Wheeling Walks Training Manual

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Chapter 4:
Working with the Media:
Responsibilities of the PR person

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Working with the Media

After the strategic placement of the paid ads, the largest and most important piece of the campaign is press relations.  Getting to know the players in your local media will undoubtedly influence the campaign’s ability to impact your community. 

The difference between traditional health campaigns and the newer media campaigns, like WHEELING WALKS, is that we want to reach not hundreds of people, but thousands.  To achieve this goal, we need to target all types of mass media.  We need to ensure that TV, radio and print news gatekeepers and reporters are on board with us and available to spread the message of walking. 

Working with the media cannot be delegated to a volunteer.  It is a staff responsibility.  One person must be the campaign Press Relations (PR) person.  The media needs to have one person that they are sure is:

  1. available when needed.
  1. knowledgeable and able to answer questions clearly and concisely.
  1. always courteous and gracious.
  1. able to provide information and materials promptly

Media Cooperation

The media cooperates with its paying customer.  You are buying air and ad time from the various media outlets and you are a customer.  However, you are a bit different from their other customers in that the media provides two opportunities for delivering your message.  In addition to being a paying customer, you are also a public health, not-for-profit, effort that can legitimately ask for and receive additional help and resources.

The media are more than happy to help a paying customer, and as part of their FCC licensing requirements, they also provide free advertising for public service campaigns and events.   With this unique arrangement, you are giving the media the opportunity to earn money while providing free coverage.  It is a win-win scenario.

Responsibilities of the PR person

The primary job of the PR person is to garner maximum news coverage of the campaign and its message. This person seeks to keep the media “on message”.  This means keeping the targeted message of the campaign from getting convoluted and diluted.  It also means pacing things and timing your activities to the best possible campaign advantage.

The Initial News Embargo on the Campaign

It is important to begin the campaign with a major splash.  Doing so required careful orchestration of the media communications.

By embargo, we mean the campaign information is restricted from publication until a given date.  Even if you are not conducting research, you will need some data to measure campaign effectiveness.  Therefore, we recommend you embargo the information until the campaign Kick Off.

Press outlets are less likely to provide the “splash” you desire if another media source has covered the same story the previous week.  Your campaign should begin with a BANG!  For that reason, give each media outlet the same opportunity to cover the story.  Sell the idea of an embargo as an important aspect of the success of the campaign.  

Why Give the Media Information Before the Campaign?

You may ask, “ If beginning with a “splash” is so important, why should I risk giving the press information before the campaign Kick Off?”  The Answer:  The press must be campaign partners when the campaign begins.  The time for informing and selling the campaign to the press concludes at the Kick Off . 

Note:  The PR person must keep the message exciting and important.  The media only covers what they feel is enabling, important, and easy to cover. 

The PR person’s specific responsibilities include:

--Ensuring understanding of the initial news embargo related to the campaign

--Developing a press list

--Developing credibility with the press

--Meeting the gatekeepers

--Preparing talking points

--Selling the campaign and essential campaign tools

--Negotiating the 2-for-1 ad buy

--Nurturing your relationship with the media

--Managing event coverage

--Serving as campaign spokesperson

Developing a press list

Before developing a local press list, determine if a list is available from another organization.  Ask other departments within your organization or other organizations if they would share their press list.  Possible sources include health departments, hospitals, universities, health-professional organizations, chamber of commerce, or a local public-relations firm. Those lists could provide a good starting point, but may need to be adapted to fit the needs of your campaign.  They also may need to be updated.  Media outlets frequently have high turn-over rates for staff, and program formats change often.

To develop your own press list, first identify the media outlets in your community.  Media directories (such as the News Media Yellow Book and Beacon’s Radio, TV, and Newspaper Directories) may be available in the local library.  You also could look in the phone directory, on news stands, and in the TV guide.  In addition, you could “flip around” the dial to see or hear what television and radio stations are available locally.

Your media list should include:

  • daily and weekly newspapers (do not forget the smaller neighborhood papers and “shoppers”).
  • radio stations - include information about news programs, talk shows, and community announcements.
  • television stations - include information about news broadcasts (morning, midday, evening, and/or nighttime), talk shows, health shows, public-affairs shows, or community bulletin boards.
  • local offices of wire services such as AP, Reuters, and UPI.
  • cable can provide targeted message delivery.

Be sure to find out about broadcast times and the range of programs on television and radio stations.  You could check the size of the audience (or the circulation of newspapers) and ratings of local news programs to help you determine which media outlets have the largest audiences.  You might want to put more effort into working with stations and papers that reach more of the community or that reach your target audience.  A better understanding of the local press will help you to develop and implement your media plan.

Next, determine the appropriate contact for each media outlet.  Identify who at the station or newspaper would be most likely to cover the campaign.

 

 

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