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Liveblogging WAM: Report from my PR Strategies session

jpozners Icon Posted by Jennifer L Pozner

March 27th, 2009

As I posted here yesterday, I’m presenting on the opening panel of the WAM!2009 Pre-Conference.

Our session, PR: Getting Your Work Out There, is just getting started, with a welcome session by PR expert and Boston radio veteran about the impact of media, in particular newspapers, to democracy, and the shifting reality of the difficulties of getting our messages into media content today. Now, she’s turning over the panel to Gail Leondar-Wright.

Gail Leondar Public Relations, also board member of Center for New Words
“Lifelong friendships have been formed at WAM, book contracts have been solidified at WAM…”

Gail asks audience to “popcorn” (shout out “Not even Twitter length” answers) to: “What are the reasons to do PR?”

Audience says:
public policy
boosting attendence at an event
promoting issues

Next question: What goes into a good media strategy?
Short and long term goals
Somewhat entertaining
Organizational or personali credibility
Clear message
Relationships - with your editors, if your a journalist; and your constituency
Timeliness - news hook
Strategy around social networking
Tools: internet, fluent in language
Fluency in other languages (and fluent in “journalistic english”)
People who an translate complex issues into accessible language
Passion about issues
Create and articulate inspiring vision
Information - facts, figures, stats
Tracking current events
Really intense, long-term relationships with journalists
Institutional memory around your issue - media monitoring
Oppositional research
Thick skin about rejection
AUDIENCE - who are you trying to reach? what media do they consume?

Gail: media strategy and planning should not be an afterthought or an add-on, it should be integrated with programming. Media should be part of the one year plan, five year plan, etc. - should be discussed in the retreats, etc.

Two index cards have been disseminated to participants: what brought you here to today’s PR session/track, and what’s one take-away you hope to get out of participating?

After a lively session with Gail, the panel is turned over to:

Rochelle Lefkowitz of Pro-Media Communications
She begins by saying that there’s a grim picture of media landscape today… furloughs, layoffs, etc.

The kind of power that mass media has had over the years in terms of reach and the ability to tell complex, investigative stories overtime, have been disintegrating.

Who your audience is, where your audiences are. How they get their information and where they turn.

Why do you want press for your organizing anyhow?
– We want our stories to generate funding - the funders are saying they want to embed social networking.
– Building attendance, building membership
– Achieving your organizational goal: changing laws, public policy
– What you need your audience to know - what’s the information you want them to have, and what do you want them to do?

What did you read or watch or listen to before they came here? TV? NPR? Newspapers? (in print or online?) Facebook? Twitter? What this told us is — this is how you reach your audience.

What’s a media plan?
– as well defined as you can make it. So, for college students: do you want:
– undergrads or graduates?
– day or night students?
– full tuition or scholarship?

What is your communications capacity? We’ve had groups on Oprah, and their web and phone systems shut down. What makes people most angry is if you’re on Oprah saying “We can help you,” and then they can’t reach you — so bring in more volunteeers, beef up your communications capacity — but do NOT be the group that had the busy signal.

What’s noteworthy v. what’s newsworthy. It might be noteworthy that I’m sitting here talking (because we care about helping women get their messages out), but I would be really arrogant to assume it’s newsworthy (unless a finding of this session was that it turns out that nobody in this whole room gets their news from newspapers anymore, but most people raised their hands for getting their news from public radio). Educate your organizations, clients, readers, viewers and funders as to the difference between those things.

There was some discussion about what is newsworthy and what isn’t.

I offered an anecdote about Women for Afghan Women, which I may add in later here (but can’t type it as I speak it).

Now, the conversation has been turned over to Kelly Chunn
She begins talking abouta meeting at the AP in NY, where journalism and PR types trying to figure out what the future of news will look like.

I got my start as a newswriter and producer in TV news. We had a question in the newsroom: “Who cares?” Who in your audience will care abou ta piece of news? What is the impact, and who will it impact?

Someone else mentioned entertainment, which is now a theme that has crept into the news business.

(someone in the audience, an editor of an independent news source, asks: how do we sell it to our almost always male editors?)

Kelly continues: what else is going on? The economy is huge right now. So, how can you integrate an economic spin into your message? Anything you can peg to the economy is likely going to interest news media whether it’s ethnic, indepednent, mainstream, online, whatever.

Sometimes we call it a sidebar. Let’s pick on Bernie Madoff. He’s the main story. But a sidebar might be the philanthropic orgs that will be impacted by his evildoings. Number 1: the investors. Number 2: the beneficiaries - hospitals, non-profits, etc. the #2 would be the sidebar. How do we fit into that huge story that’s going on?

When we as a consultant dealin with social change, I will advise clients that they need to look at media relations as part of an overall marketing campaign - you have other strategies, tactics that you can use. Online, etc. I look at media relations as just one piece of a toolkit to get your word out.

You need to be prepared for the coverage — they might get it wrong, or they might get it right but as in the Oprah/busy signal example, you might not be prepared for it.

Case study: of an org trying to get coverage for health issues related to obesity in African American women, focusing on prevention rather than intervention after the health issues arise. Boston was a pilot for a program for (target audience of) African American women (in Rochester, Dorchester) between ages of 18 - 35. We ID’d a target audience in terms of race, age, location, and mostly low and moderate income women. How could we achieve an educational awareness?

That’s how “Sisters Together: Move More, Eat Better” campaign began.

We followed classic marketing plan:
- started with focus groups
- what our focus group told us was that they need to move more and eat better. in telling us what their eating habits and fitness challenges were, they basically gave us our tag line.
- they told us that they needed support, couldn’t do it themselves — so we added the “sisters together” part

So, the messaging really was connected to the target audience, and our target audience GAVE us our message.

Question: was the audience already educated about the negative consequences of eating poorly, not moving much?

Answer: they knew it, but they didn’t *feel* it. So, how do we offer a path out of that? One way was through support, community; another was by making it fun.

Rochelle: a difference - you don’t blame the women.

Kelly: having the messaging led to collateral materials, and with the messaging we developed a logo and a tagline for all the material. The marketing campaign in the media - happened via partnerships. Partnered with WILD radio. Today we might partner with Touch 101.6 or 106.1. Pirate radio station. But back in the day (in the 90s) — we had a lot of authenticity — WILD was the African American radio station. It’s the station where you’d hear Tom Joyner. Boston is one of the markets where he’s featured in Morning Drive from 6 - 10am. That’s where we’d find out audience. We know that audiences of color really resonate with radio. Olivia Fox was a DJ for Morning Drive. She had heart disease and some of these issues in her family, so it really resonated. From there we saw that as a conduit to reach our community, our audience. We featured Olivia Fox in a video, which helped us to reach funders. We had nutrition experts on her radio show - the cooking editor from Essence Magazine, which targets African American women. We had those kinds of folks come in and not only be on the radio, but was part of a wellness fair, cooking demonstrations at public events, in community health centers, etc.

Then we weaved the Sisters Together campaign into the stories that came out in radio but print, in the Globe. Also cable — your local cable access stations are important.

Because we had public policy issues — Wall Street Journal, CNN, etc. did stories related to our campaign.

We wrote stories for community and ethnic newspapers. Community and ethnic media: often short staffed, hungry for freelancers, stringers, people who have writing skills - if you’re working on media relations, they have a need. They have space to fill. They’re looking for writers. If you have something you can peg to community or ethnic media. You can’t get paid for it, but you can get a “win” through placement for your campaign.

At this point, I had the floor — and I spoke about how individual activists and organizations can USE MEDIA (I have an acronym fact-sheet I sped through, filled with tips and strategies). I may add that information in here alter; click back later if you want to hear my thoughts on messaging, media outreach, etc.

Denise Moorhead — how can you do PR work on the cheap?

traditional media
transitional media
new media/social networking

Who else is doing this work, what are their politics - and what are their budgets?

Traditional media still has some value. Don’t throw it away. When you think about this, when you’re doing PR, traditional media is important if you’re going after politicians (they read the newspapers, so do their staffs). Local politician sent my parents a clip! Older folks with money, who can be your donors, read it. Foundations pay attention to old media.

Often times the new media
We’d gotten a story in the Globe about non-profits. It got all the way to South Africa.

Don’t always start at the top of the food chain. You can look at alternative news, free local newspapers, community papers, independent news, etc.

I was in the Boston area and we got a huge article in the Real Paper (now called The Phoenix) and then suddenly everyone wanted to talk to us about this program.

You can use local/community news can be leveraged to move up the media food chain. Media love media - so if you start at the lower end of the media chain, then later you can end up using that to get coverage in larger outlets.

Op-eds are a great way to get your message out. Choose person who is most likely to get their op-ed placed, and you can write it for them. Op-eds and commentaries - you may not be able to get leverage to get your op-ed or commentary on radio, etc., you can work with allied organizations and experts to get it out there.

Letters to the editor can be useful. Time magazine published our org’s letter to the editor — it was useful for us. Time magazine said we had gravitas.

Another time, we started a group of local members. Here was our take on the issue, here was some sample language. Then encouraged them to send letters to the editor. Those letters weren’t coming from me, the “PR flack,” it was coming from the community.

A domestic violence advocate mentioned that their letter to the editor sparked SO many sexist comments that they then ended up being given a half page later to discuss their issues (because the “jerk” comments made it really clear that there was a need for awareness).

PSA - public service announcements can still be useful. Radio, newspapers, magazines.

Ticket giveaway for an event.

Have a web press center. Every time you have a press release, put it in the press center of your website. It’s not so hard to keep up if you add in action alerts, press releases, etc. — also, bios of your experts bullet pointed for media, media clips, backgrounders on traditional programs.

Transitional: online TV and radio; then you’ve got a piece you can link to and upload to your own website.

One thing we do: we send our pieces to Ask.com — a lot of people use those.

New media: use it before you pitch it. Read blogs before you pitch them. Create your own blog if you want. If you get enough folks coming to it, the press may start to pay attention to you.

Blogs are great because they can actually draw media to you (after bloggers pick it up).

Other things you can do that won’t get you media, per se, but will get your message out:
but also: GoodTogether, a list of non-profits and etc. are doing
you can set up a Ning sight
Google ads - any non-profit can apply to have six months of ads about your non-profit, and the things that you do to try to drive traffic.

You can do a survey about legislators’ policies on the issues you care about, etc.

Partners for inexpensive or freebie things:
GreenMedia Tool Shed, a non-profit, for very small money you can join if you deal w/ any environmental issues, and they give you access to Vocus, an expensive media tracking, media directory, who anyone in media is and their contact info - can read some of the stories, etc.

Progressive Communicators’ Network - toolkit

ProfNet at PR Newswire — $500 a year for non-profit — for reporters queries

We Are the Media

I then added:
HARO - Help A Reporter Out, a free version of the type of queries on ProfNet

Kelly added:
NABJ, UNITY, journalism of color associations

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