Second in a series of posts on preparing for the annual trade event
by Julie Livingston, director, business development and accounts, Child’s Play Communications, New York City
As the adage goes, “information is power,” and that is exactly why the nuggets of facts, photos, video and other details contained in your Toy Fair media kit can directly impact the depth and breadth of coverage you get during the show. Start planning out your content by thinking through the writer’s “5 W’s”—the Who, What, Where, When, and Why—as it relates to your product. Ask for input from colleagues in the product development, sales, and marketing areas, as their perspective can provide tremendous insight, and descriptive language to tell the story. In my experience, this process can be time consuming; be prepared for multiple rounds of edits so that the end product is one that will draw attention and interest.
From seeing literally hundreds of press materials in my years in the children’s entertainment business and PR, the following elements when executed well contribute to a successful press kit:
1. Brevity is Levity
Most reporters are stretched for time these days as a result of a 24/7 news cycle and increased responsibilities. That said, it is critical to be as economical with content as possible. Focus on breaking Toy Fair-related news, including hot items, new line extensions, or licensing agreements. Well-chosen language goes a long way, as does careful formatting, making documents easy to read and scan. “Stack” information wherever possible using bullet points and allow for a minimum of 1.5 lines between sentences. In most cases, press releases or company backgrounders should be kept to a single page, with the exception of product fact sheets; these may run multiple pages in order to include lead items and accompanying visuals. Use adjectives judiciously. In a business largely built on hype, this can be challenging, but in the long run, it will buy you increased credibility, as reporters can be turned off by overly promotional language.
2. Company Background and Brand Story
Provide the media with background information that, in as few words as possible, communicates your brand story and heritage. This includes: company or brand history, product origin, and brief profiles of the founders or key executives. If your product is rooted in children’s education or entertainment, has won awards or special recognition by parents or the industry, mention that as well. Details regarding licensing programs should also be noted. Finally, a simple photo of the corporate headquarters, where the company name is prominent, provides a helpful point of reference.
3. Breaking News: a Press Release or News Announcement
The “hook” of a well-crafted press release is in the headline, so dedicate time and energy into setting up your news story below about your hot items, line extensions, licensing, a special anniversary, or how your product fits into a bigger trend story at Toy Fair. Include one to three quotes from senior level decision makers, while making sure that each statement fully communicates top line news in case it is the only line lifted from the release.
Be sure your press release is easily searchable online by using key words identified by your company for search engine optimization. Include links to your website, Facebook and Twitter accounts, and Pinterest or Tumblr if you use them. Perhaps the greatest resource to demonstrate the lights, sounds, and action of Toy Fair news is YouTube, so include a link as well as any passwords to protected information.
4. Product Fact Sheets
In priority order, include a photo, illustration, or screen capture with a brief description of top driver products, but no more than five or six. Always include the manufacturers’ suggested retail price (MSRP) and age grading (e.g. appropriate for kids ages 18 mos-3 years). Note special features, such as AAA batteries required or safety features—especially important for the preschool category, and product materials if significant (e.g. made from recycled materials or phthalate-free). Note that reporters want to feature what’s “hot” only if the toy will be available at retail. Make it clear when the in-store date is, and also if the item(s) will be sold at specialty, mass retail, or online at Amazon.com and others.
5. High resolution images
Toys and entertainment products are highly visual, so include high resolution (minimum 300 dpi) images in JPEG format, which allow for professional reproduction. As many products shown during Toy Fair are in prototype format, include photos or detailed illustrations of final product packaging as well as any accompanying advertising or promotion campaign visuals.
Although more costly, reporters definitely appreciate receiving a USB drive containing all press materials as it holds more data (especially images), is portable, and reusable.
6. Contact information at your company or your public relations agency
In order for the media to contact you to confirm or get additional information, include press contact information on every page including name, email address, and office and mobile phone numbers. Since Toy Fair week is particularly hectic, it’s wise to list two alternative contacts.
Coming next week: Tips for effectively pitching the media covering Toy Fair
About the Author
A strategic communications expert, Julie Livingston has spent the past decade immersed in the toy and youth entertainment sectors. Before joining Child’s Play Communications, specialists in reaching moms, she was senior director of public relations for the Toy Industry Association, and earlier served as director, corporate communications for Scholastic, Inc, the global children’s publishing, education, and media company.
Special thanks to Reyne Rice, toy trends expert, for her contributions.
To read tip 3, click here.