Sometimes you have to blow your own trumpet. With a modicum of humility, of course. Your team have done a great job, they have developed a fantastic artistic program, you have a marketing plan and its time to communicate with your family of supporters. Its time to begin working with the media.
If you are in a small regional or rural town getting access to local media editors and reporters can be relatively straightforward. In many instances if you write an interesting media release they will likely publish it verbatim. In larger metropolitan areas you may need to take a more strategic approach to building relationships with people in the media.
An interesting, positive story running in your local media can go a long way to attracting customers and visitors, helping to attract donors and helping generate revenue.
Media releases should be factual and speak to a specific program, impact, outcome or event. Avoid general topics as these are less interesting and less likely to get accepted. The length is not as important so long as you are not padding the media release with useless information. If an editor decided to seek additional information they will contact you.
If contacted for an interview, try to set your own time and if possible obtain an indication of what the journalist would like to talk about. Avoid being pushed into an interview when you are under pressure, when your diary is full or when you have other more important stuff on your mind. Give yourself time to prepare, to think and to anticipate questions.
Remember even when you prepare a media release, even after you have answered a series of questions fully, an editor will craft their article from a perspective they believe will attract attention. You can ask to view a draft prior to going to print. Some journalists will agree to this, however the purpose for doing this should be ensure information is correct and clear. You should not attempt to change what has been written, or delete something you dont agree with. You can request something not be published but once you have completed an interview or submitted a media release it really is out of your hands.
Become regular. Relationships are built upon consistency and trust. The occasional media release, or declined interview requests don’t go far in building relationships with media people.
If your organisation is in a crisis you may find the media knocking on your door. this can be stressful. Your communication plan should have specified only the Chairperson or the CEO should talk to the media. Those two people should have a coordinated and unified response to questions. Avoid being pressured by a journalist. You are not obligated to meet with them. Tell the truth or say nothing at all. Never talk bullshit. If you do you are inviting the media to hold you accountable in very public way. If you can be proactive, anticipate questions, prepare and distribute a positive media release.
Don’t be afraid of working with the media. It can be fun. It is an effective way to get a message broadcast for little or no cost. In the majority of instances a journalist is simply seeking really interesting content that will ensure ongoing readership and revenue.
I’m John Coxon, founder of art4u.australia, a consulting agency helping arts organisations to remain viable and sustainable through implementation of the The Cycle a proven model for arts organisations. I can be contacted by email.