PR Pros with Hearts? No Way!
PR professionals have gotten a bad rap, stereotyped as cutthroat, competitive communicators who are constantly stressing out, skating around the truth and drinking excessive amounts of coffee (well, we do drink a lot of coffee). But despite the generalization, PR pros can actually do good. Did I say that loud enough? We can do good.
Recently, I was tasked with gaining media exposure for a pro bono account, Preston’s March for Energy, and its annual fundraiser. The organization was launched by the Buenaga family of Wilmington, Delaware, whose son, Preston, has disabilities that keep him from being able to ride a standard bicycle. A few years ago, a family friend started a Facebook campaign to raise money and donated a custom bike to Preston. After seeing the happiness it brought him, the Buenagas decided to pay it forward and raise money to have bikes made for other children. Each year they host their flagship event, Corks and Cookies, a cookie competition that raises awareness and funds for their mission. The highlight of this event, though, is that attendees have the privilege of witnessing a child with disabilities being presented with an adaptive bike specifically designed for him/her—and then watching as the child rides it for the first time. It is an unforgettable moment to see the joy on a child’s face, and the charity’s underlying goal becomes clear.
Under a tight deadline, using traditional media relations contacts, I secured coverage from the number-one news station in the region, 6abc. 6abc invited both a family receiving a bike and the Buenaga family into the station for a formal interview with TV personality, Alicia Vitarelli. Both children were greeted immediately with 6abc swag bags, each filled with a T-shirt, a mug and an autographed photo of Cecily Tynan (Preston’s on-air “girlfriend”). Following the interview, the 6abc team went above and beyond to give both families a tour of the newsroom, allowing the children to interact freely on the news desk and play with the weather green screen. A very memorable morning for all! The interview aired that day during the 4 p.m. hour. The station also sent cameras to the Corks and Cookies event to capture the bike being presented. This aired on PHL17 at 10 p.m. and Action News at 11 p.m.
You, too, can bust PR stereotypes and do good! You might find these tips useful: Before ramping up the media relations process, know what you hope to get out of engaging the media—and what you want them to say about you/your client. Do you want to build awareness for an organization or program? Drive people to participate in an event? Encourage a healthy behavior? Secure funding? You’ll be much more likely to succeed if you have the end in mind from the very start. Your anticipated media relations results should flow naturally from your mission, goals and communications objectives:
- Crafting the story: It’s more than just sending out a press release. It’s about creating the right narrative and being able to effectively share that story across a variety of channels.
- What’s newsworthy? There are five components that make a story newsworthy: timing, significance, proximity, prominence and human interest. With its quick turnaround and appeal to emotion, the Preston’s March for Energy story had both timing and human interest.
- Understanding and targeting media: Direct your PR efforts at specific publications and programs. For this pitch, we focused on local and regional outlets specific to the Wilmington and Philadelphia areas.
- The pitch: Adjust the tone and structure of your pitch depending on the editor or reporter you’re targeting. Most important, tailor your pitch to the person and audience you’re trying to reach. If you get the urge to send a mass pitch, don’t—take the time to make it personal!
- Follow through: Once you have secured interest from a media outlet, your job is only beginning. As a public relations professionals, you have to be available 24/7. From emails and phone calls to scheduling on-air interviews and even attending events, you should be at the reporter’s or your client’s disposal until the the event has wrapped. Being responsive and prompt heightens the odds of the reporter wanting to work with you again—a win/win!
By following this process, I was able to meet the client’s (and AB&C’s) goal—to increase ticket sales and event awareness—and also to share the Preston’s March for Energy story. With more than 600 Facebook “likes” and 40 “shares,” 30 “retweets” and numerous tweets (including 6abc’s own Alicia Vitarelli), and 167,471-plus views, I think my job is complete.
To view the clip from 6abc, please click here.