Increasingly, unions in Australia and elsewhere are creating specific, separate websites for important campaigns. This is a good development, as it gives the union far more flexibility to create unique websites directly targeted for the campaign, rather than shoehorning the campaign into the existing (often outdated) main union website.
However, many unions don’t get some of the basics right. One of these basics is a good media kit. I speak from experience – not including a good media kit from the outset can cause trouble later on – while having one can make things very easy.
Media kits should be aimed not only at journalists working for major papers, but also for bloggers, independent journalists, reporters from trade magazines, journals, and local papers.
Even if you are only running a small campaign, it can be worth putting together a media kit.
Why do you need a campaign media kit?
Chances are, whatever campaign your union is running, you will want to get a story in the paper, on the radio or the TV. Journalists are busy people. If you haven’t initiated contact, they will want to easily find out who to call to get briefed on the campaign, as well as some basic information answering the Who, What, Why, Where questions.
You will want to have your media kit available for download on your campaign site, and you should probably link to it on your main union site as well. A media kit can also be distributed at the campaign launch if you have one.
Putting things online are also useful for coverage by online news sites and blogs. During the Save VCA campaign for example, there was extensive coverage from the major dailies (especially The Age), but also from blogs like Crikey and arts industry websites.
What goes into a good campaign media kit?
The whys of the campaign
You should have a good backgrounder; two versions, a short and long version. The short version should explain the campaign in just a single sentence. The longer version can go for several paragraphs. If your campaign website has an “About” page, this information should be basically the same.
This is all of your campaign fact sheets, biographies of important figures of the campaign, your statistics, tables, charts and so on. Basically all the stuff you’re relying on to justify and explain your campaign.
Your campaign and union logos
For online media kits, you should include logos for your campaign, and your union. This is especially useful for online coverage. Rather than have grainy, pixelated logos, why not include good quality logos for reporters to use? When journalists and other people check your web page and report on it online (whether in the paper or on a blog), they may want to get a copy of your logo. Similarly, if you’re able to get your campaign on TV, they are likely to use your logo in the background – make it easy for them.
While less the case for union issues, media outlets are increasingly relying on video media releases from PR firms. Getting good quality video for TV is essential for reporting on the nightly news. All campaign videos should be shot using high definition video, and if your campaign does use video a lot, make sure that you have good lighting and sound. Videos can also include vision from the campaign launch, and sound-bites from key campaign figures, such as elected officials and members. Consider the 1-2 minute stories you get on A Current Affair or the 7:30 Report, and make sure you have some generic campaign shots as well (e.g. footage of a hospital for an nursing campaign).
For your media kit, consider having a good quality, well produced introductory video. This is useful more widely than for media – visitors to websites increasingly want to engage with multimedia, and a 1-2 minute video explaining your campaign can be more effective than a lot of text. Videos can also be shared via social networks like Twitter and Facebook – so make sure the video is embeddable (YouTube and/or Vimeo are good tools).
Like videos, having good quality photos of your campaign are important for a media kit. Newspapers typically like their own photographers to take shots for the paper, but smaller outlets such as local newspapers, are sometimes willing to use provided images if they are of good quality. Photos should cover the major Who, What, Why and Where questions, and be diverse. Make sure you use a good quality camera; if you don’t have a photographer in house, consider hiring a freelancer for this purpose. These photos can also be re-used for other campaign material like leaflets and posters. Minimum quality for photos should be 300 dpi (dots per inch) in jpg or tiff format.
You’d be surprised how many union campaign websites (or even just their main website) make it difficult to find contact information. A campaign website should make it easy for the media to find out who is the campaign spokesperson, and how to contact them. We are all used to putting a media contact person on press releases – it is the same for campaign websites. Contact details can often go on “About” pages, but even if it has its own page, there should be a link from the “About” page.
List all of your social networks
Most union campaigns that I see have a Twitter account and Facebook page. Any social networks that you are using for your campaign should be prominently displayed on your website – preferably every page, such as in the footer or side bar. No one should have to use a Google search to find your Facebook page or Twitter account.
All of your promotional and campaign material
You’d be surprised how many union campaigns have a website, and produce posters, leaflets, pledge cards, fact sheets, postcards and more, but never upload them to the website. All of your campaign material should be available for download on your campaign website in one easy place (such as a “downloads” or “campaign resources” page). Only leave stuff off if there’s a good reason.
Press stories and releases
As your campaign goes on, you should update the campaign site to include press release. This is useful for journalist, as it saves them time when finding quotes or information, and lets them simply cut and paste, rather than rewriting bits from a media release. Including your media releases (such as in a blog) is also good for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). If you don’t have all of your media releases on your campaign site, you should at least put them on your main union website and have a link from the campaign site to them.
You should also include links to any media stories reporting on the campaign.This is useful for journalists, as they can see what has already been covered and focus on a different element of the campaign, and it is also good to show supporters of the campaign that it’s been garnering media interest.
If you’ve got a hard copy media kit for distribution at an even, including the most recent and relevant media releases is a good idea.
Include a site map on your campaign website. Most major Content Management Systems (CMS) can create a site map (or have plugins that do it). This is important for SEO reasons, but also allows visitors to your site (such as journalists) to find content that may be buried a few layers down.
If you have a hard-copy media kit, make a complete electronic version available for download from your site.
A Frequently Asked Questions section on the site (and as a pdf and printed resource) can also be very useful. FAQs can be useful in helping journalists decide what questions to ask about your campaign, or what questions to ask about the target of your campaign (such as an employer). FAQs can also be good for SEO.
A good media kit is a valuable resource not just for interactions with the media. It will be a resource for your entire campaign. Businesses and government use media kits all the time. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for the journalists to find the information they are after about your campaign. For printed media kits, make sure to take the time and effort to make it look good. Don’t just rely on a printed Word document – get your union’s designer to lay everything out in the campaign or union style, so it is consistent with the rest of the campaign’s image.
If you’re not preparing a media kit for your campaign, and are leaving important things out, then ask yourself, why?
Most of this advice is from personal experience – things I wished I had done over the last two years, as well as some of the things I have done.