Friday, 24 June 2016

7 tips to improve your media relations

Image by Flickr user Justien Van Zele.CC BY 2.0


Do you regularly churn out stories in the media? Do your news get covered in the mainstream media regularly?

If your answer is “YES”, you are faring well in your profession.

Read: How do you get your stories out in the media?

If your answer is “No”, you need to strengthen your media relations. 

So, how do you build relationships with journalists?

Follow the journalists on social media
Thanks to the internet, it’s easy to follow the journalists on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Find out the journalists writing on the issues that matters to your organisation and send them friendship requests. It is likely that they will accept your request. However, if they don’t accept your request, you still have the option to follow them, comment on their articles or blogs and start conversation by replying to their tweets or retweeting their tweets with your added inputs. The conversations will help you build an online relationship helping further to build a real life relationship.

Have a chat over a cup of coffee
Meeting journalists over a cup of coffee will help you know them personally and allow you to talk about your organisation and your projects. Make sure to meet the journalists in person with whom you have built a good online relationship.

Organise a monthly get-together
Don’t just call the journalists during the press conferences, try inviting 2-3 or more journalists once a month for a chat over a cup of coffee or have a lunch meeting with them. The journalists are busy and might not respond to your invitation, so don’t get disheartened. Also, don’t expect them to cover your news or run your stories in return. However, you can make the meeting interesting by inviting somebody from your field who can talk about the work he or she is doing.

Take them on a field trip
The easiest way to get your stories in the media and build relationship with the journalists is to take them on a media trip. As you accompany them for the whole period, you not only get to know them personally but also get to know their preferences and interests. In the future, it will help you pitch stories that they would be interested to feature. However, don’t ask them to write stories the way you like. It is up to them to write the stories. Give them the liberty to pick the issues and write independently. But make sure to give them an overview of your work, guide them as per the itinerary and help them identify the beneficiaries whom they can interview.

Read: 7 media trip essentials

Make sure to invite them to important seminars and workshops
Journalists are always in the look out for interesting news, data and any sort of innovation about which they can write. Whenever you organise any seminar or workshop where something new and interesting is being discussed, make sure to invite some of the interested journalists. Also make sure to invite them to any talk show or interaction if some experts are invited to your office.

Train the journalists on technical issues
Another important thing that can help you build relationship is organising trainings to build the capacity of journalists. For example, if you organise a training to familiarise or educate journalists on climate change buzzwords, it will not only benefit the journalists but will also help you advocate for your issues. 

Award the journalists covering your issues
Though it’s a very expensive way of building relationships, it will let you advocate for your issue. And the awarded journalists and his friends will always be positive towards your organisation and your issue. However, make sure the panels choose the right candidates without any bias. Otherwise, instead of doing good, it might backfire. 

And finally, continue with the relationships...

Just like in real life, once you build relationship, make sure to give continuity to it. Whether you want the journalists to cover your news or not, don’t forget them. Always keep in touch. Let them know that you are not after them only for getting your stories covered. And it will help you build long term relationships, for sure.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Why is it so important to follow up with the characters of your success story?

Think twice before lionising a success.
Designed by Freepik

I wrote a success story. It donned the list of top 10 popular posts of IFAD social reporting blog for a considerable time.

Everybody was happy with it and I was showered with lots of appreciation.  

The women in the story were inspirational. I thought they could have a snowball effect on similar farmers. So, I didn’t leave any stone unturned to share the story in my social media networks.

Read: Women unlock chains of development in rural Nepal

And then came the most important part of the story.

For better or worse, I like following up with the characters of my story. So, I went to the Nari Ekata (Women United) cooperative to find out how they were doing.

Seeing their good work, Shanta Oli, a member of the cooperative had been invited to the Learning Routes programme organised by IFAD and Procasur.

In addition, they had been awarded with an innovation plan grant to start mushroom farming for income generation which would benefit 40 households.

I was really happy to hear about these. However, my happiness turned sour when I saw the dwindling patches of vegetables. The land which was laden with vegetables during my first visit had turned into small patches of vegetables here and there – as if they were demonstration plots!

When I enquired, I came to know that they had been continuing with the vegetable farming, however, the quantity had declined. And so has their motivation.

I breathed a sigh of relief.

At least the cultivation was being continued and whatever I had written earlier about them had not turned 100 per cent wrong. I noticed that they needed a follow-up from the organisations that had motivated them to start the vegetable farming.

This taught me few important lessons:

Check the facts well before publishing a success story.

Make sure you ask the futuristic question at the end of the interview – “What are your future plans?”

I am sure you got my point. Don’t hurry to write success stories. Write the stories only after you are convinced with what the interviewees say and what others say about them.

And don’t forget to follow up with the characters in your story after a certain interval.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

How do you get your stories out in the media?

Image by Flickr user Damian Gadal. CC BY 2.0
Believe me, most of the time, communicators are busy thinking of strategies to get their stories in the mainstream media.

Sometimes, the stories are newsworthy and the journalists come on their own to get information from the communications team. However, most of the times, it’s the other way around. I have seen communications people calling journalists frantically at the last moment to make them attend their press conferences. And it’s obviously to get their piece of news out in the media – be it print or electronic.

Difficult it seems, but if planned well, getting out the stories in the media is not an invincible task. You just need to make sure you expedite every option that leads to getting your stories there. Here are a few of them.

Use your social media network to track journalists and pitch your stories
Gone are the days of press releases. Try to find out journalists writing on the subject. Social media has made it much easier to get your message across. Send short pitches – succinct ones with interesting angles to get the initial attention. Once they show interest to your proposal, be prepared to pitch the whole story.

Believe me, it works better than sending the press releases and contacting the journalists to write about it.

If you haven’t already read this legendary piece “Die! Press Release!, Die! Die! Die!” by Tom Foremski, make sure to go through it before you consider continuing with the ages-old ritual of getting your stories in the media.

Pitch you stories to community blogs
Community blogs are one of the most visited and widely read sites, especially visited by the people interested in that particular subject matter. Suppose you are writing something on a recent biogas intervention by your organisation and want it to reach a wider audience. The first and foremost thing you need to do is search community blogs on energy, their popularity and check whether they allow guest blogging or not.

Contact the administrator and pitch your blog. Once it gets published, share it widely in your social media network. Sometimes, journalists come searching for you reading about your interesting interventions in the community blogs.

Try jotting down opinion pieces for popular daily newspapers
This requires time, detailed research on the subject and your personal opinion as well. It might get your issue in the media but not certainly your organisation’s name in the piece. The editors at the other end try to make sure it is an opinion piece and not an advertorial promoting a certain organisation.

However, as the editors receive hundreds of submissions every day, you will need to wait. Make sure you submit the write-up at least a week ahead of the date you want it to be published. But above all, the piece should be interesting and thought-provoking, written for a general audience.
Write joint articles with your colleagues

Have you ever tried writing a joint article? Two is always better in the eyes of an editor and if you can write about an issue together with your colleague who can supplement your thoughts, it’s more likely to get space in the publication. 

Write a letter to the editor
It’s an old trick but it works most of the time. Pick any recent pieces related to your theme published in the newspaper and write to the editor, putting forth your views about the author’s idea. Meanwhile you can also talk about your alternative view and about your project or work related with the published issue.

Interestingly, people read the “Letters to the editor” and it is likely that your views will attract eyeballs. 

Send press releases and follow-up
While I started by saying “do away with press releases – gone are the days of press releases”, make sure you do this every time you organise workshops and seminars where some interesting issues are discussed and it needs to be disseminated to a wider audience.

Give an interesting angle to your story including an attractive headline that catches the attention and a first paragraph describing the 5W (what, where, when, who and why) and 1H (how) of the whole story.

Email the press-release (the journalists would sometimes copy-paste your content and edit it a bit only to save their precious time), fax it (interestingly, some televisions and radios still prefer the faxed press releases) and call them whether they received your release.

Keep your social media channels abundant with stories
Last but not the least, make sure your organisation is present in all popular social media channels (presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram is a must, rest depends on your team’s ability to manage them) and you are adding fresh stories every now and then to those channels.

Maintain a regular blog roll of your work, staff experience and opinion pieces from your staff and guest contributors. This attracts journalists and bloggers to your work and it’s likely that they will contact you to get insights on your work – most probably to write unbiased pieces on similar work being done by others. And it’s for sure – there will be a mention of your work!

Monday, 23 May 2016

Leave no stone unturned to capture the tacit knowledge from your staff

Tacit knowledge is hidden and remains with an individual.
Water vector designed by Freepik

Explicit knowledge is only a tip of iceberg. More than 95% of knowledge remains within your staff member – like the bottom of the iceberg. And it’s becoming extremely difficult to retain quality staff these days. This means, all the time you are at the risk of losing a major chunk of organisational knowledge built both by the perseverance of your employee and the money and time you spent on his or her capacity building. Keep aside the learning that comes to him or her with the work delivery.

So, how do you extract the knowledge from your staff? Is it good to start nudging him or her as you get the hint that the person is on the verge of leaving the organisation?

The answer is NO. The knowledge extraction, I would better say, knowledge percolation should be planned from the day one – the joining date of the staff. However, embedding it in the job description won’t fetch you a 100% result. And there’s no full-proof method either!

However, still there are few methods that can help you tap some of the staff wisdom.

Sharing sessions
It’s simple but effective. Organise sharing sessions and multi-stakeholder sharing platforms regularly at your office and invite your staff and others to present their learning and knowledge. It will not only make them feel important but other staff and your organisation will also benefit from the sharing. Get the sessions recorded and transcribe the speech. Keep the video in the archive and make sure it is available to all staff all the time – upload it in the intranet.

Write-shops
While write-shops are organised to get reports and publications completed in one-go, they can be crucial in capturing the learning and experience of your staff. Like in the sharing session don’t forget to record the whole session. Any day, any time, the shared experiences might be handy for the organisation.

Exit interview
This is the most common practice to extract the tacit knowledge from a member of staff before he or she leaves the organisation. It’s useful and helpful but not a full-proof method to capture the knowledge, learning and experience from the defector. Also, as the employee is in the process of leaving and joining another organisation, there’s no enthusiasm in him or her to share the learning
and experiences. However, it’s a must-to-do process to get out whatever-you-can from the deserter. 

One-to-one meetings
One-to-one meetings in informal settings are another method of getting out the learning and knowledge from your staff. It works better if it is done with a cup of coffee in your hands – you can term it as coffee hour or coffee chat. So, who should be responsible for doing this? It’s obvious – either the HR person or the internal communications person in close coordination with the knowledge management team. 

Organisational intranet
Make proper use of intranet – make it mandatory to upload the field trip reports (with lessons learned), meeting minutes, work plans, draft reports, project progress and completion reports, and outcomes of brainstorming sessions. Though it seems clumsy, cumbersome and a process-oriented affair, it will in the long run, help you gather nuggets of knowledge, at least to some extent.

Make sure you have an opinion, lessons learned or takeaway section in the reports. It’s the part where the writer jots down his learnings and recommendations.

Mobile apps
What has a mobile application got to do with extracting knowledge from your staff? It sounds absurd but it’s becoming a reality. Teams are more and more depending on different mobile apps to accomplish their tasks in a timely manner and they have been using a variety of mobile applications and services to serve their purposes.

Take example of Trello, Yammer, Slack and a slew of mobile applications helping teams to converse and collaborate. Personally, I have been using Yammer and Slack and during the conversations with team members, sometimes unusually, find great shares by colleagues. I don’t mean to say that you should be scouring the conversation threads to extract the learnings, but taking note of some key spurts of knowledge sharing and opinions can prove to be a crucial piece in your jigsaw called knowledge management.

Have you got something more to add to this list? It would be great to hear your ideas on gleaning knowledge from an individual.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Are you following the 80/20 rule of social media sharing?

It happens to me all the time. I spend almost 80% of my time doing 20% of a task and in the last remaining 20% time end up rushing forward to get the rest 80% work done.

Does it happen to you also?

Well, I have discussed this with lot many friends of mine and most of them agree on this 80/20 hypothesis.

So, how do you do this in the social media?

Like in the Rule of Thirds, keep aside 20% for your original content. Make sure that only 20% of your content promotes your brand. Rest 80% should be for interesting content from your industry.

To make it clear, if you share 10 contents, only 2 should be about your organisation or your brand and the rest 8 should be some interesting stuff from the industry. 

The below pin further divides the 80% into 50% and 30% to make your job easier!


Monday, 16 May 2016

It’s not only for photographers but also for social media users – the Rule of Thirds

Rule of Thirds. Image by Flickr user John Watson. CC BY-NC 2.0

Have you been posting too much of your content in the social media? Or are you just sending out your organisational messages in your network?

Well, if you are doing either of the above two – you are in deep trouble. Doing the first will make you a Narcissus while the latter will reduce you to a sycophant.

So, what’s the best way to avoid the both?

Social media gurus say that you should adhere to the Rule of Thirds. If you know photography basics, then you must be familiar with this rule.

It’s just like putting the subject to be photographed in the one-third part of the imaginary photo-frame divided into three imaginary parts either from the top-to-bottom or from the left-to-right.

Likewise, you need to promote your content into one-thirds: one-third of your content promoting your organisation and its objectives, another one-third sharing stories from think tanks in your field and the last one-third talking about your personal experiences.

So, why share somebody else’s content? Won’t it make you a copycat? Well, the answer is NO. While sharing the good things about others, you are not only spreading the message but also giving a signal to your followers that you are up-to-date with your industry knowledge. And for this, your followers will like to keep an eye on your posts – to get the latest news from your industry.

When you talk about your experiences and your ideas, it provides personal touch to the messages – so that your followers know that there’s somebody knowledgeable doing the messaging and not a robot!

Last but not the least as you push forward your organisational messages along with the above messages, people digest it easily. They get absorbed by your followers and if you are lucky or your messages are outstanding, they get liked and shared to wider audience.

So, next time you are posting a Facebook status or a tweet, make sure you have the Rule of Thirds in your mind!

And how do you do this?

Find and follow your influencers and competitors, listen to what they are saying and share the relevant information. To know more, here’s a blog by Sam Milbrath.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Are you with the brand managers of Shiva Pale Ale?

Let me start with an interesting incident from the Shiva Purana, one of the 18 genre of Sanskrit texts in Hinduism.

When the gods and demons were churning the ocean (Samudra Manthan), Halahala (deadly poison) was produced and its venomous poison started killing both the gods and demons. To save them from the consequences, Shiva drank the poison. 

A can of  Shiva Pale Ale. From Anand Chaudhary's Facebook post.

Now let me relate this with Asheville Brewing Company’s Shiva India Pale Ale.

I came to know about this after one of my friends posted a picture of the ale can in his Facebook timeline. As soon as saw the image, I was scouring the Internet to know more about the drink.

Here is what I found.

The brewing company’s website says:
A crisp, citrusy India Pale Ale with a light color, Shiva will destroy all your preconceptions of an I.P.A. A transcendentally simple malt bill accents a generous helping of Columbus hops, lending an intense floral aroma with hints of grapefruit and a pleasant bittering quality. Your palette will be lifted to higher planes of consciousness with a bittersweet finish.
It seems the brand managers in the West have a fascination with Hindu gods. Earlier, owing to protests from Hindus, Burnside Brewing Company, a Portland-based American brewery, postponed the limited release of "Kali-Ma Beer" in 2012.

Rajan Zed, President of the Universal Society of Hinduism, had called for an apology and the removal of Shiva’s image from the ale’s packaging.

Likewise, a petition was filed in Change.org for the removal of Shiva’s image from the beer bottles and cans.

So, while knowing the consequences, why are brands created around religion?

Is it the fascination for the powerful gods as described in the holy books? Or is it all about cooking a controversy and build a brand around it?

For me, the first and foremost thing, it gives the brand a strong personality and it’s easier to explain the product benefits.

Shiva, the god of gods, connotes power and the drinker (if he or she knows about Shiva) would be elated to grasp a can of beer named Shiva. For those who don’t know anything about Shiva, it’s always some fascinating Hindu god. And obviously, it fascinates the drinker. But for Hindus, using the image of a revered god is a complete No-No.

So, did you get the message?

Be cautious and respect others’ sentiments before creating a brand around gods and goddesses.