Issue 13 - Jan-Feb 2011
March is almost here and for many people that means college basketball and the start of March Madness. While most organizations probably don't have to worry about wooing a sportswriter onto a different topic, that's no reason to ignore the rest of the media. If you are looking to build your relationships with reporters, need some creative inspiration to attract media attention to your issue, trying to develop a good story hook or craft a compelling op-ed piece, keep reading. We have media tips to share and resources for increasing the impact of all your communications activities this spring.The Spitfire Team
Choose your target. You don't need to place your op-ed in the New York Times to get noticed. Identify your target audience and think about what publications they find influential. Often a local paper or trade publication will get their attention and offers a much higher likelihood of placement. Remember that most of an op-ed's value comes from sending it directly to your audience after it's placed, rather than hoping they see it in the paper.
Follow the rules. All newspapers have guidelines, including specific instructions for submitting the piece and word count limits. Check the word limit before writing so you can save time, tailor your message effectively and ensure your piece is eligible for consideration. Op-ed guidelines are usually posted on a newspaper's website. If the rules are not clear, contact the op-ed editor directly. Most papers require submitting an op-ed to them exclusively-meaning you can only try to place your op-ed in one outlet at a time. Make sure you know whether the first paper has accepted or rejected your op-ed before moving on to another.
The write stuff. New York Times op-ed editor David Shipley looks for "timeliness, ingenuity, strength of argument, freshness of opinion, clear writing and newsworthiness." Keep these points in mind.
Star power. Sometimes it helps to secure someone influential to sign or co-sign an op-ed. Legislators, heads of relevant organizations and other opinion leaders on your issue are examples of potential signers. But an "average person" can be effective as well - such as an op-ed signed by a teacher who sees the impact nutrition plays on a student's ability to succeed.
Submit and follow-up. Once you submit an op-ed, call the op-ed editor the next day to ensure he or she has seen the piece and emphasize why it is newsworthy. Wait a few days for a decision but don't wait more than a week if your op-ed is tied to a current issue so you have the opportunity to move on to the next publication if you are rejected.
If your piece is declined, ask for feedback. Then make adjustments to increase its newsworthiness for the next paper. If it's not accepted for the print publication, inquire if there is an opportunity to place it in a blog or online only portion of the paper.
Make the most of it. Once your op-ed gets placed, be sure to link to it from your organization's website, post it on your social network pages and use it in future meetings with decision-makers to emphasize and support your main points. Look for opportunities to proactively promote your placement, such as sending to your e-mail list or to targeted policymakers, funders or other groups with a note about why it's relevant to their work.
Reach Out and Influence Someone
Tips to Spread Your Message
Get Creative and Get Attention
While a press release is still one of the best ways to alert the media, sometimes a creative approach is what your organization needs to get the media coverage it wants.
Billionaires for Budget Cuts, a satire campaign created by Connecticut Working Families, built support and applied public pressure on legislators through a series of satirical political theater events, like offering champagne toasts to politicians refusing to consider raising taxes on the rich as a way to close the budget deficit. Their over the top flair grabbed the attention of many local media outlets.
Meaningful and eye-catching visuals can help reporters understand the whole of your campaign. The World Wildlife Fund brought attention to endangered pandas when it placed 1,600 hand-painted panda figurines - the number of pandas reportedly living in the wild - on the grounds of Paris Hotel de Ville. The visual was impactful and out of the box, leading to coverage in several outlets including The Telegraph and New Statesman.
Tired of jumping through hoops, the Prometheus Radio Project took their request to pass legislation that would make low-power FM stations available nationwide straight to the top and invited supporters to join a hula hooping contest staged in front of the National Association of Broadcasters in downtown Washington, DC. The hula hoopers called upon NAB to 'stop making low-power FM jump through hoops.' The creative approach garnered a variety of attention including a lead story in The Huffington Post.
With the advent of e-mail, it's easier than ever to get your news into a reporter's inbox. However, reporters are bombarded by hundreds of e-mails every day. How do you break through the clutter?
You get creative.
Low Cost Strategies for Creating Impact
Relationships Matter: Tips for Befriending the Media
by Benjamin Gass - Account Coordinator
If you want earned media coverage of your issue, organization or project, you have to start by building relationships. Get to know reporters and editors relevant to your issue at key national and local newspapers and radio programs. By giving them your time and attention, you will position yourself in the long term as the go-to person for your issue.
Start by creating a "media opportunities calendar" that will identify quarterly opportunities for you to send a press release, new statistics or research, or other communications to reporters on your media list. The calendar should include relevant annual events or holidays that you can use as news hooks.
Next, send an introductory e-mail to target reporters noting their recent work on your issue, introducing your work, and asking to set a time for a brief call to discuss upcoming stories that would be of interest to them.
Ultimately, the strength of these relationships will depend on your ability to be seen as:
Don't wait until next Valentine's Day to redouble your efforts to cultivate media relationships. You can send chocolates to reporters, but sending an e-mail that thanks them for a recent article on your issue is a much smarter investment in your long-term relationship.
Ideas to Make You Think
Make the Most of Unexpected News
by Maura Zehr - Senior Account Executive
There are always questions to consider when preparing to conduct media outreach. Does the story have a fresh or unique angle -- or compelling human interest? What about a well-known or influential spokesperson? And perhaps the most important question: Why now? A story should always have a timely news hook to interest the reporter. Sometimes, unexpected news hooks can give your issue the boost it needs, but quick thinking is a must.
Recently, Smart Growth America released a national report highlighting how states created jobs using flexible transportation funds from the stimulus bill. SGA accompanied the national report with state-specific reports highlighting smart transportation projects that will create jobs and stimulate the states' economies as well as a national poll with oversampling in key states.
SGA initially planned to release the report in late February to coincide with the two-year anniversary of the passage of the stimulus bill. But when President Obama delivered the State of the Union address, he specifically called to rebuild America by putting "more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges." This investment in America's infrastructure aligned perfectly with SGA's overall messaging, which allowed the organization to harness the President's influence and use him as a de-facto messenger. To make outreach most effective, SGA took two immediate steps.
Opportunities of Note
Get Excited! Webinar Series Returns
Spring offers lots of reasons to get excited: longer days, warmer temperatures, cherry blossoms. Need we say more? Yes! Just in time to shrug off the winter doldrums, Spitfire kicks off its 2011 webinar series on March 15 with the Smart Chart™ Communications Planning Tool - an easy-to-use, step-by-step approach to develop effective communications programs. During this fun, interactive webinar, we'll lead you through the choices that must be made to put a successful communications plan in place. The Smart Chart can help ensure that strategy, not tactics, drives your communications and builds the strong foundation your organization needs to achieve its goals.
Led by expert trainers that work all over the world, Spitfire's 2011 webinar series includes 12 webinars focused on a variety of topics aimed at building your organization's capacity to use communications to create an impact. These sessions offer a convenient and affordable way to train your staff on smart, strategic communications planning. Click here to register for an upcoming session.
|Spitfire Strategies is dedicated to helping nonprofits and foundations create and implement high impact communications programs to achieve their social change goals. To learn more, visit www.SpitfireStrategies.com.|
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