Earning Good Media Coverage

20 09 2010

This chapter goes over numerous pointers for earning good media coverage and gives examples of media for nonprofits to seek out.  The chapter lists 6 main tips for earning good coverage:

  1. Cultivate personal media contacts
  2. Understand media cultures
  3. Pitch story ideas regularly
  4. Prepare for media interviews
  5. Organize press conferences and briefings
  6. Influence the influentials

Cultivate Personal Media Contacts

Forming relationships with media personnel is extremely important and often it is this relationship that gains media coverage.  This takes a lot of research and work.  A nonprofit organization should research which reporters cover issues similar to their organization’s issues.

Understand Media Cultures

This chapter notes the importance of understanding the media’s culture and how it works.  This means being acknowledagble of deadlines, how a media organization likes to receive press releases, what a particular reporter’s preference of contact is, always making yourself available to the media, etc.  This knowledge will be helpful when pitching stories and attempting to form relationships.

Pitch Story Ideas Regularly

Assume the reporter is always on information overload and follow up with a personal phone call to see if he/she received the press release.  Also, have all materials available to re-send if need be.  When speaking with the media be concise and get to the “who, what, when, where, why and how.”  This is the information they want to hear.

Prepare for Media Interviews

Media interviews should not be taken lightly and involve a lot of preparation.  Give your spokesperson in advance  information about the reporter, the media outlet, the number and types of stories likely to appear and the likely questions.  Rehearse answers to the likely questions and review the organization’s message points with your spokesperson.  Brief the reporter on your organization’s goals and mission and prepare a one page fact sheet for the reporter.

Organize Press Conferences and Briefings

Briefings and press conferences are a good way to familiarize reporters with an organization’s spokespeople and the organization’s goals, mission and issue.  This allows the organization to gain media coverage and allows them to control what is being said.

Influence the Influentials

The influentials in the media business are the gatekeepers. They are the editors, opinion columnists and editorial columnists.  They control what gets coverage and what doesn’t.  These are the people that will need to be informed about your organization and the ones that you will need to convince to gain coverage.  The key is to pitch stories that combines ACTUAL news with VISUALS.  This is the current trend that media gatekeepers are looking for.

Overall, I found these tips extremely relevant not only to nonprofit organizations, but to any organization.  In particular I have identified a few areas that our client Safe Harbor needs to improve.  I will later post my PR proposal for this organization.

How to Navigate a Changing Industry

16 09 2010

The journalism industry is changing fast.  In order to stay afloat traditional news media are transforming themselves to include a plethora of options.  Newspaper readership is decreasing steadily and even TV news is seeing an older and smaller audience.  Much news is being switched to online platforms like blogs, discussion boards, interactive videos, ect.  Mainstream media is cutting costs and the internet has made it possible for anyone with a unique story to reach a global audience.

So what does this mean for nonprofits attempting to have their cause or issue publicized?  Well, first the organization needs to decide whether they want to be  a content provider for other multiplatform media or an influencer of others who will provide their own content, or both?

Whatever the case the organization will need to alter its communication strategy to reach a larger audience.  It is often easier to get stories/content posted on news media websites or blogs than it was to have something run in print.  And the best part is that the content online can be produced for free or of little cost.  I would recommend a nonprofit organization transform their website into a source for multiplatform journalism.  Provide blog posts that are up to date, videos, pictures and a discussion forum.  Transform your website into the number one place for people who are interested in your cause to receive news about the issue.

The changing news industry offers organizations ample resources to have their issues publicized.  Organizations should create content that can be used by a variety of news mediums.  This is a huge advantage for nonprofits, especially those with limited resources.

Social Media Exile

15 09 2010

Borrowed from Twitter.com

While listening to NPR on Monday morning I heard a story that really grabbed my attention being the young, social media savvy PR student that I am.  This week Provost Eric Darr of Harrisburg University in Pennsylvania has declared a black out of all social media sites on campus.  That means no Facebook, Twitter, instant messaging programs, Youtube, ect.  on campus grounds.  At the end of the week students will write reflective essays about their week in “social media exile.”  The Provost claims that this is an academic exercise.  Often students are not even aware of of social media habits (ex: how many times we log on Facebook a day, the amount of communication that we do online instead of face-to-face, or how much we are addicted to the sites that we love so much).

After hearing this story and then further researching it, I began to analyze my own social media habits.  Do I rely too much on these tools that I love so dearly?  My personal answer is yes.  Often times I waste so much time on these sites when I could be doing more productive things or instead of calling a friend I Facebook them.  However, some people may argue that these tools are necessities and I would agree to an extent.  For example, our PR class will be using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to market campaigns we create for our class client.   In this sense social media is aiding in our education.

Overall, I think the Provost’s decision to block social media for a week is an excellent idea.  I believe it will provide eyeopening results to both the University and all the students who are participating in this exercise.  I am very curious to see the students responses at the end of the week.

I would encourage everyone to participate in their own “social media exile” or at least reflect on how much we spend our time on these sites and how dependent (or addicted if you will) we are to them.  Please let me know what you think about this exercise and whether it would be a good idea for other universities to participate.

Framing and Developing Messages

14 09 2010

Chapter 4 of Strategic Communication for Nonprofits discussing the importance of framing messages.  Frames are structures that people use to view the world and make sense out of it.  These frames are based on values and assumptions that they hold within themselves.  Therefore, people view messages through particular frames, causing each person in the audience to view the message differently.

As PR practitioners, it is important that they capitalize on an audience’s frame of reference and use it to their advantage with crafting a PR message.  You should identify the core values that may attract people to your cause.  For example, our client this semester is Safe Harbor.  When crafting a message about Safe Harbor I want to make sure that I address values that would draw people to its cause.  I would pick the main idea that most audience members would relate to or would view favorably.

Another important aspect when framing and developing messages is deciding who will present the message.  Will it be a family member, friend, political official, local church minister, etc.?  Many people call this “putting a face on the story.”  In class we used the organ donor campaign as an example.  Instead of giving facts of how many people are saved each year by organ transplants, the video chooses to tell the story of Steve.  This makes the message far more compelling to viewers.  It takes a message and makes it stronger by making it personal.  I challenge you to look at the video Steve’s Organ Donation and tell me what you think about the delivery of this message.

Know your Audience!

14 09 2010

I would argue that the most important element of a strategic communication plan or any form of communication is the audience.  Audience research is imperative, especially in PR.  In order for your message to have an impact, it must be received by someone whom will resonate with the message.  According to the book I am reading for class, Strategic Communication for Nonprofits, brainstorming and grouping people into clusters is helpful when determining your target audience.

Next audience research is a necessary part in developing a strategic communication plan.  Public opinion polls can be very useful in determining the current sentiment people have about your organization.  Also, it is important to determine what is of value to your audience.  What do they care about? What will resonate with them? Where are they from? What age are they? What do they have in common?  These are all questions you should be able to answer about your target audience.

Only after determining you audience and thoroughly researching them can you begin to craft your strategic communication plan.

Creating Movements for Social Change

8 09 2010

I recently posted a blurb about Brains On Fire and the PR campaign movement they created called Rage Against the Haze.

A recent blog post by Brains on Fire, Movements Move People to Believe, further discusses the notion of movements and what makes a movement so special.  A movement must be generated by the organization or group of people who support it.  They must believe in the organization and believe in themselves.  This post had me think of our class project involving Safe Harbor, a shelter for abused women and children.  Safe Harbor and domestic violence as a whole needs a movement, not just a marketing campaign.  In order to initiate lasting social change:

  1. People need to receive clear and consistent messages from domestic violence shelters like Safe Harbor
  2. People need to be educated about domestic violence and be shown that there is a better way to live
  3. Safe Harbor needs to encourage people to share their healthy lifestyles or healing stories with others so that they too can believe that they can get help and make a change

The post states that: “any brand can ignite a movement with its customers, so long as the brand can move people to believe in the company, to believe in a better way, and to believe in themselves.”  I think that this advice would be very beneficial to any nonprofit organization who is hoping not only to initiate a PR/marketing campaign, but wants to create SOCIAL CHANGE…A movement.

Developing a Strategic Communication Plan

7 09 2010

Every organization hoping to achieve some sort of communication goal needs to develop a strategic communication plan.  As I mentioned in the post above “strategic” is the key part.  It needs to have set goals that are in line with the organization’s goals and values.

After establishing an organization’s goals there are a few critical elements that need to be addressed.

Understand your target audience and how to reach it

An organization must know their audience!  Make a list of people who are important to the success of the organization.  This will help you to determine the key stakeholders of your organization. Next identify what media they consume and what people/media they respect.

Research past media coverage and public opinion about your organization or issues

This step will help you determine how your organization and its issues are perceived by your audience.  This will help you determine how much will need to be done to achieve your communication goals

Determine the messages that are to be delivered

One way to do this is to imagine a headline  that you would like to see about your organization and work backwards from it.  Determine how you would state your organization’s goals and how you would describe the organization in just a few words.  These will become your “key messages”

Determine what materials will need to be produced

PR professionals have a set of tools that they use to reach target audiences.  Some of these include:

  • logo
  • one-page fact sheet
  • press kit
  • brochure
  • photos, videos, overheads, and computer presentations.
  • reports and studies
  • Bios of your leaders and spokespeople
  • current newsletter or other publication
  • copies of published articles

Asses the resources that will be used

Spell out how you will manage time, budgets, computers and databases.  Designate someone to be in charge of all communications and recommend arranging training and upgrades as needed.

Write a work plan for ongoing activities for achieving communication goals

Finally establish a written plan.  Your communication goal will determine the ongoing activities you develop to maintain and achieve this goal.