From major news sources like the New York Times, U.S. News & World Report and San Francisco Chronicle, to local papers across the country and beyond, the Sharing Economy is big news. With the growing success of Tool Libraries, Time Banks, Bike and Car Shares, Peer to Peer Lending, and the plethora of other sharing projects popping up all over the world this media interest has come as no surprise. By following these 10 steps, you can join the buzz and capture media attention for your sharing project or event.
1. Create a press list
Research and make a list of every daily newspaper, TV and radio station, weekly/monthly newspaper or magazine, news related website, event calendar and blog in your community. Better yet, find out if this list already exists (ask an organization that gets a lot of local press) or make one and SHARE it. While you’re at it, be sure to make a list of as many community and events calendars as you can and find out how to make submission. Think about how people in your community get their news and find out about events and make sure that you’re a part of it! Once you have finished your research you’ll be ready to build a press list. Find phone numbers and email addresses for reporters covering events, local news stories and any beats or topics related to your event. If you can’t easily find the specific contact information your looking for, try calling the “news desk” to get the answers you need. A well-organized and shared online spreadsheet will go a long way in keeping everything straight and make outreach easier for your next event. Be sure to check back periodically to make sure your list is up to date.
2. Frame your message
What do you want the media to convey to the public? List out your personal/organizational objectives for your event and then think about how the media can support them. For example, you may want to recruit new members for your existing sharing project, find collaborators to start a sharing project, inform the public that there is indeed a sharing economy flourishing right under their noses or all of the above. Once you have your list, imagine you’re the reporter and write out a short news story that conveys the ideal information that the general public would take away from your event. This will help you when it comes time to write a press release, quick elevator pitch and prepare your talking points. And once you have this example story ready to go, it can also be turned into a great blog promoting your event.
3. Write a press release
A press release is an excellent way to get media attention before, during and after your event and often determines the media stories that are written. Plan to write two press releases: release the first one when you are first announcing your event and the second on the day of your event written in the past tense. Both releases should read as if they are objective news articles and be nearly ready to print as is. Do a reporter’s job for them to make sure to convey the story you want to tell and it doesn’t take too much work on their part. Opinions should be included in the form of quotes from presenters, performers, participating organizations and event organizers. A quick search on the web and you will find a lot of advice on how to craft the perfect press release. You can find a sample Press Release for a sharing event HERE.
4. Create a media advisory
This is the “who, what, where, when” for your event that you should send to journalists a week before your event so they have enough time to schedule coverage. Start your advisory with a brief paragraph describing your event and then clearly write out the 5 W’s – who, what, when, where, why. It should be very easy for a journalist to look at this sheet and find the sharing event’s most important information (participating organizations, speakers, time, place, media contact, etc.). Set yourself apart from other news, emphasizing something remarkably unique about what your are doing, like being the first one or the largest one in your area or something really creative about it. You can find a sample Media Advisory HERE.
5. Contact reporters directly
Once you have submitted your Press Release or News Advisory by email, it is very important to follow-up with a phone call on the same day. Leave a message if necessary and then respectfully call back the next day. When you do talk to a reporter, first confirm that they received your release and that they are the correct person to be in touch with. This is your chance to briefly pitch your event as a newsworthy story and remember that reporters are often on deadline and don’t have a lot of time to talk. To make the job easier, provide journalists with quality photos and contact information for event organizers and spokespeople so that a story can be written even if the reporter is unable to attend the event themselves. This is especially important if your event is on the weekend or in the evening when fewer reporters are working.
6. Create a publicity plan
Think of strategy and how you’re going to go about getting press coverage for the event. Develop a plan to get the desired media attention for your event. You can cast a out a wide net to all media outlets in your area or target specific publications used by the population you are trying to attract to your event (which generally should be your entire community). Then create a timeline for outreach and stick to it.
Here’s a sample timeline:
4-6 weeks before event: Create an online event page, end out a press release announcing your event, submit to community calendars, post on social media and follow up with a call to confirm.
One week before event: Email media advisory and make follow-up calls to confirm it’s been received. Pitch a story to the primary news outlets that would run in advance of the event such as a profile on an interesting speaker or even just a preview of the event.
Two to three business days before: Resend the advisory to make sure that you’re still on their radar. Make another round of follow-up calls and ask if they plan to cover the event so your media liaison will know to look for them.
The day of the event: Prepare a media sign-in sheet with: name, outlet, e-mail, and phone number to keep track of the journalists who come. Email your second press release (written in the past tense) to your entire press list on the morning of your event. Be sure to have several copies on hand so you can give them directly to journalists at your event. If you have enough material, create a press kit with brochures and more.
7. Prepare your spokespeople
Before your event write up a list of talking points about your objectives, the sharing/collaborative economy, your event, and anything else you would like the media to know. Anything you say to a reporter can make it into print/radio/tv so it is best to be prepared with short soundbites that are on point. Avoid using jargon and be sure to give some introductory basics. Don’t assume your audience has a deep prior understanding. It is also important to choose the members of your team that will be interviewed by the media and will be conveying your talking points before your event and have them memorize this information by heart. Generally this will be the event organizers or key presenters who should be available to talk to the media before, during or after the event.
8. Designate a media liaison
Choose a media liaison who is prepared to identify reporters at your event and talk to them or connect them to your spokespeople. They will also be in charge of following up with reporters about if and when a story will be published. The Media Liaison should have plenty of press releases on hand and be prepared with talking points in case your spokespeople are unavailable or the reporter is short on time.
9. Make your own media
The only guarantee that someone will write about and promote your sharing event is if you or someone in your organizing team does it yourself. Take quality photos, video footages, quotes and gather stories from participants at the event. Blogs, youtube videos, social media posts, posters, fliers, and letters to the editor are all great ways to get your event out where people will see it. If you have a web address or event email address include this in your media so people can find more information.
10. Keep the story alive
If the media does cover your story, you have a golden opportunity to keep the story alive by amplifying it yourself. This can be done by sending the article or video footage to other media channels, sharing it on social media or writing letters to the editor, editorials by your presenters, blogs, followup stories and more. Once a media outlet covers your story, other media outlets like TV and radio news are more likely to approach you as well.
Bonus: How to use the media for social change
After a decade of using the media for social change, Ripple Strategies have come up with eight key questions everyone should answer to help shape successful media campaigns.