Lessons learned at the Colorado Progressive Media Training Day

By Collin Lessing, JVA Consulting

On May 21, I had the opportunity to attend the Colorado Progressive Media Training Day, which was made possible through the Gay and Lesbian Fund of Colorado, Colorado C3 Roundtable, and ProgressNow Colorado Education. The focus of the event was developing strategies for navigating today’s increasingly competitive and complex “earned” and “new” media landscapes.  

The day included sessions on social media, campaigns and publicity, and earned media. As a marketing and media guy, I was most excited for the “traditional media” panel that included Patty Calhoun from the Westword, Curtis Hubbard from the Denver Post, Eli Stokols from FOX31 and Ryan Warner from Colorado Matters. While each session was packed with plenty of useful information, this Nonprofit Street post will focus on a few tips from the panel for getting coverage in today’s evolving media.

While discussing challenges for garnering media coverage, all of the panelists agreed that a significant barrier is the enormous amount of emails received by reporters and journalists each day. One panelist was said to receive more than emails 3,000 daily. For those who work in media relations, it’s common knowledge that your press release is competing against other press releases. Competing against 3,000 other messages puts things into a whole new perspective and highlights the importance of having a strategy to get coverage.

Press releases are also met with skepticism in newsrooms because the people reading them are perfectly aware that the third party validation provided by “earned media” is what drives marketers to aggressively pursue media coverage for their organizations. Newsrooms, in theory, strive to deliver unbiased news while press releases often come across as anything but unbiased. Press releases with too many red flags pointing to bias may be tossed aside, according to the panel.

Cutting through the clutter of thousands of emails and gaining credibility when you’re start with none are both considerable challenges. The first step to overcoming them, according to the panel, is building a relationship with your local media. “Building a relationship with the media” can sound intimidating but the panel offered a few tips on what you can do to start.

First, when you see a reporter or journalist in person, briefly introduce yourself and your organization. The key word here is “briefly” because the person you’re meeting likely has very little time to talk and will appreciate you respecting that. As you meet more reporters and journalists, send them news tips that aren’t related to your organization. Being a “trusted source” can move your emails from the inbox with hundreds of press releases to inboxes that are more carefully monitored.

Along with becoming a trusted source, the panel recommended other things you can do when writing your press release to build your credibility. If the issue you support is a controversial one, introduce the counter-arguments. One panelist added that media might already be aware of the more common counter-arguments and opposition so offer alternatives that they may not know about.

Much like the current trends in nonprofit funding, organizations can strengthen their credibility through evidence-based results, according to one panelist. If your organization is doing work that has impact proven through evaluation, include some of the more compelling findings in your press release. This will add credibility, and if you align your results with trends in your community, state or beyond, it will make your story more newsworthy.

Did you or somebody from your organization attend the Colorado Progressive Media Training Day? If so, what information did you find useful?


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