A Guide to Media Outreach and Raising Awareness
With almost two million associations vying for attention, holding an event is generally not newsworthy unless something goes horribly wrong. So, how can you earn press coverage to raise community awareness about your association? To get your story out there, you must first pitch it (yes, just as you would in baseball). And as is also true in baseball, there is a process – from wind up to release – that can lead you to success. Read below to learn about this process and develop an action plan to raise awareness for your association through various media outreach ideas.
- Plan a Newsworthy Event: The Association for Astrological Networking has held their International Astrology Day for the past 27 years. It is held each year on the Vernal Equinox and it is a holiday created by the association. You may be wondering right now, “When exactly is the Vernal Equinox?” – and you would not be alone. That is what makes this a great example of an event to pitch to the media, as their viewers or readers are equally “in the dark” about the astrological configurations in the night sky. What is something unique that your association can promote to earn interest and awareness?
- Create a Press Release: Write a simple professional press release. Make sure all of the details are covered –date, time, place, etc. Make sure you have a media list to send the release to, and then distribute it to those contacts. Don’t forget your contact information for them to find you with follow up questions.
- Call-Send-Call: Media professionals are busy. They have more emails and phone calls than they can handle, so you need to find a way to stand out. For example, you could call the newsroom or reporter first and offer a quick overview of what is going on. Then ask where you can send the press release. That way they know to watch for it and you can ensure it goes to the correct person. Finally, follow up with a phone call a few days later to see if they have any other questions.
- Presentation is Everything: Every station has an advertising department that would love to sell you airtime or a printed ad. They aren’t interested in giving you free advertising, so you have to pitch the local angle, the community service aspect, the emotional pull, or the “you’re helping those in our community by letting them know about this” pitch.
- Grow Your Connections: Reporters are people. Once you meet them, build a relationship. If you see they wrote a great article or ran an interesting story, shoot them an email and let them know. Again, have a group of media contacts that you can contact when you have something that is truly worthy of their attention. If you have a relationship and the reporter trusts you, it is more likely they will run your story.
- Follow up: If you get results, phone calls, letters, or any type of response from the viewing public, let the reporter know. They want to know that their work has made a difference.
- Go Big or Go Home: It is great for your association to get local coverage, but if you have something of national interest, pitch it that way. This may be a long shot, but it is still worth an email inquiry. They are looking for stories to cover, so why not give it a try? Good Morning America, Kelly Clarkson’s talk show, CBS Sunday Morning – look on the website and see if they have a place to submit a story idea. In most cases, it is unlikely you’ll get much national interest, but why not try?
Lastly, know that even more important work awaits once the story has run. After the story is out, capture a copy of it. Put it on your social media pages. Try to house the original story on your own server and place it on your website – but be careful of just putting a link on your website. If the station ever takes the story down, you have nothing to show. Play it at events, frame the newspaper story and hang it in your office, etc. Keep the story alive for as long as you can.
It is also important to recognize that if you succeed in finding a media source to run your story, their reach and SEO may surpass your outreach capabilities. This is one of the central benefits of being able to successfully pitch your story. You should also realize that this kind of coverage may benefit your association for years. Since media businesses often have a stronger online presence, some people may find your organization during a google search well after the story has run. So, stay aware and stay active.