Bracing for Major Media
Is your association
ready if it is suddenly thrust into the limelight? Here’s the story of one
organization’s few seconds of TV fame and how it turned the mention into tens
of thousands in donations for an association scholarship program.
By Liz DeCarlo
the Society of Women Engineers received a four-second mention about their
scholarship program on a late-night comedy/news show, they acted quickly to use
that brief reference to their advantage. The result? More than $50,000 in
donations, primary placements in major media, and the biggest traffic day ever
the increased interest in SWE was about more than the scholarship program’s
brief moment of fame on HBO’s "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver." It was a
direct result of an action plan put in place long before the show even aired,
and it’s an action plan every organization should have ready, says Kelly
Mahoney, director of public relations and social media for the David James
Group, which works with SWE.
to 2012, SWE tended to be a "reactive" organization, says Karen Horting, CEO
and executive director. When they began working with DJG, social media and
public outreach increased and the organization’s mentions in major media grew,
as did their Facebook following. But they also put a plan in place to increase
SWE’s prominence even more, including:
- Developed an
SEO-powered website. "We made sure resources were front and center," Mahoney says. This is likely
why the HBO show’s producers found SWE — it’s one of the first things that come
up in a Google search of 'women' and 'scholarships.'
- Created a one-stop-shop
On the website, reporters can find resources and get immediately directed to
Mahoney if they need a source for an interview or further information.
- Worked with SWE’s key
leaders to prepare them for interviews. "We trained the board when they weren’t under
pressure," Mahoney says. "We worked to develop a theme, talking points, and
- Ensured the
organization had excellent recordkeeping. This was especially helpful in providing
instant numbers on how much SWE had given in scholarships.
the association had these key initiatives in place, they were ready when the
show’s producer let them know SWE was in the script for the Sunday show.
Mahoney and her team notified SWE’s board and immediately began drafting a news
release. She alerted the website and graphics staff and had them prepare a
banner for the website if SWE received a positive mention. The news release was
routed through SWE leadership, approved, and ready to go.
the organization’s scholarships were mentioned, Mahoney began pushing out
social media through Twitter and Facebook, distributing news releases, and
adding the custom banner with a link to the show on the SWE website. "That
social media hustle made a total difference," she says.
following day, Mahoney continued the campaign, this time focusing on how many
donations SWE had garnered as a result of the show. The media placements
continued, but this time they were driven by SWE rather than a reaction to the
hopes to keep the momentum going next year by sharing stories on how the
scholarship winners are changing the world. And the behind-the-scenes
preparation will continue as well so that an action plan can be immediately activated.
advice to fellow associations? "This may only happen once," Mahoney says. "Make
sure you’re ready."
Liz DeCarlo is managing editor at Million Dollar Round
Table. Association Media &
Publishing sincerely thanks her for covering this presentation, which was made
at AM&P’s November Chicago Conference.