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.
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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!