Eight Tools for Building Relationships with Traditional Media

Silhouette of old-fashioned filming.

By mzacha, morguefile, http://mrg.bz/rUAKKr

Last week, I summed up why it’s better to do year ‘round work with traditional media than to focus on an annual Your Cause Month campaign. I posted a Storify that included thoughts on how to integrate traditional and social media. And on Friday, I threw in a look at editorial calendars.

I also promised that this week I’d offer some ideas of what you can do when it’s not Your Cause Month to get attention from traditional media. So here they are, in no particular order:

1. Letters to the editorScan newspaper headlines. When an article is published in print media pertaining to your mandate, write 300 words (or less) to the editor. Be quick—the window of opportunity will close fast. Be positive—solutions get more attention than complaints. And be interesting—contribute something thoughtful and useful to the discussion.

Example: The Death of Volunteerism Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

2. Op/edsWhen an event is reported on which you are able to express an official opinion, target print media. This can be a good chance to do some public education on your subject matter. Cite statistics or research to support your perspective. And, again, respond quickly.

Example: Some Things about Adoption Worth Keeping in Mind

3. Media releases—Use these when your organization is involved in something that warrants third-party coverage. For example:

  • A research group you hired has just released results of a study that will be useful to policy-makers.
  • You are launching an innovative initiative with the hope of impacting lives in concrete ways.
  • A government announcement will affect your constituents in ways that warrant explanation.

Be sure to think about your story from the perspective of reporters working in the medium you are targeting. For television, propose something that can be filmed. For print media, let them know if you have photos. For radio, line up people who can be interviewed on air and make sure you can reach them and they can respond on fairly short notice.

Example: Nanaimo Couple Enjoy Their Role as ‘Forever Family’ for Youngsters

4. Media advisories—Use these to pull media out to an event, such as an awards banquet, gathering for families served, or opening night. As with media releases, target your advisories to the right media.

5. Media kits—Include a range of materials, from recent media releases to clips of articles published, candid photos to fact sheets about your organization, current issues, and the people you serve. Update stats at least annually. Post in the media area on your website, and make sure journalists can get to it in one obvious click from your home page.

You may be targeting traditional media, but keep your kit digital—paper, ink, and postage can take a bite out of your budget and will likely end up in a stack, gathering dust. There are pros and cons to having a media kit designed and posting as a PDF or simply posting as part of the website. A PDF can help with branding and is nice to download, save, and print; posting to your website is less expensive and requires fewer clicks to access from your home page.

Example: Coastal Sound International Choral Festival media kit, 2007

E-Newsletters—If your organization publishes an e-newsletter that features a well-developed story idea (i.e., not a notice about upcoming board elections), email a copy to print and broadcast media with a concise subject line, provocative lede, and key facts visible in the email preview window. “Below the fold,” include ideas for how to take the story further and who to contact for interviews. If your organization still publishes in print, send the same email note with a link to the PDF.

E-blasts—Round up current news on your topic. Set up some Google alerts and compile into a weekly or monthly email. Write a short, descriptive subject line, insert your logo at the top and bottom of the email, and include links to the articles or research you’re citing.

PSAs—In Canada, local radio and TV stations are obligated to provide community air time; sending public services announcements helps them meet that mandate while letting listeners or viewers know about a fun or interesting event they can attend or something they can do to help out.

This is just a handful of the ways you can reach out to traditional media year ‘round. None need take more than a few hours a month and will help lay the groundwork so that, when Your Cause Month comes around, journalists know you and trust that you can deliver a good story.

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