Press Packs: Getting on the good side of journalists

In our creative link-building campaigns, the role of a designer at Distilled extends beyond that of just designing the campaign page itself. Among the list of our other responsibilities, a lesser-known task on our to-do list is creating and compiling a press pack of assets.

Why send press packs?

Press packs contain the visual material our Outreach & PR specialists send out to journalists as part of the pitching process. Journalists are busy people, so the more ready-to-use material we can offer, the more they’ll consider covering and writing about the campaign.

We recommend sharing press packs using something like a Dropbox folder link with very clear file names and a sensible folder structure. This means you can link out to the pack instead of sending large email attachments, which are rarely welcomed. You’ll soon understand how the folder size racks up when you take into account all that’s included.

What should a press pack contain?

A press pack should contain:

  1. Static embed of the campaign: This is the visual introduction to the piece. It acts as an image link, so make sure this is the best visual for showing your work off. If this isn’t supplied, journalists may resort to hacking together a few screenshots which tend not to do the piece much justice. Creating these usually requires design time to chop and change the content slightly. For example, you may only want to show a select part of the campaign and add an ‘Explore more’ button to encourage click-throughs. There’s no hard and fast rule, it just depends on the nature of the piece. But to give you an idea, here are some examples:

  1. Images used within the piece: If your piece is very visual and contains photographic content, include these in the press pack too. For example, for our recent piece for Admiral, journalists were given all the photographs included in the piece, so they could pick and choose which to include in their write up. In fact, one journalist came back to us and asked for the images to be resized specifically to suit their publication’s needs, which we did. Being flexible and accommodating is always important to get on their good side. A word of warning though: be careful about checking image licensing. In this case, it wasn’t an issue because all photographs were commissioned and paid for, and participants signed a release of their work. However, if you found material online, you may not have the right to freely use,  share and distribute the images (more on this in the next section).
  2. Bonus relevant images: If your piece doesn’t include any photography or standalone visual assets, you may want to consider compiling some that are relevant to the story. For example, for the 50 Tech Friendly Airlines piece we provided general pictures of passengers on planes, as well as photographs of the top five techy airlines.
  3. Social sharing images: Although as the name suggests, these images are for sharing on social platforms, you may as well include these in the press pack as you’ve already created them. Often they can be seen as more ‘general purpose’ anyway, especially if what you have is a standard-size Opengraph sharing image, for example:
  4. Exclusive images: On several occasions, some publications have come back to us asking for some sort of exclusive content. So when commissioning photos or images, think about getting a handful more than what you need for the project, to specifically hold back for the top-tier publications that would appreciate the exclusivity. Just remember not to include them in the general press pack that gets sent out to everyone!
  5. Press release graphs: For surveys or data-led campaigns, we often produce custom graphs and tables to include in the press release. We always provide journalists with high-res images of all graphs and tables to mitigate against lo-res, illegible screenshots! By equipping them with these assets, we can improve the look of the end result coverage.

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How to source images for press packs?

As mentioned above, the job of compiling press packs usually falls to a designer, particularly for creating any embed and social images. However almost anyone else can share the task in sourcing bonus relevant images. The key thing is to make sure anything provided in a press pack allows journalists the right to freely distribute. Here are various methods I use for image sourcing, in order of preference:

  1. Public domain stock sites: My preferred places to look for stock photography that fit the bill are Pixabay or Unsplash because all the photos featured on these sites are licensed for free commercial and personal use in the public domain (also known as CC0 licensed). However, if you can’t find what you’re looking for, then you can broaden your search with…
  2. Creative Commons search tool: This CC tool is simple to use and can be used to find images which are suitable for commercial use (provided the right checkbox is ticked below the search area). A couple of things to bear in mind:

    1. Only CC0 material is free to use without needing to give credit. You will need to attribute all other images, for example in a spreadsheet format, and you should make clear when sending the press pack that the journalist will also need to follow the correct attribution rules.  

    2. Sometimes images can be wrongly mislabelled as being copyright-free. Where possible, always try to get to the source of the photo, e.g. the original Flickr post,  to double check. There have been cases in the past where we have directly contacted Flickr users about their copyrighted photos and they have granted us special permission to use.
  3. Paid stock sites: Sometimes we have to dish out some cash for the right photo. Whether it’s through the standard stock-giants, like Shutterstock and iStock, or the slightly more niche and, dare I say, more tasteful platforms like Stocksy, the standard licenses typically only cover you for single-use only and does not cover distribution, i.e. journalists using them in a write up, even if it’s related to the campaign. We either won’t directly share these in the press pack, or share but place them in a separate folder labelled ‘purchase required’. Some publications will have subscription plans with certain stock sites so it’s always worth mentioning.

To wrap up…

I hope this comes in handy for your upcoming projects. If you have any questions or additional suggestions, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below or via Twitter.

Press Packs: Getting on the good side of journalists was originally posted by Video And Blog Marketing

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