Inside the Mix

To be effective, consumer-media press kits should impress reporters on multiple levels

To be effective, consumer-media press kits should impress reporters on multiple levels

The consumer-media press kit can be something of an oddity in the marketing mix and, in many cases, almost doesn't seem to belong to the brand it represents.

While a press kit - especially those for a product launch or improvement - is naturally part of a commercial message, overt commercialism is off-putting to editors. Many consumer PR firms, with their strong ties to consumer-media higher-ups, often find themselves trying to persuade the client to tone down the level of commercial messaging in the media outreach. This, of course, can lead to the type of situation that we at PRWeek have seen, in which a press kit can appear like a disembodied limb. Maybe PRWeek's journalists are hypersensitive to how a press kit ties into the brand identity as a whole, but we did have a great deal of difficulty figuring out what a red plastic fire hydrant had in common with an indigestion remedy in one of the more "um, what do we do with this now?" press kits we received a couple of years ago.

But used well, a press kit can actually be a linchpin in something as dramatic as changing a whole mindset about a product category. Take the launch of Crest Whitestrips three years ago. Back then, the product would automatically have been considered an oral health product, and any beauty editor receiving anything from Crest would have sent it straight to the health editor - if P&G and DeVries PR hadn't decided otherwise. To drive home the product benefit - whiter teeth in 14 days - DeVries sent out a press kit every day over that time, each containing the day's "dose" of Whitestrips and a white, beauty-related freebie, such as a makeup compact and a feather boa. By sending this to beauty editors and speaking their language, today's acceptance of teeth-whitening products as a worthy player in the beauty-media firmament was cemented. A brand repositioning in the media was advanced enormously in one press-kit event.

"Desktop drama" is what DeVries PR calls the practice of sending out intriguing press kits that, according to the firm, are famous among the editors on the receiving end. Cliff Berman, SVP and MD at DeVries, says that in many cases, these ideas come from a multi-agency and multidisciplinary process, a truly integrated one. But what really drives the other elements of these integrated campaigns is the early editorial coverage an impactful press kit can deliver.

And to circumvent the aforementioned branding issues, Berman says that by sending out a kit that is genuinely cool - "not always expensive, but always surprising," he says - and that creates a very dramatic experience for the editor, he's able to get away with a higher amount of branding. After all, journalists are consumers, too, and just another segment of the populace a brand is trying to reach. If a brand can resonate with a journalist on two different planes - the professional and the personal - then this might provide the emotional connection needed to tip the balance between running a story and just bagging the swag.

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