Published on AllBusiness.com
What’s Your Story?
To remain competitive, you need to provide information about your company to employees, investors, existing and potential clients, media, and the general public on an ongoing basis. Your company’s success depends on how well you communicate what you have to offer.
This, in turn, may depend on how well you prepare collateral items (brochures, newsletters, fact sheets, press releases, and other electronic and printed promotional materials), ranging from company and product fact sheets to biographies of key team members.
Every business should always have the following eight items on hand, ready to distribute.
- Company Fact Sheet
Potential investors, employees, analysts, and members of the media should be able to learn important facts about your business with a quick look at your fact sheet. A company fact sheet should include the following information:
- The date the company was founded
- Location of headquarters and any affiliate offices. This can include images.
- Names and brief backgrounds of founders and upper-level management. These can also include photographs.
- Contact information
- Product or Service Fact Sheets
Keep a fact sheet on file for each of your products or services. A product or service fact sheet should include the following:
- The product or service’s function or value
- Distinctive features that set your product or service apart from the competition
- Comparison to similar products or services on the market
- A statement about quality and reliability
- Cost comparisons
- Biographies of Founders and Senior Management
Have a biography on hand for each founding member of the company, senior managers, and (if applicable) members of the board of directors. Whether or not you included photos in the fact sheet, you should include them here. Biographies should also include:
- Their current role in the company
- Relevant experience
- Awards or honors
- Publications that feature the team member or the team member’s work
- Mission Statement
A mission statement serves multiple purposes: It can motivate you and your employees, provide direction and focus as you make decisions, and give new hires a sense of the purpose of the company. It can also provide a confident and clear statement to potential investors, lenders, and members of the media.
If you need help crafting a mission statement, read Ten Tips for Writing an Effective Mission Statement.
- Company Background
Whereas the company fact sheet is essentially just that — a list of facts — this document is written in paragraph form and should include more detail. In a sense, it is the history of the company and can be told chronologically or not, as long as you convey a real sense of the company and its worth.
Images are helpful — a picture of your headquarters, your best product, your top people, or team shots — will help people get a better sense of who you are.
- Client List
Prominently display a current list of your clients, partners, and (if appropriate) vendors. This information will be of interest to employees, investors, existing and potential clients, and media, as well as the general public. Your willingness to display this information builds trust, shows confidence, and establishes you as a serious player in your field.
- Press Kit
When you open your business or launch a new product, send out a press kit. Press kits are easily released online as well as by mail and are a handy way to pitch your business at a trade show. Your kit should include the following elements:
- Your company’s logo featured prominently
- A personalized letter pitching your company, product, or service
- A press release
- Company fact sheet
- Product fact sheet
- Articles written about your company
- Your business card
- Company background
Update each element of the press kit as needed at least once a year, preferably before a big selling season, product launch, or trade show. For additional information, read Developing a Press Kit for Your Small Business
- Clip File
Assign someone in your office the important job of collecting and maintaining any articles written about your company, employees, events, and so on. There are companies that provide clipping services; you can also set up Google Alerts to make you aware whenever a certain name or term is mentioned online.
Note: If you are thinking about mounting a PR blitz, consider hiring a firm to track where press kits are sent, make sure they are received, and then monitor the press for mentions of your firm.
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I keep seeing really cool business cards. MOO came out with square ones. But I often wonder if we really need business cards anymore? Contacts are plugged into an iPhone, or scanned by a QR code. I personally haven’t had any cards printed in about 10 years, and every time I start on a design, I get busy and never finish. (I get my business through referrals.) I don’t even keep other people’s business cards. My doctor now sends me emails reminding me of appointments, and those appointment cards were the only cards I used to keep–for awhile. A friend handed me a business card last week when we ran into each other, and I said, “I’ll just Facebook you.” I’m not working myself out of business saying this because I rarely design a business card. I’m just sayin’.