Media Relations Made Easy

Source: Freebase

Media relations is a wonderfully cost-effective way to generate support for your organization. And it’s not hard to do! With just three easy steps, you could be on your way to seeing your organization in the news.

1. Develop a media list.

a. Define your audience(s). Who do you want to communicate with? Clients? Potential donors? Voters? Other organizations?

b. Describe your audience(s). Where do they live? How old are they? What do they do for a living? Do you know what their media habits are? Do they know who you are?

c. Develop a list of target media. Use the information you collected about your audience to identify appropriate television stations and programming, radio shows, and newspapers. Depending on your audience, you could also add magazines (including trade and association), influential websites/blogs/social media commentators. Research the media that will best reach your audiences. Look at the media outlet’s demographics and see if they have an editorial calendar (look under advertising on their websites). This will confirm a good fit and show opportunities to provide timely content.

d. Identify a contact. For each media outlet, find a named person to communicate with. Find out who covers your industry, or the most appropriate person to contact. This information is on their website, or call and ask. Research that person as much as possible. Look up their bio, read past articles, etc.

2. Create amazing content

a. Develop story ideas and messages. Stories can be situation-based or subject-based. Most people think of media relations in terms of publicizing an event or program, but stories can also be developed around a subject to be submitted in a timely way, i.e. summer reading, fall fashion, holiday planning, etc. Use the information you collect about your audience to develop story ideas. What would interest them? Story ideas are less about what you want to communicate and more about what your audience wants to hear.

b. Put together a press kit. Develop background information about your organization. This can include history, accomplishments, facts, etc. Identify spokespeople and experts and provide photos and short bios. It’s important to develop a short paragraph identifying who you are, who you serve, and what you contribute. This text should be used every time you give information to the media to set up a consistent foundation. Format attractively and create a supply of print copies, post on your website, and have available as a pdf.

3. Pitch your stories

a. Get in touch with your media contacts. How you get in touch with them and the format of your messages depends on the type of media you are approaching. Most pitches are made via email or telephone, but can also be made via tweet, blog post, or Facebook entry. They can also be made in person. You can create a formal press release, or not. The most important thing about your pitch is that the story idea is interesting, relevant, and timely for their audience.

b. Make the reporter’s job easy. Assign one person as the main media contact for your organization. Provide all necessary details, photos, video, and background information via links or attachments. Be aware of their deadlines and be as responsive as possible to their requests.


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Burn the Books? Check out this video!

After 10 years working as public relations counsel for libraries, I have developed a huge soft spot for them and their ongoing struggles to prove their worth to the public, government funders, and donors. Especially today, as digital books, newspapers, and magazines have become widely available and affordable, more and more people feel that public libraries are an outdated concept.

But who do think is keeping track of all this digital content? Capturing it? Organizing and sorting it? Archiving it for access by future generations?  Libraries still collect and provide access to good, old-fashioned paper books and magazines, but now they are also responsible for grabbing all that great born-digital content out there so that it doesn’t fade away into the black hole of cyber-space.  This is the challenge of today’s libraries and a responsibility they take very seriously, working hard and in relative obscurity, to ensure that our children can learn from content created today.

So, thank you to all the Librarians out there working tirelessly to steward the collective knowledge of humanity. Maybe one day everyone will understand the vital role you play in society and open their wallets accordingly. In the meantime, I absolutely love the video below and appreciate the enormous risk that this library took to get their message out!

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What The Presidential Election Can Teach Us About Social Media

As a public relations professional, I have always been fascinated by the ultimate question: How can I change the behavior of my audience? This is the ultimate question, because it’s the one we all seek the answer to. It’s the reason we engage in public relations and marketing. We want people to do certain things, buy certain things, and feel certain ways about our organization and/or its products.

When I was completing my thesis in graduate school, my research question focused on whether discussions online would translate into offline activities. I used an open forum for staff at the University I was attending as the basis for my research, and the topic was the attacks of 9/11. I felt that if any topic could motivate offline action, that would be it. Unfortunately, after months of gathering and analyzing information, my conclusion was just a big fat maybe. As intense, emotional, and endlessly discussed as the topic was, I could establish no significant connection between the online discussion and offline behaviors.

We’ve come a long way in the past ten years. There is no doubt anymore that social media can influence behavior, I feel this is largely because we can now co-locate the online discussion with an opportunity to engage in the desired behavior. We can encourage participants to “like” us and to share our content, we can donate funds or buy products at the click of a button, we can link people directly to politicians we’d like to influence or causes we’d like to support. Nowhere is this ability to influence large groups of people more apparent than in this year’s Presidential Election. Check out the infographic below from Engine Yard and prepare to be amazed!

Courtesy of: Engine Yard

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Is Your Organization Authentic?

There is a lot of emphasis today on being “authentic.” Making Times Magazine’s “Top 10 List of Future Revolutions” several years ago, seeking the authentic has become a part of our daily lives. Organizations of all kinds have found success because their audiences perceive them to be authentic. But what does it really mean to be “authentic?”  And if I am authentic, will it help my organization succeed?

In a recent article, Shen & Kim (2012)1 identify three characteristics associated with perceived authentic organizational behaviour; truthfulness, transparency, and consistency:

  • Truthfulness refers to not telling lies, but also includes the idea of being true to oneself and reflecting that truth.  In other words, an organization must accurately reflect their stated mission, goals, and brand promise.
  • Transparency refers to an organization being willing to accept responsibility for and accept the consequences of its behavior.
  • Consistency is built upon truthfulness and transparency and refers to an organization reflecting these concepts on an ongoing basis to build trust.

Shen and Kim submitted collected questionnaires from 608 university students in the context of university-student relationships and found statistically significant support of the following:

  • An organization that engages in two-way communication with its audiences is more likely to be perceived as authentic.  Two-way communication can be characterized by keeping them informed, asking for feedback, and involving them in the decision-making.
  • However, it is not enough to engage in two-way communication with your audiences. An organization must present itself as authentic in additional ways to build better relationships.
  • If an organization is perceived as authentic, audiences are more likely to feel they have a positive relationship with the organization.
  • These perceptions can affect behaviour.  Shen and Kim found that people who feel they have a positive relationship with an organization will be more likely to forward and share positive messages about the organization and vice versa.

From these results, you can see how being perceived as authentic can help an organization, however, an organization must commit to always being authentic. You don’t have to look far to find examples illustrating the perils of perceived inauthentic behavior.  A recent example is what happened to Kashi, a cereal company owned by Kellogs. In October 2011 the Cornucopia Institute released a report called “Cereal Crimes” which alleged that Kashi uses genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in some of its products. This produced some serious backlash and you can see why when you compare Kashi’s behavior with the three characteristics of an “authentic” organization outlined by Shen and Kim.

First, the report contradicts the Kashi “commitment” producing the perception that the company is not truthful.  Second, although the company responded to the allegations (indicating two-way communication), the response was not seen as the company taking responsibility for its actions. Rather, it was perceived as sidestepping and excuse making and therefore not being transparent.  This resulted in Kashi seeming inconsistent at reflecting its mission and accepting responsibly and therefore cannot be trusted. These perceptions resulted in communicative behaviors as audiences shared negative messages on related news reports, on their website, and through social media.

So, is your organization authentic?  Let me know what you think about “authentic”  organizational behaviour – both the benefits and the perils.

1. Hongmei Shen & Jeong-Nam Kim (2012): The Authentic Enterprise: Another Buzz Word, or a True Driver of Quality Relationships?, Journal of Public Relations Research, 24:4, 371-389.


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Social Media is a Two-Way Street

Everyone is jumping on the social media bandwagon these days. Twitter accounts, blogs, and Facebook pages are being created at blurring speeds. As anyone who has been through this process knows, creating these social media communication channels is a great start, but if you build it, how do you get people to join in, follow along, like you?

One, often overlooked, way to create interest is to comment on conversations taking place in appropriate online forums. “Wait!” You might be saying.  “My job is to craft the messages and send them out through the communication channels I’ve created. I’m not supposed to enter the fray, and heaven forbid, engage in conversation about it.” Sorry to say, but the only way to a successful social media campaign is take part in the campaign yourself.

Gone are the days when public relations practitioners (or anyone filling that role) can sit safely in their offices sending out messages to a waiting audience. Now, we have to go out and find our audiences, where they live, talk, and socialize. Forums are a great place to start doing that. Not only will people learn more about you and your organization, if you listen closely, you will learn about your audiences. This two-way communication is at the heart of ethical public relations practice.

Posting a blatant ad won’t win you any friends in the long run, but do make sure that you include all your links so that those interested can follow-up. In order to be effective, your forum comments and questions must be relevant and contribute to the conversation. This requirement makes it immensely important to have an intimate and accurate understanding of your organizations’ mission, goals, objectives, and values. Even though you are personally taking part in the conversation, your communications must still be strictly reflective of your organization’s views on  the subject, not your personal views (although hopefully these are at least partially compatible or you should get a new job).


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