A Message from our President
This past month has been filled with events worthy of tremendous media coverage. This got us to thinking about how important good media relations can be, even for the nonprofit sector.
We have decided that every other month for the rest of the year, we are going to highlight suggestions from experts on how to improve your interaction with the media. Our articles will walk you through a variety of issues, beginning with media relations, followed by creative outreach efforts and the 8 "F's" of media coverage, and finishing up with the old reliable email. We hope you find this series enlightening.
We are pleased to introduce Rosemary Martin, the new Executive Director of Associated Artists of Winston-Salem, and Tony Kimbrell, the new Vice President of Development for Make-A-Wish Foundation® of Georgia and Alabama. Congratulations to both of you - we know you will do well.
Thank you for being part of our network - enjoy the rest of your month!
President, Capability Company
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East Coast Migrant Head Start Project
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Article of the Month
Word count: 833
Approximate Reading Time: 5 Minutes
Every organization wants to be noticed by the media…especially for the good work we do. We accomplish amazing tasks with limited resources every day, and yet, we often find the only times we seem to get attention are when something has gone wrong. We feel like we are at the mercy of the media, having to respond to their whims and not able to influence our public image or share our message when and how we want.
However, the situation does not have to remain gloomy. We CAN be seen and heard, becoming partners with media outlets, not just observers of what is written and said about us. We must be proactive and thoughtful in our approach; with the right attitude and ongoing planning, we can be successful.
In this article, Mike Zlotnicki provides us with an overview of how to attend to media relations, and delves into more detail about two of the most common ways we connect with the media, press releases and interviews.
Improving Media Relations
“Be careful what you wish for.” We’ve all heard that old adage, and it applies to media coverage as well. Even the best-intentioned press release or event can go sideways, and the very “watch dog” tenet of serious journalism is something to consider when dealing with the press, especially newspapers and business publications..
In the text “Effective Public Relations,” Ronald E. Rhody of the Bank of America explains what he tells clients about dealing with the media:
- No contest was ever won from the sidelines. Be players, not spectators.
- The public has a right to balanced and accurate information about your operations.
The public’s right to know is as much your responsibility as it is the responsibility of government or the media.
- Fear of controversy or criticism is a luxury no institution in today’s society can afford. Silence never swayed any masses and timidity never won any ball games.
- Take the initiative in all circumstances, whether the news is good or bad.
Effective Press Releases and Interviews
Don’t rely on press releases to be printed or aired. Many experienced journalists will view any press release with skepticism. Journalists are expected produce their own stories. Smaller papers and stations may print and air what you send if it’s timely, interesting and balanced.
When writing a release or talking to a reporter, remember the following:
- Shoot Squarely – Honesty is the best policy. Journalists can spot phony a mile away. Also, don’t favor one news outlet at the expense of another.
- Give Service – The quickest, surest way to gain the cooperation of the media is to provide them with interesting, timely story ideas and pictures they want and in a form in which they can readily use. Don’t send low-resolution jpegs that can’t be used in print, and don’t send text in a format they can’t open. Always shoot photos in high resolution files for potential use in print publications. Online photos are lower resolution, and often the files size is too small to use in print.
- Don’t Beg or Carp – If the material is not sufficiently newsworthy to earn space or air time, it is not likely to attract interest. Also, don’t complain about the treatment of a story if it is used. Don’t try to be “the editor.”
- Don’t ask for Kills – You have no right to ask a newspaper, magazine or station to suppress or kill a story. The way to keep unfavorable stories out of the press is to keep situations that produce such stories from taking place. However, if a something is aired or published that is inaccurate or misleading, you should ask for a correction, especially online, where it lives forever.
- Don’t Flood the Media – Think quality over quantity.
- Keep Lists Up to Date – The transient nature and mortality of personnel and of media require that distribution lists be continuously updated.
Remember, how you share your message can be as important as what you say –
From the same book, PR guru Chester Berger recommends:
- Talk from the viewpoint of the public’s interest, not the organizations.
- Speak in personal terms whenever possible.
- If you do not want a statement quoted, do not make it.
- State the most important fact at the beginning.
- Do not argue with a reporter or lose your cool.
- If a question contains offensive language or simply words you do not like, do not repeat them even to deny them.
- If a reporter asks a direct question, give an equally direct answer. One of the greatest things you can say to a reporter during an interview is “I don’t know, but I’ll find out for you.” This helps the writer and validates you as a source when you deliver. Do not exaggerate facts and always tell the truth, even if it hurts. It will “hurt” a lot more if a good reporter starts digging because you gave him or her reason.
Bottom Line: With these reminders about perspective and quick tips on making the media’s job easier, your organization will have a better chance of getting your story to the public, when and how you want. Our next media article will focus on more creative ways to ensure your message is heard.
Mike Zlotnicki is a freelance writer based in Garner, N.C. His resume includes newspaper and magazine editing as well as advertising and marketing experience. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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In This Issue
Article of the Month
The Bottom Line
A Client's Perspective
"This job has exceeded my expectations and I love it!!!”
Nancy J. Hiatt
Hired Executive Director
for Home of the Sparrow.
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