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Media Relations

June 18, 2008

It's likely that you will focus your public relations campaign on these targets:

  • Websites
  • Newspapers
  • Area magazines
  • Radio talk shows
  • Television news shows

In handling media relations, there are seven key strategies.

1. Think like a reporter. Before going to the media with a story idea, consider these points:

  • What is the news value of my story? Why will readers be interested?
  • Is the story idea timely? Does it fit into a larger news piece?
  • Who will be affected -- is there a local angle? (crucial for local media)
  • Are there strong visual components? (You should "paint" a picture for TV/news photo opportunities.)
  • Who can provide background information on the issue? (Do I have an expert I can offer to the media who can provide a fresh perspective on a news item?)
  • Who are other experts (besides my organization's) that I can recommend to provide a balanced perspective?
  • Is there an opposing point of view? (Controversy enhances a news story -- don't be afraid to offer it.)
  • Is a trend emerging in this area? (Provide the big picture.)
  • Could this story idea develop into a series of articles or broadcast segments? (If so, be sure to offer 3-4 different angles for the story for the reporter's consideration.)
  • Is this story being covered by anyone else? (Don't be afraid to offer an "exclusive" with key media--you can always suggest it to other media sources if you're turned down.)

2. Use a proactive media relations approach. Don't wait for the media to come to you. A pro-active media relations approach mean contacting the media on a regular basis with story ideas and cultivating relationships with key reporters and editors.

Identify relationships that exist among the members of your NPD steering committee and chapter board of directors. Gain approval from your colleagues to expand these relationships to benefit NPD. You make contacts through news releases, media advisories, pitch letters, phone calls, letters to the editor, editorials and public service announcements – even lunch meetings.  You might even arrange background interviews to discuss your chapter's event or other projects.  But be careful not to deluge reporters with too much information.  Story ideas must appeal to a wide range of readers or viewers.

3. Focus on an objective. Media relations succeed only when you have a goal. Keep objectives in mind when considering story angles to pitch to the media.

4. Keep trying. The same story pitched in a slightly different way to a different reporter may prove more successful. Many factors, such as the reporter's mood or whether he or she is on a deadline, can influence his or her decision. Don’t give up simply because one or two reporters haven't shown much interest.

5. Know the media. Rather than send news releases to city editors or news directors, you can usually generate more media interest by targeting specific reporters who cover stories similar to yours. Once you find out who these people are, cultivate a relationship. Suggest a brief get-together over coffee with an organizational spokesperson. This allows you to introduce yourself to the reporter, while positioning your spokesperson as a valuable news source.

6. Build credibility over time. Getting the media to pay attention to you is a process that takes time, effort, determination, and most important, a strategic public relations program. Know your goals. Keep in touch with your media on a regular basis. Earn the right to help brainstorm story ideas and development.

7. Use technology. Reporters love email because they can get information at anytime, but have the luxury of reading it whenever they want. Often the best way to approach reporters you haven't had any contact with is to email them some initial information. Tell them that you'll follow up with them in a couple of days, or ask if there's a good time to call them. If they're especially interested, they might even follow up on their own.

A website is another good source of information that reporters love to use.  If your chapter has a website or is using the area provided at the AFP website (www.afpnet.org) make sure that all of your NPD information is easily available there. Build an NPD page to hold all pertinent promotional information and media kits so reporters can easily access your information.  Include this site address on all printed and emailed media materials.

In summary, the objective of media relations is to establish your chapter as a news source and resource.  The key is to ask yourself, how can I be of use to the media?  Think like a reporter and you're on the right track.

Be sure to give the media good stories.  That's how you build strong media relations and keep them coming back.  To do this, thoroughly research the issue (e.g., philanthropy) you choose to publicize.  Find out how your chapter can add to the stories being developed by the media.  Always provide complete, accurate, and concise information.

Finally, a few guidelines to keep your public relations efforts headed in the right direction:

  • Until you have a solid reporter on a first name basis, it's best to pitch a story in writing, not over the phone. If you have breaking news, you can use the phone.
  • Never exaggerate a story.
  • Respect the media's deadlines.
  • Return calls from the media promptly.
  • Don't demand approval for stories written about your chapter. Offer to review material if appropriate (and this will rarely happen), but never demand to see the story before it is printed.
  • Always respect reporters and tell the truth.
  • Call reporters to suggest interviews, provide further information, or determine whether they'll attend a special event, but avoid calling reporters and editors simply to find out if your news release will be used. Unlike paid advertising, use of publicity materials is entirely their decision.

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