On PRess kits and revolution

back-to-schoolAs the spring semester begins and my focus shifts to my public relations classes, I’ve been thinking about what “tweaks” may be needed to update my syllabi.  As the industry shifts and emphasizes new technology, new platforms and new approaches to social media, so does the classwork.  But how much of the “old” PR techniques still hold, and how much is truly “new?”

For example, the final project in my PR Fundamentals class is the production of a press kit for an imagined client.  Each student must create original material in standard industry formats for press releases, backgrounders, bios, media advisories, and other supporting documents.  But this raises a question: Is this the kind of work our students will be doing after they graduate in a couple of years?  Or is the practice of putting together a press kit, housed in a two-pocket folder, made obsolete by electronic and social media?  Some professionals have suggested that the press release itself is dead, let alone an entire paper press kit.  Should this no longer be taught?

The newest required course in Hofstra’s public relations program is PR Tools.  Here we review the skills PR practitioners need to do their jobs; we survey social media platforms, learn how to create blogs, practice photography and video production, do some desktop publishing, and  assemble online portfolios.  I’m wondering if the amount of time we spend in each area is quite enough, given how much of these skills are now being used in real world PR.  Should web-based platforms and desktop skills become the primary focus of the public relations major?

So to my new students: welcome to the spring semester.  You’re part of an amazing evolution–maybe even a revolution–within the field you have chosen to study.  Take it all in, make suggestions, add to the debate, and do your research.  You, too, will be contributing to the fast-paced changes we PR veterans are witnessing.  Ultimately, you are the future of our industry.  Your thoughts?

25 thoughts on “On PRess kits and revolution

  1. Jenny Rowe

    I think having PR students review the skills of PR practitioners is a great idea, yet I do not feel as if web-based platforms and desktop skills should become the primary focus of the public relations major. Although much of PR is online and will be online in the future, learning the ways people have been successful through PR in the past, with and without technology, will benefit all of us in the long run. Paper materials may, in fact, be on the way out, yet that does not mean we cannot still utilize these materials while we are still learning.

    Reply
  2. Lola Odejobi

    I think it’s important to learn the “old ways” because writing is still very important. I think students should learn everything that comes with PR, you may never know when you might need it. I am sure there are companies out there that still use Press Kits, so yes it is important.

    Reply
  3. Carrie Walker

    As a new comer entering the PR world I would say that it is very possible that press kits and even the standard press release are gradually becoming obsolete. However the content of these communication materials are far from that. I think students should have full knowledge of all the new tools that are being used in PR but also understand the foundations. I think it is equally important of knowing how to formulate a standard press release and other PR materials while learning how to recreate those materials to better fit the public’s need for information. These fundamentals help PR professionals to strengthen their writing and communicative skills, which is a must in the PR world. It is always good to know the basics and the fundamentals before leaping into the next innovation without knowing how to properly format the materials.

    Reply
  4. Nicole Botsaris

    After having some internships in the PR field, it is clear that the traditional printed press kits are becoming obsolete. Many of the clients I have worked with request a digital copy of a press kit, and even when we pitch to the media we send out emails and PDF documents. However, I am a little bit of a traditionalist, and I still think the hard copy press materials are beneficial. I think it is useful to have a printed press kit in order to serve as a backup and to keep all records organized. The PR industry is certainly changing and I believe that it is only a short matter of time before we really see the entire industry transforming to digitally adapt to the times. What I think professors and students should try to avoid is forgetting what the fundamentals of press kit are. While there may not be a printed copy anymore, the materials that go into a press kit should still be taught. I think that the PR Tools class is extremely beneficial and will teach students a lot about the changing field we are in.

    Reply
  5. kerrischreiber

    I believe that even through traditional press kits are fading we should still learn the fundamentals on how to develop these kits. Fundamentals are an important part in learning for any field and no matter how fast technology is changing, there will still be people who are going to use these old traditional methods to communicate. This is similar to the question about print newspapers and if they are going to become obsolete. People believe that eventually they will be gone and everything will be online or through a phone app, but for right now newspapers, magazines and other printed publications still have a place in our society.
    My opinion is that it is going to take an entire generation to change the use of traditional press kits and newspapers before we should stop learning about them. There are still too many professionals who have been around for 30,-40 plus years who learned these skills before they were even hired. Maybe they also have adapted to the new technology that us college students use but they still have the knowledge on how to create a press kit. It is important that we understand this knowledge because anything done through the Internet or any other form of technology all stems from the traditional press kit. We may never have to use these kits once we become professionals but the key is knowing how to do this type of work to be a credible source in the field of Public Relations.

    Reply
  6. Sarah Caruso

    While I do think the hand written press kit may become obsolete I don’t think that will happen for awhile. Perhaps ten or fifteen years from now it will no longer be used by the industry, but as of now people are still using it. Even if our generation doesn’t NEED to know how to put one together I think it is something good to learn and it may impress older employers in the industry. And no, the press release is not dead; I wrote several for my internship.

    Reply
  7. Brenna Harran

    I do not agree in the sense that the press release is “dead”. I think technology is quickly growing and starting to spread throughout every industry, especially Public Relations. It is important for us as students to learn the ways PR is changing but to still learn the fundamentals. We can’t succeed without knowing the basic skills of a subject. As technology continues to spread, there should be focus on those changes but also on the basic content of PR that will remain the same no matter what format it is presented.

    Reply
  8. miabrienne

    I sincerely commend a professor for bringing up this issue within the industry. I have found that many professionals that have been in a field for a significant amount of time are at times uneasy, and even in denial, that the field is rapidly and constantly changing. Changing routines for some, is not easy. Especially when it comes to teaching PR it is much easier to stick to past methods rather then changing curriculums and starting fresh. I am both a student and hold a job/internship. Some of the public relations classes I have taken reiterate what I have already learned or consist of outdated methods (at least where I work) and have not helped me in the real world. Yet, PR Tools is a breathe of fresh air. All of the topics being taught are what I use in everyday life. PR Tools, and courses of similar nature are new and necessary for people this day in age when pursuing a career in Public Relations.

    Reply
  9. Alex Hyman

    After working for a few months with the PR directors of professional sports teams, I saw exactly how important the advances in technology are to the future of public relations. Everything that we had to do had something to do with technology. The only thing that I had to do that wasn’t entirely technology based was a information packet for the opposing team’s coaches and staff which was all printed out on paper and put into folders.

    Reply
  10. Beckett Mufson

    Teach us the skills we will need to use in the most relevant format to the field we are working in. I imagine the skills involved in composing a digital press kit isn’t too far off from those involved in a physical kit in terms of content. If the main difference is format and presentation, then we should learn the most up to date style/techniques/quirks of the trade. If we really need to compose a paper press kit on the outside it will be all of the same information, and I trust that if we make it that far it won’t be hard to adapt our knowledge to the old way of doing things. Harold Wilson said, “The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery,” and I heartily agree.

    tl;dr: Screw it, let’s do this thang 21st century style.

    Reply
  11. Amanda Daley

    Although we live in a technological world, I feel that regardless of whether the components of a press kit are electronic or paper, they still contain the same type of information and it is helpful for students to be familiar with different ways of creating them. For those learning about the public relations field, I think it is important for students to understand the history of the field, but I think it wouldn’t be beneficial to spend ample time teaching students about something that is said to be outdated.

    Reply
  12. aspenc6

    I think that learning how to make press kits should still be taught in the classroom for all of the reasons brought up in other comments. Although, I do feel that there is sometimes too much of a focus on paper press kits within the PR major at Hofstra. I am a junior here and I have created at least four complete press kits, but I have barely done any desktop publishing or worked on web-based platforms. Introducing the electronic side side of PR sooner might be more beneficial. Just a thought!

    Reply
  13. Brittni Hicks

    While many aspects of the public relations industry is becoming more electronic, I believe learning about a printed press kit is still important. The components of a press kit are still fundamental and important, even as they progress into the technology age.

    Reply
  14. Alexis Gionesi

    I agree that field of public relations has made a shift to a more technological basis, but so has everything else. While we should be learning what is up and coming rather than just learning the more traditional way, I think it is important to have the knowledge of what was and balance it with what is going to be.

    Reply
  15. Jeremy Beck

    While I appreciate growing up in such a fast paced and ever changing world of technology, I believe major overhauls are usually unnecessary. Just because something is “outdated”, does not mean that these things are without value. While printed press kits may be quickly becoming obsolete, they certainly contain the fundamentals needed by any PR professional. If there was no mention of the emergence of online press kits and printed press kits were taught as the standard that would create an issue. However, learning about the industry itself demands that as a student I learn about the progression of the industry so I can learn what worked(and why) and how it was improved upon.

    Reply
  16. blarouche

    Even with all of the changes that are happening in the world of PR I don’t think that as students we should turn our focus more towards these new platforms like social media. Instead I think it’s important for us to get a background in both new PR platforms and with press release kits. Even if a press kit is not something that we will use once we enter the field, it is something that will still help us to better understand the field of PR as a whole. Plus, it is a chance for us to continue to practice our skills as writers, a skill that will not just disappear with changing PR platforms. That being said I do think that we also need to delve deeper into the new platforms likes social media, blogging, etc because that is where the world’s communication focus currently is.

    Reply
  17. Ian Poulos

    The technological boom of the past ten years has dramatically changed the way people communicate. The immediateness of today’s world has created a demand for information that may not have the patience for a paper press kit, but this does not undermine its value. As the PR industry adapts with the times, so can the press kit. Perhaps it can be repurposed and used as a marketing tool directed toward new client acquisition. It is difficult to decipher where the future of the press kit resides, and, for this reason, learning how to assemble and properly present a press kit is vital to a PR education.

    With this in mind, I think it is also important to note that students should learn the modern aspects of the trade – that is, the skills companies expect a PR graduate to possess. In my mind, a well-rounded education is paramount in today’s multifaceted world.

    Reply
  18. Claire T.

    While I completely understand the belief that the industry has changed enough to make printed press kits an obsolete PR tool, I still see the value in teaching students how to correctly assemble a kit. Sometimes half the battle of coming up with a great marketing/advertising campaign is defining the basic objectives you want to achieve. Learning how to make a successful press kit can be a key technique in teaching students how to decisively create these campaigns and promotional pursuits in the future.

    I’m currently interning at a major record label in their Artist & Repertoire department. Our job is more or less a talent searching position. Our label has gotten very advanced and focuses a lot on social media, internet presence, and continuing to keep up with the evolving industry. I have also worked closely with the Public Relations department of our label, and I know for a fact that they still continue to use printed press kits for all of our artists. This just goes to show that even companies such as ours, which have embraced the new technology and flux of overwhelming social media insight, still find the use for a printed press kit and find it instrumental in the PR process for our artists.

    Reply
  19. nikkigyftopoulos

    It is definitely true that the field of public relations has made a drastic shift from a traditional style to a more technological basis. With this comes major changes that all of us entering this field must learn to cope with and adjust to. Although social media and technology are constantly becoming more and more powerful, I still believe that the fundamentals of public relations need to be taught in a classroom setting. In order to use the new advancements in technology available to us in the most efficient way possible, first we need to know the basics of public relations and it’s foundations. All in all, I personally believe a balance needs to be found in the classroom, where students are exposed to both the older fundamentals and the newer technology and social media. To put this all in perspective and relate it to another aspect of our world… calculators have advanced to the point that they can do just about any math equation, but that does not mean that math teachers and professors should stop teaching their students how to complete these equations in the traditional way.

    Reply
  20. Amanda Torres

    While we are definitely evolving and revolutionizing almost everything in the world thanks to new technology, social media, etc., I do think we need to know the basics of PR. In order to walk we must first crawl, no? We should all know the history and fundamentals of PR before we even think about anything else. Web-based platforms and desktop skills SHOULD be a new main focus in PR, but we should never exclude the basics. Plus, it’s also a way for you (and other PR veterans) to show all of us new comers how it was originally done.

    Reply
  21. janabanana12

    I myself, do not know what a printed press kit is, so I think it is good that we are learning of the PR basics. However, if it is an expired way of delivering information, perhaps we should ADD more technological factors when creating a press kit. It’s always good to know the basics, and in a way, we incorporate those aspects into our revised ways of learning. So I believe we are, like you said, in an “amazing evolution–maybe even a revolution” when it comes to PR and the field of communications.

    Reply
  22. Lauren Ciuzio

    I think it is important to learn what a press kit is, and how to put one together, but I don’t think an entire course devoted to it should exist anymore. I believe we should still learn how to develop better writing skills, and how to deliver to our audiences. However, I feel the main focus these days should be on social media and important programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Excel, Publisher, etc. I wish I was required to take a class on Photoshop, because after reading through some job postings, I notice that is a requirement for many, and I have no idea how to use it, or how to use video editing software!

    Reply
  23. jmorosoff Post author

    It seems that while the paper materials I mentioned may indeed be on the way out. I believe the techniques and formats should still be taught as it has been, although this may be among the last semesters my students are asked to create a paper press kit. Maybe I’ll have students post everything they do electronically in the future. Ironically, it’ll still be far easier for me to review and grade material if it’s printed out on paper first!

    Reply
  24. Bert Cunningham

    The use of traditional press kits per se is fading, but the basic components of the “press kit” can still be utilized. PR pros need to be able to tell the complete story. As a result, knowing how to create press kit-like materials for use through any number of communication platforms is essential.

    Reply
  25. Dianne Baumert-Moyik

    Hi Jeff, in my view, printed press kits are dinosaurs. However, that does not mean the need for quality content falls into the same category. Students and graduates must continue to learn and strengthen their fundamental skills in writing, knowing what is newsworthy, and delivering usable, web based content within our 24/7 global news cycle. Quality is still king.

    Reply

Leave a Reply