If you’ve ever had a scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream, you know that the only way to improve upon one scoop of that creamy deliciousness is to make it a double. Media relations work much the same way: The only thing better than giving the press one good scoop is to give them two.
I’ve had the opportunity to work on both sides of the media relations process, having been a reporter and a media relations specialist. I currently work as a senior writer and social media manager for an online magazine in St. Louis. One of the perks of the job is occasionally being invited to private media events.
The InvitationWhen my editor forwarded me an invitation to a media event at a local attraction on a weekday morning, I was intrigued. Being a busy mother of three, my evenings and weekends are often filled with family commitments, so the scheduling was perfect. The organization opened the event to members of the media and their families—another big plus, since I’m a rare breed of freelancer that has at least one child in tow at all times; without the option of bringing my daughter to the event, I probably couldn’t have attended. Plus, as a writer for a magazine that covers family destinations, the best way to determine whether a destination is kid-friendly is, of course, to bring the kid.
This was also a win from the attraction’s perspective; they made it clear that they were trying to attract not only the mainstream media, but the growing local audience of “mommy bloggers,” as well; throwing a free event on a slow Monday morning in February and inviting them was an easy, inexpensive and effective way for the organization to generate social media traffic.
When I arrived ample staff were available to answer a range of questions, and all were courteous both to me AND my 3-year-old—another big plus. The employee who had coordinated the event even remembered my little girl’s name and used it throughout our visit. Cupcakes and crafts were offered to help sweeten the deal for the tiny visitors. All in all, a well-executed media event…except for the main attraction.
A Glitch Spoils EventThe organization was renovating a special room for children’s events. I was given a brief tour but the room itself wasn’t photo-ready: boxes were stacked around the room’s focal point, trash was scattered here and there, workers were on ladders.
Though I wasn’t expressly told I couldn’t take photos, they made it clear that they would prefer I didn’t. As a reporter I could look around the room and see they were trying to put on the final touches, which was understandable. But as someone who has also worked in media relations, I couldn’t help but think that while it wasn’t quite finished, 30 minutes of tidying up would have had the room in good enough shape for photos during the short media event. And though I enjoyed my inside “scoop”—a behind-the-scenes tour of the attraction, and an overview of the newly renovated children’s area—I really wanted the double scoop. I wanted to be able to take photos of that room and share it with my editor and readers; that was the story they would want. And it would have been great, free publicity for the organization.
3 Lessons for AssociationsHosting media events can be a great way to familiarize the media—and the general public—with all the great work that your members do. It can also be an opportunity to chat with the media about changes that your organization is making. But for the greatest impact, keep in mind these three lessons when hosting a media event:
- Think about the type of media you want to attract, and plan the event accordingly; a sophisticated midweek cocktail hour at an upscale bar might fizzle if the media you’re targeting is likely to be getting kids ready for choir practice at 6 p.m. on a Wednesday.
- Treat every guest with interest and respect, whether it’s the popular local news anchor or the three-year-old child of a freelance writer; in the advent of social media, every voice matters.
- Look around, figure out what your story is and give members of the media what they need to cover that story. And when possible, give ‘em a double scoop.
Kathy Deters is a senior writer and social media manager for St. Louis Sprout and About magazine, stlsprout.com, with more than 15 years of experience in government, communications and public relations. Kathy can be reached at Kathy_Deters@hotmail.com, or on Twitter @KathyDeters.