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When Youíre Suddenly Wearing the PR Hat - 12/1/2015 -

When Youíre Suddenly Wearing the PR Hat

Have you been tasked with handling your associationís public relations? Here are the basics to get you started.

By Zach Wilson

Public relations professionals use a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics, according to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). The PRSAís definition drives home the importance of building and maintaining relationships between an organization and its public, as well as the organization and the media.

If you are handling your associationís public relations, you must learn to effectively leverage the use of these three PR tools ó the press release, the media alert, and the pitch ó to create mutually beneficial relationships with your audience and the media.

1. Press releases. The press release is definitely one of the best weapons of choice for getting news out about an organization. A press release is a perfect way to outline a newsworthy event with enough detail and engagement for a variety of readers. Typically one page long, a press release outlines the key takeaways for an event, news story, etc.

While many use their own format, these components should be included in each press release:

  • Make a conscious effort to hook your audience in within the first few sentences. Other organizations ó many with their own PR professionals ó are looking for the same exposure as you. Media members are likely reading dozens of press releases each day, and only the most engaging ones will garner their interest.
  • A strong title seems like a given, but itís an often over-looked component of an effective press release. Itís the first thing readers will see, so youíll need to make sure the title is engaging and informative enough so the reader has a sense of what the rest of the content will be about. Once youíve caught the readerís attention with an informative title and engaging hook, the body of the press release with the key information is followed by your associationís boiler-plate statement.

2. Media alerts. When you strip away some of the additional descriptions and information that goes with a press release, youíre left with something that resembles a media alert. Media alerts provide only the most pertinent information: who, what, where, when, and why. For example, the condensed format of a media alert is an excellent way for your association to encourage the local news or prospective attendees to join your event.

You can send a media alert to your own media list via email or text, or put it out on a newswire service for a much broader exposure.

3. Pitches. Before ever being able to secure the media coverage youíre looking for, youíll need to create a pitch for your media list. The pitch highlights what news youíre attempting to break and why itís relevant for the respective media member and their readership. Relevancy canít be understated, as media members have their own niche they report within, and anything sent to them outside of this niche will be ignored.

It might seem counterintuitive that we discussed the pitch last, when that seems like the first step. However, donít start making pitches until you have your press release primed, approved, and ready to go. Once you make a connection with an editor who agrees to look over your release, the last thing you want to do is make him or her wait for it.

Zach Wilson is SEO specialist at Zion and Zion, a full-service adverising firm in Tempe, Arizona. This brief guide to public relations was excerpted from a longer report on digital marketing.


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