Media Relations Planning–11 Steps to Success

Nonprofit organizations, particularly those on the smaller side, need every advantage they can get. And good media relations planning can a be a significant advantage for your organization.

But relax and breathe a sigh of relief.

Once you buckle down to this media planning process, it’s extremely doable. Depending on the time you can dedicate, the process can be executed in a variety of ways.

For example:

  • If time is extremely tight, allocate two hours weekly to this process. It will take longer but it will get done.
  • If you have a bit more time, spend six hours a week on this process. You’ll be done in two weeks max, assuming you have a colleague or freelancer doing the research for you.

The staff or consultant primarily responsible for media relations should own this process and do the initial strategic thinking. That person, or another team member, can be assigned to research (e.g. to develop your press list).

Here’s How to Start

  • Begin by reviewing this list.
  • Next, dive into the low-hanging fruit (#1-5 below). You should be able to complete these tasks without additional research. Run by colleagues to ensure you are on target.
  • Assign an intern or assistant (you could even hire a virtual assistant for this) for tasks #6 and #7 to start researching key media to follow, and to draft a top ten press list.
  • Take these findings, finalize the press list, and address the balance of the planning tasks (#8-11).
  • Review the draft plan with key colleagues, and revise as needed.

11 Steps to Media Planning Success

1.  Estimate what you can invest in building your media relations program; time and budget.

2.  Set goals.

What are your three main program goals? How can media relations be used to achieve these goals:

  • Build awareness.
  • Shift opinion.
  • Motivate action.

3.  Define realistic objectives, both output and outcome.

  • What do you envision your media work will generate?
  • These objectives serve as the measures you’ll track to evaluate your success.

4.  Identify three or less primary target audiences.

  • Define each group’s connection to each issue or story, what you want them to do, what is important to them, and what they read, watch and listen to.
  • Audience definition shapes your key messages and press list.

5.  Tell your story. Pinpoint the key messages you’re trying to communicate.

  • Try to distill your message into a 25-word (maximum) statement that will get the point across.  Add supporting messages of one to two sentences each, max.
  • Make sure these messages are integrated into all of your communications.
  • Mixed messages are confusing. Consistency ensures that your points are heard and recognized and likely to be repeated.

6.  Build your media database/press list but include no more than 10 to 15 journalists. Identity key media (and that means bloggers and other online writers as well as the traditional media) covering your issues, themes, geographies via these strategies:

  • Capture information on reporters who contact or cover your organization (log conversations and emails with media folks so you have this information).
  • Find related stories via Google news, noting sources and journalist’s names.
  • Exchange media contact lists with your colleague organizations.

7.  Read, watch and listen to these media over a month or so to pinpoint your top-ten press list.

8.  Identify the best way to get journalists to cover your story.

  • Through news releases? Personal visits to reporters? On-air interviews? Each approach has its own advantages and disadvantages.

9.  Craft the timetable.

  • Consider external events, editorial calendars and date-based news hooks.
  • Organize key media outreach efforts chronologically and prioritize, being realistic about what you can accomplish.

10.  Define the work plan, and roles and responsibilities.

  • Remember, everyone on your staff and your external supporters are communicators. Give them what they need to spread the word directly as well as via media contacts.

11.  Track, measure and fine-tune (ongoing, forever).

  • Log all contacts with the media.
  • Make the log easily accessible to all. You never know who might have to field an incoming media call.

Let me know how this process works for you! I’ve used it with client organizations time and time again with strong results.

And please leave a comment below if you have any steps to add to this process, or guidance on those listed here.