your children. For all these things and more, I am thankful.

Prior to my time with you, I was under the impression that my life would ultimately reach a crossroads of aspirations: career v. family. Being driven to the core, I was almost afraid of the route I might one day take.

You shattered this perception everyday.  The tenacity and dedication you showed towards clients could only be rivaled by the infectious love you showed toward family. It is through your example that I came to define “work/life balance,” a value I regard with the upmost importance, even more so now that I call the concrete jungle home.

That summer, you wore many hats: brilliant PR mind, loving wife, caring mother, sensational hostess and superwoman to anyone who crossed your path. I would not be where I am today without your example.”

Stephanie, The University of Texas at Austin. KSPR Intern, summer 2012.

“I learned what PR looks like outside the classroom setting (very different) and most importantly I learned many life lessons. Two of your most memorable teachings:

1. To always try your very best and give it your greatest effort, no matter what task you are given. This is how you build your reputation. When people see your work ethic that is how they remember you. And your reputation is what you carry throughout your life. It is how you network and go places in the world.

2. The world will continue to change, problems will continue to occur, whether it’s a new president, a recession, societal shifts, etc., but life goes on. As long as you keep working, keep on trying, it all works out. That is why it is important to do something you love. So you can enjoy the little things, the things you are doing in your life with your family & friends.”

PR Tips for Entrepreneurs

I was recently asked by a reporter at my local daily, the Austin American Statesman to provide some PR tips for entrepreneurs. There are so many great PR professionals in Austin; I was flattered they asked me and was of course happy to oblige.

As with many of the best opportunities, this one required a very quick turn around. Happily, it was an easy request to fulfill. I work primarily with entrepreneurs and I have been giving an Austin Rise session, “PR for Small Business” (aka Business Aligned Communications) the last couple years.

In general, for entrepreneurs still working out proof of concept, I don’t recommend working with a PR agency or consultant just yet. Unless you have a proven track record of substantial success in a specific industry, media, analysts and customers are not going to care. Remember PR is a strategic asset for engaging with your external audiences. Make sure you are ready. If you are manufacturing goods, then have a prototype and some interested customers/partner retailers. If technology, such as a new app or software tool, have one or two satisfied beta customers that are willing to endorse your service or product. Wait until you have something real to share.

Following are the tips, with expanded detail, from the version that I provided to the Statesman. I have 4 Simple Truths that I try to always follow. These also come in handy for you as you build your business.

1. Be real

2. Keep it simple

3. Focus is your friend

4. Let the story unfold

Ok, you have your product or service ready to go. Before you begin, focus internally and be able to answer the following (while keeping the 4 Simple Truths in check):

1. Who are you?

2. What makes you special?

3. Why should anyone care?

You have done your work and now it’s time to get started. Armed with your “what makes you special” story, you’re ready to start testing your message. Begin by asking people in your network to listen to it, to read it, to watch it, and to have them tell you what they think. This is called “bulletproofing with friendlies.” Don’t get sidetracked by every comment or suggestion, but listen to the feedback to ensure that your story is compelling and that it makes sense beyond your internal team. Then prioritize. You can’t do it all – pick your battles. What can we do now, what can we do later, and what can we let go. Be consistent across all touch points. The look, the feel and the messaging should be the same. Tailor it to the medium. Consistency of messaging creates awareness.

Unless you have cured cancer, it will take multiple layers of exposure for your story to be remembered. There is no one hit wonder in PR. It takes ongoing, consistent effort to win true, meaningful mindshare and to build measurable awareness that counts. Good luck!

A Print-Worthy Press Kit

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