Friday, February 27, 2009

Get a Reporter Interested in Your Organization... Then Do This.

Papers are closing at an alarming rate and reporters are being worked harder than ever. Now's your chance to pitch a story about your organization. A well-timed call (NOT when a reporter's on deadline) with a compelling story could spark some interest from a reporter in your organization. Once you pique their interest, here are some basic rules to follow.

Recognize that while some reporters are transparent (if it's a human interest story even likely sympathetic) there's no way to know in advance the angle the reporter will take--even when you try to "seed" the story. Know this going in.

Before you make any calls, do your due diligence. Research his/her previous stories. Find out what they cover, what their style is, and their specific areas of interest. Be prepared to commend (but not too lavishly) the reporter on his/her reporting. That may not be necessary but even a little due diligence will help you prepare your messaging and put the reporter "on notice" that you're aware of his/her beat and coverage.

Having done that, set up a very informal conversation (either by phone or in person) during which you can seed your story. Answer honestly any questions the reporter may have; offer answers under the guise of your desire "to make sure his/her visit is as productive as possible." During that conversation, mention certain organizational success stories--testimonials of people who have benefited from their participation in/association with your organization. Do this to positively predispose the reporter. Offer an exclusive: Reporters are always interested in exclusives; this is a influential concession on your part.

If and when the reporter comes to your organization or your event, plan in advance with whom you're going to connect the reporter. Connect the reporter with the people whose success stories you related during the previous conversation I recommended (above).

Be sure you've advised those people in advance that the reporter may speak with them. Make sure you're briefed those people with the key organizational messages you want to communicate. This is to ensure that everyone's speaking from the same sheet and that you're managing the messages. This is hugely important: Reporters are trained to look for inconsistencies and then build their stories on those inconsistencies.

Don't be too eager for coverage but also don't be too suspicious. Both extremes can be interpreted as warning signs for an underlying story. Be transparent, be welcoming, be genuine. Play out the best stories in conversation and say, "you'll really want to meet these people for yourself" or "to really understand how works, come see for
yourself." That's a little tease which validates the reporter's initial interest.

Follow these simple steps and soon you too will be a media maven.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

LinkedIn Tip: Follow Through on the Questions You Ask!

There's no doubt that LinkedIn is an effective social networking tool to complement traditional networking. As LinkedIn has grown, so have the LinkedIn "experts" who help people use the tool most effectively.

Tips from experts include asking and answering questions to create visibility for your profile and your expertise, updating your profile frequently, and focusing on building quality (rather than quantity) connections.

If you're asking questions on LinkedIn, you really should research and provide the answer to the question you ask. After all, if you're using LinkedIn to underscore your professionalism, you should include answers to indicate your commitment to follow through.

Consider the following example.

A few weeks ago, after ordering some Girl Scout Cookies, I posed the following question in the "Guerilla Marketing" category: "Girl Scout Cookies. You're limited to buying only ONE BOX this year. What flavor do you order (and why)?"

About 35 people responded to the question. As their responses rolled in, I got curious about the Girl Scout cookie "industrial complex". I reached out to a PR contact in the Girl Scouts of Gateway Council (Alex Gornik) and asked her about sales. Being responsive and eager to evagelize about these sweet treats, she sent me information relevant to my question.

I've featured the information below, but the point of this post is to convey that after receiving this information, I sent a personalized email to every individual who responded to the initial question. I thanked them for responding and repackaged the information I received from my Girl Scout contact.

That's following through. A valuable bit of advice for LinkedIn users.

Here's the information I received from my Girl Scout contact:
Some stats from Little Brownie Bakers (one of the two national bakers that provide Girl Scout Cookies) are: Nationally Thin Mints and Samoas make up 50% of all cookies sold; Do Si Dos, Tagalongs and Trefoils = 30%; and all the others = 20%.
The Girl Scouts of Gateway Council (covering 16 counties in North Florida including Jacksonville) have similar stats (2008 sale):
* 31 Mints
* 25 Samoas
* 14 DoSiDos
* 8 Lemon
* 7 All Abouts
* 5 Trefoil
* 5 Choc. Chip
* 5 Tags

Girl Scout cookies both support local Girl Scout Troops and programs and camp to keep costs low so every girl can have the opportunity to participate regardless of her family’s ability to pay.

So two actions-to-take from this posting:
1) Follow through on the questions you ask on LinkedIn
2) Enjoy your Girl Scout cookies (especially Thin Mints)!