Lesson: Engagement

Making Headlines

Understand why media relations is so important for your organization and how to start building relationships with media that are relevant to you and your audiences.

Media coverage is a great way to gain exposure, get your message out, and spark engagement with your cause.

What can you do to secure media interest in your organization? Go through the list below and review the steps we recommend to gain media interest.

  • 1. Set your goals
  • 2. Gather your media assets
  • 3. Make a list of your top targets
  • 4. Introduce yourself and your organization
  • 5. Share useful content

Start by identifying what you want to gain as a result of your media relations efforts, and how this supports your organization’s broader communications objectives. For example, if you’re trying to strengthen your organization’s reputation as the most trusted provider of a particular service within the community, you might set a goal of securing coverage in all three community publications and placing one op-ed this quarter. If your goal is to elevate the profile of your executive director, your goal could be to increase the number of articles in which she is quoted by 25%.

Anticipate journalists’ needs by gathering all of the assets they may need about your organization or cause. This includes a media kit that you can email to reporters quickly that contains background information on your organization, leaders, and your cause.

Create a list of your top media targets including reporters who have already covered your organization, competitive organizations, partners, or issue areas. Take the time to get to know these reporters and their outlets—watch their segments, read their news articles, follow them on social media, and review their past coverage. By having a strong understanding of your target media, you’ll be able to better customize your pitch.

Create a strong introductory media pitch tailored to each target reporter that concisely conveys why they should care about your organization and cause. You’ll want to provide enough of the who, what, when, where, and how to pique their interest.

Continuously provide your media targets with timely, relevant information that will aid them in their reporting. Even when you don’t have breaking news, think of ways to stay in front of journalists and remind them of your resources. This might also mean referring a reporter to another expert or resource if they have a question that isn’t a perfect fit for your own organization. Knowing the reporters’ respective coverage and beats will help you think of creative ways to keep in touch with them and establish yourself as a reliable, helpful resource.

What can you do to secure media interest in your organization? Go through the list below and review the steps we recommend to gain media interest.

  • 1. Set your goals

    Start by identifying what you want to gain as a result of your media relations efforts, and how this supports your organization’s broader communications objectives. For example, if you’re trying to strengthen your organization’s reputation as the most trusted provider of a particular service within the community, you might set a goal of securing coverage in all three community publications and placing one op-ed this quarter. If your goal is to elevate the profile of your executive director, your goal could be to increase the number of articles in which she is quoted by 25%.

  • 2. Gather your media assets

    Anticipate journalists’ needs by gathering all of the assets they may need about your organization or cause. This includes a media kit that you can email to reporters quickly that contains background information on your organization, leaders, and your cause.

  • 3. Make a list of your top targets

    Create a list of your top media targets including reporters who have already covered your organization, competitive organizations, partners, or issue areas. Take the time to get to know these reporters and their outlets—watch their segments, read their news articles, follow them on social media, and review their past coverage. By having a strong understanding of your target media, you’ll be able to better customize your pitch.

  • 4. Introduce yourself and your organization

    Create a strong introductory media pitch tailored to each target reporter that concisely conveys why they should care about your organization and cause. You’ll want to provide enough of the who, what, when, where, and how to pique their interest.

  • 5. Share useful content

    Continuously provide your media targets with timely, relevant information that will aid them in their reporting. Even when you don’t have breaking news, think of ways to stay in front of journalists and remind them of your resources. This might also mean referring a reporter to another expert or resource if they have a question that isn’t a perfect fit for your own organization. Knowing the reporters’ respective coverage and beats will help you think of creative ways to keep in touch with them and establish yourself as a reliable, helpful resource.

Journalists can be powerful messengers to help you reach your target audiences – current and new.
In your opinion, what do you think is the most effective way to reach your target media?

In your opinion, what do you think is the most effective way to reach your target media?
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Do old school approaches still work in this era of new media?

The media industry is changing so rapidly these days, it’s hard to tell which “best practices” remain relevant and which have gone out of circulation. So how do you separate fact from fiction when it comes to securing media coverage?

Click on the cards below to uncover the truth about five common myths of media relations.

Myth #1

Myth #1: A media advisory and press release are the same thing.

A media advisory calls attention to upcoming events, news conferences, or briefings, and is used to encourage reporters to attend your event. Whereas a media advisory focuses on the basic information, a press release should present a story with a specific angle or strong narrative. A press release offers up the story you want to see written.

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Myth #2

Myth #2: Every announcement needs a press release.

When you have news to share, think about who is impacted and who will care. If it’s supporter and volunteers, a special story in your next newsletter could be just the thing. Even when your primary objective is to reach audiences through media coverage, oftentimes a well-crafted pitch email is all you need to attract a reporter.

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Myth #3

Myth #3: Press releases are dead.

Press releases can serve as a historical record for your organization, a valuable supplement to a pitch email you send to a reporter, and a tool for shaping a clear, compelling story. As with any tactic, make sure the activity aligns with your broader communications objectives and the audiences you’re trying to engage.

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Myth #4

Myth #4: Always target the biggest national outlets.

It can be more effective to place a story in a smaller, niche publication or blog if it attracts the types of readers you’re trying to reach. Placement in a bigger paper may not mean much if your target audience doesn’t read it.

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Myth #5

Myth #5: Media placements are for awareness only.

Sure, media coverage can expand the number of people who know about your cause, but it can also influence attitudes and spark action. Even if just your organization’s name appears in a story, make sure your website is ready for new visitors with clear information and an easy “next step” to get them engaged.

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ACTIVITY

Check Your Understanding

What is an effective way to build a relationship with a journalist?
Which media pitch strategy is most likely to be effective?
What is a best practice in strengthening your organization’s media relations?
Why would you want to embargo a news story?