<< Return

Bracing for Major Media Mentions - 12/10/2014 -


Bracing for Major Media Mentions

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

When 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 to www.swe.org.

But 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.

Prior 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 PR portal. 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 media presence."

  • Ensured the organization had excellent recordkeeping. This was especially helpful in providing instant numbers on how much SWE had given in scholarships.

Because 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.

When 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.

The 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 TV show.

SWE 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.

Her 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.


© Copyright 2017, Association Media and Publishing. All rights reserved.