PR Professionals: Make the Media Come to You

As an association, what does it take to establish yourself as a go-to resource for the media? A handful of public relations professionals share some tips for proactively promoting your organization as a trusted source.

When news breaks and it involves your association’s industry, are you one of the first contacts reporters call? Are you even in their rolodex of potential sources?

Something that’s really important for our clients and for organizations is this idea that you don’t just sit there and wait for the media to come to you.

Positioning your association as a go-to resource can help put your organization on the map, but it requires a proactive, targeted strategy, said Francie Israeli, senior vice president at KellenAdams, at the recent Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) National Capital Chapter “PR Issues of the Day for Nonprofits and Associations” event.

“Something that’s really important for our clients and for organizations is this idea that you don’t just sit there and wait for the media to come to you,” Israeli said. “You really have to be aggressive about owning [your strategy], and that means looking at what is your organization’s value? What is your unique value proposition? What can you offer your gatekeepers—those reporters who are following you?”

You can bet most reporters aren’t sitting around waiting for you to contact them either, especially when they’re covering breaking news and hurriedly searching for relevant experts and research. If you can proactively offer that information to them, you become a trusted resource in the future.

Staying ahead of the news cycle and pitching relevant, interesting stories can also help establish your organization as a reliable source. But keep in mind the interesting part: “You have to ask hard questions about yourself and put yourself in the reporter’s shoes. If you don’t think it’s interesting and you were covering it, then it’s not,” said Thom Metzger, director of communications at the Environmental Industry Associations.

To help stay ahead, create an editorial calendar of upcoming events, holidays, legislation, anything relevant to your industry, and don’t be afraid to modify it. “You can have an editorial calendar in place as far in advance as a year, but it’s not something you can craft and just sit there,” said Parker Wishik, senior account executive at KellenAdams. “You have to look at it periodically and say, ‘Let’s take a look at it three months out and see how we need to change it.’”

And don’t forget to prepare your spokespeople. Offer media training for those who are less comfortable in front of a camera or on the phone with a reporter. Do an interview dress rehearsal and run through potential questions with staff before they talk with media to avoid them getting flustered.

An aggressive media strategy doesn’t always resonate well with leadership, but one way to help ease any fears among seniors staff is to demonstrate how not being aggressive could be costing you, Israeli said. “If you can find concrete ways to show your leadership every single time you’re not quoted and someone else is, I think that that does go a long way.”

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t be reactive as well, “especially if you are adding fresh perspective or value,” Israeli said. “That’s part of becoming that go-to resource.”

Metzger said his team at the Environmental Industry Associations is very reactive. “The people I work with, we drop everything if a reporter calls,” he said. “We have to be first to respond. We have to get the information to the reporter first because if someone else gets there, the story gets written, and we’re not a part of it.”

Have you established your association as a go-to resource? Let us know how in the comments.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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