Today we’re celebrating Kyle Moler’s two year anniversary with M+R! In addition to be an outstanding colleague and top-notch media relations professional, Kyle holds the firm wide record for speed-walking.
Wondering who M+R DC’s favorite superhero is? (Hint: it’s a woman!)
Big changes are about to take place on the Internet. Make sure you’re prepared by reading our new Research Labs post.
At M+R we love a good reason to celebrate and yesterday’s national Poem In Your Pocket Day gave us a great excuse to share our favorite poems! Below are a sampling of the poems shared from a few of our offices:
New York: “Sitting Alone in the Middle of the Night” by Stanley Plumly shared by Sara Wolfson (convener of the PIYPD festivities)
DC: “Coping” by Audre Lorde shared by Val Villot
Boston: “The Day is Done” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow shared by Sally Brzozowski
San Francisco: “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll shared by Heather Buchheim
Katie and Tania celebrate Obama’s recent designation of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument with some Rio Grande del Norte National Monument Pale Ale. Cheers!
Today M+R and our friends at NTEN released the much anticipated 2013 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study. Is your nonprofit’s online program winning the race or lagging behind? Find out and dig in to the one and only indispensable guide to what’s happening online for nonprofits.
Thanks to so many of you for joining our Storytelling webinar last week. We got too many important questions to answer them all in the hour. So here’s a follow-up Q&A to keep the conversation going. If you have other questions about how to use personal stories to make headlines for your campaign, cause or organization, please don’t hesitate to contact me at email@example.com.
Q: Are disease awareness months newsworthy - are reporters tired of those? For example, April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month.
LK: No…and yes. We often hear in our casual conversations with reporters that there’s no news in “____ Day” or “____ Awareness Month.” But if you open any newspaper in the country today, chances are you’ll see at least one article that refutes that advice. What you’ll also notice is that there is something newsworthy attached to the honorary day/week/month. This could be remarkable new data or a very visible event. The news hook could also be a personal story that meets the five factors of a press-worthy story: Personal, Relatable, Surprising, Relevant and Timely.
Q: If the personal story you pitched gets a reporter’s attention, how do you make sure that the individual story doesn’t overshadow your campaign or cause?
LK: You do sacrifice a bit of organizational notoriety when you turn the spotlight on your story-teller. But ultimately, your campaign or cause will be stronger if you do. The trick is to make sure your organization or campaign is still front and center in a way that matches your priorities. For example, make sure you also offer the reporter a strong messenger from your organization to serve as an expert source for the story - a complete package, if you will, to round out the piece.
Also, select your personal story-tellers wisely - for example, choose someone who knows and loves your organization or cause, not someone who only has passing familiarity. Provide them enough coaching and support to bring you into the story. And at the end of the day if your organization isn’t acknowledged in the article, take solace in the fact that you’re helping shape public opinion for your issue.
Q: How do you maintain good relationships with old contacts while waiting for the opportune time to tell their story?
LK: Keeping in touch with your story-tellers can be really tricky when you are juggling all the other facets of campaigns like pushing new pitches, putting out new reports, setting up meetings with legislators, sending e-newsletters to supporters, and so on. But maintaining relationships with your story-tellers is every bit as important as your relationships with your target audiences. Story-tellers are your ambassadors who will ultimately connect with the people who could or should care about your issue and can do something about it. So be up front with them from the beginning about where and when you want to pitch their story so they have context. If the pitch doesn’t immediately get a response, get in touch with your story-teller and be straight with them about your activities to date. This can lead to even better conversations with your story-tellers that provide additional nuggets to try with reporters.
If it is still taking time to get some traction for the personal story, be honest with your story-teller and let them know. This way their expectations are in check, and most people appreciate the honesty. Also, drop them quick notes as there’s movement around your issue or check in with them just to say hello every few months. They’ll appreciate it and you will too when they’re still there for you when that reporter you’ve been after finally asks for that interview.
Q: When you have limited resources, how do you begin to identify stories?
LK: If your organization is young or you’ve never made collecting stories a priority before, it can be daunting and time-consuming. One of the fastest ways to get stories is to partner up with other organizations whose membership matches the kind of stories you want. For example, when we were helping the American Lung Association find stories about the health consequences of air pollution, we reached out to asthma support groups in select states.
When great stories don’t come to you, you’ve gotta go to great stories. Keep an eye on the news and social media for story-tellers that can work for your cause. Casually reach out to the person you read about and introduce yourself and organization and set up a time to learn more about them and their story. It may feel strange at first for you and for them, but from our experience it can lead to great relationships and media hits.
Q: Any tips for encouraging people to open up with their stories?
LK: We touched on this a little on last week’s call. When you work every day in communications and campaigns like you and I do, it’s easy to overlook how scary it can be for story-tellers to share their story with strangers. It’s also easy to forget how out-of-the-ordinary media relations is to everyday story-tellers and therein - possibly - lies their fear.
To put story-tellers at ease, provide some context for what you do and why you’re talking to them in a way that is more personal to them. For example, let’s say the story-teller is from Dayton, OH; after introducing yourself, you might say something like, “You know when you read a story in the Dayton Daily News - whether it’s about schools or new laws - it usually begins with some personal tale or tidbit about someone from the area who is or would be impacted. That’s what I do…I help reporters get interested in those stories and help them find the personal tidbits that will appeal to their readers.”
Once you deliver your opener, do more listening than talking. Prepare an interview guide to keep the conversation moving, but it should be full of short questions that help you learn more about them and their perspective in their own words. And as they’re talking, really listen and show them you’re listening. Show empathy or sympathy as necessary, follow up on the small stuff: “How old are your kids?” “How long have you lived there?” “Is that where you’re originally from?” These questions may be off-topic but they show story-tellers you’re a person…not an outsider who doesn’t care.
Finally, do some hand-holding by doing mock interviews and joining them on the phone or in person for the interview. And if your story-teller isn’t interview-ready yet, take a step back and start small with a letter-to-the-editor or op-ed so the story-teller has more control over what they say.
With Marjory, Leslie and Aaron in town from California, the team organized a little in-house service project to celebrate.
200+ delicious sandwiches to Central Union Mission- check!
The M+R DC office kicked off its monthly team meeting with a rousing game of March Madness: TV Edition.
Much to the chagrin of Coach Taylor, apparently clear eyes, full hearts, can lose to The Wire. Better luck next season!
Photos rule Facebook, but a lot of organizations’ have been slapped on the wrists lately for breaking promoted post rules. You can avoid the rejection with this one weird trick! Click here to learn more from Adam Gerber, our resident social media expert.
In the wake of Beyonce’s supremely drawn out “did-she or didn’t-she,” (oh ya she did but we still love her), it’s been brought to the team’s attention that our very own Kathryn Frazier dealt with the stress of lip-synching at a very young age. Rocking out at her very first concert to Milli Vanilli, she had no clue how crushed she be years later when their fraudulent ways were brought to light. Girl, you know it’s true.
Are your campaign’s stories press-worthy? Find out in our new whitepaper: Storytelling and the Power of Making Headlines.
P.S. if you never want to miss M+R’s media and organizing campaign advice, sign up here for our monthly-ish emails: http://bit.ly/PQ6TMW