Media Relations: Too Valuable NOT to Use

Patricia-Brooks-photo-imageGuest blogger, Patricia Brooks guides client orgs to reach and motivate people through traditional and new media sources. She’s a 24/7 newshound and loves to match the right story with the right journalist.

Freedom of the press is one of the founding principles of American democracy, and the press is our vehicle for making our voices heard and driving change.

As a U.S. media relations specialist, I am fortunate to base my career on our first amendment right to press. But it breaks my heart that more Americans (and nonprofits) don’t appreciate the their power when it comes to the media.

There are a variety of reasons why individuals and organizations can benefit from working with the press. These include facilitating global change on a social issue, passing legislation on national, state, or local level, drawing attention to a community issue, fundraising or marketing your own initiative. Whatever the reason, getting press is frequently a valuable tactic for achieving a greater goal.

Press conferences, news releases, advertising, op-eds, interviews, and letters to the editor are often the tactics that most people think of to get media attention. These approaches can all be helpful, but to achieve success in the media what you really need is a clear end goal of what you want to accomplish and a willingness to research and consume the media that would help influence your goals.

The Power of Media Relations—A Mini Case Study

One of my client organizations aimed to make the case that a certain U.S. policy should be reformed because it was unjust and driving poverty across the world. In order to convince U.S. politicians, it was important that we get some news coverage in national newspapers about the problem. But the question was how.

For several weeks, we gathered research, data, and sources from the impoverished regions that demonstrated our case that the specific US policy was detrimental to those living in poverty. The next step was to email this to a journalist who writes on related issues as proof of our case and encourage her to write an article about our story. But who?

There are paid databases to find the contact information for journalists; however, there are several free tools available that can provide good results. Twitter or the website of the media outlet often has contact information for journalists. Once I found the reporter who covered these types of issues and her contact information, I sent an email. Bingo—she was interested in writing a piece in the paper.

The article just happened to run on the front page of the New York Times on the same day as a related Congressional meeting, and contributed to the removal of the harmful policy. This is an example of the power of media relations success.

Once You Taste Success in Media Relations, You’ll Just Keep Going

Once you get started with media relations tactics, you will see so many ways in which you can use press to trigger change to move your organization’s cause or issue forward. And even in your personal life…

If you’re doubtful of that, check out former Senior Vice-President of CIGNA, turned whistle-blower, Wendell Potter’s book, Deadly Spin. He describes how insurance companies more frequently offered coverage to those consumers who took their complaints to the press.

The power of the press is undeniable and unavoidable, so if it is not already a part of your organization’s communications tool kit, get working on it now.

How do you use media relations to advance your issues or causes? Or, if you don’t, what’s getting in your way? Please share your stories here.


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Guest Blogger on June 5, 2014 in Media Relations and Press | 5 comments
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  • Zachary Ziegler

    I am fairly new to the media relations game, but one thing that worries me is sending too much out to the local media. We have so many events running constantly in my organization, and I’m under a lot of pressure from every person who works here to promote and get press for whatever event that person is in charge of. It results in a new press release almost weekly. I feel like at some point I’m going start getting ignored by the press because every couple days they see a press release from me asking for coverage.

  • Zachary, I can understand your concern, and you’re right to have it. Building those media relations means being respectful, and that means discovering each journalist’s interests and needs, and meeting them with your organization’s content. Press release blasts will diminish any hope of those relationships growing stronger!

    The pressure you get from your colleagues is common, and understandable (from their point of view). What I recommend on this front—and other marketing platforms—is that you use your marketing plan to prioritize what you market each year (or six months) according to marketing and organizational goals. Then you have concrete answer to program folks who are asking for a release – I’d love to help you in any way I can. But right now the ED/myBoss/Etc. has asked us to focus releases on x, y and z.

    Ever tried that?

  • Great advice Nancy. Considering how many events Zachary’s company has, he may want to make an arrangement either with the reporter or the publisher on how many events they would want to cover. Local media always covers local events, and they don’t always cover all of them, but if you have an agreement in place, you’re making sure the word about your events is sent to the audience.

    Just my 2 cents. Have a great weekend!

  • Sarah Weissman

    I do volunteer Marketing/Communications for a small theatre company and I just wanted to advise that people treat bloggers as legitimate press, because they ARE. If you can’t always get the major print outlets, even if you can, these folks can be good allies. And a negative review does not hurt the relationship. Strong bloggers are not second-class press.

  • With you, 100%, Sarah. And in some niches, bloggers are more effective messengers than the traditional press.

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