Just in case there are newbies here for the first time let's step back for a moment and remind ourselves why you need a successful media relations strategy for the work you do whether you're with a non profit, creating a great product, or with a professional organization making our streets safer:
- Media is a numbers game - even your local weekly or daily paper probably has a much larger online and print presences then you do - so it means you'll reach fresh audiences.
- An attractive well written story about the work you do will create interested prospects who want to know more.
- People who want to know more are warm leads ready to give their time, talent and money.
One of the biggest challenges about successful media placement is that it takes time, something that both non profits and small businesses often lack. But you ignore, or do lackluster efforts for media relations, at your own risk. One of the smart ways to catalyze your media outreach efforts is to collaborate with smart partners.
What do I mean by smart partners? I mean organizations that have the same basic goals at heart that you do. I mean companies that are willing to collaborate from a place of authenticity, integrity, and generosity to make your street, town, region, city, state or country a better place through an event, a project, a law, or even a product.
Generosity and openness are key to successful collaboration. Anyone who enters with the idea that they are only in it for what they can get out of it won't ruin the overall efforts of everyone else, but they'll sour the pie. Don't be that person or team.
One of the most fun and rewarding aspects of working on getting the word out about the 2016 EBike Expo has been our very successful collaboration on media outreach with the California Bicycle Coalition, BikeTexas, local affiliates like San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, of course the EBike Expo team, and the bike manufacturers themselves. I'll be sharing more from the bike manufactures very soon.
Four reasons collaboration is key for successful media placement:
1. Media placement success is about building rapport, connectivity and relationships with the media - the same things you need to successfully collaborate with smart partners and your own team on an event, project or product.
Stop thinking of pitching the media as if you're trying to finagle the media into running stories about the work you do, and instead reach out with the idea of creating a relationship. See journalists as human beings with their own wants and needs, and the media outlets they work for with their own wants and needs, and it will change your the heart of your approach. Take things one step further. See yourself as becoming a collaborator with the media and it'll revolutionize your efforts.
The Land Trust Alliance posted a great piece about effective media outreach including this wise insight "Make Yourself Useful: How can you help the reporter tell a great story? When you help set up interviews or provide resources like fact sheets, photos and maps, it leads to a better story and a stronger relationship with the reporter. The media may also draw from your website and social media — including direct quotes — so post with this in mind."
2. Collaborating with smart partners means you have a well rounded story to offer the media with a variety of story angles that will work for very different media outlets.
On March 16th the Gail DeLaughter of Houston Public Radio posted this blog + audio story about the exciting opportunities for electric bikes in Texas, beginning and ending with Robin Stallings, the Executive Director of BikeTexas. The story was placed through combined efforts including my submitting a press release to the NPR Houston website.
Two different stories ran from one pitch (my press release included the combined events of the Texas Trails and Active Transportation Conference leading into the EBike Expo). You can imagine our delight when we realized this story, also featuring the EBike Expo's own Pete Prebus talking about electric cargo bikes and why electric bikes are so fun and easy to ride, a local bike shop on the growth of the market and how people are using them to replace cars, and tying in Houston's own very progressive bike plan in the process of being passed right now, ran across the state. Charlie and I heard it in El Paso on our road trip home to California.
3. Collaborating with smart partners means you can expand your media outreach capabilities.
For the 2016 EBike Expo we're sharing media lists which means we're all coming away with expanded and updated media contacts. Need I say more? Media lists are expensive to buy and time consuming to update (which is why we offer you some nice low cost opportunities).
4. Collaboration with smart partners means you can divide and conquer and spend more time on effective story pitching rather than simply sending out press releases.
Sometimes just sending a press release works - but usually you need to follow up with the media via both email and a phone call as well. Our next EBike Expo event is in Palo Alto this April 22-24th at the Standford Shopping Center in the heart of Silicon Valley. Because of the concentration of tech focused journalists, with national media outlets, this will be where we really need to have a smart media game on, with lots of collaboration, to make most of the media placement opportunities. We'll be:
A) Powwowing with our various team members next week to draft initial press releases. My job is, of course, to make sure the advocacy angle of the California Bicycle Coalition is clear including CalBike's innovative "Bike Purchase Incentive Pilot Program" pitch to the California Air Resources Board, but we need a very well rounded story, including the explosive growth of the EBike market, how popular these expo events have been, and of course the latest innovation in EBike's from the top participating manufacturers.
B) Dividing and conquering to make the most of our time and effort. This is a wonderful opportunity to connect with the vast business and tech focused media and to get stories about bicycling into various business journals, tech journals, the regional press, the statewide Associated Press and even perhaps national shows like NPR's Marketplace.
About Melissa Balmer
Melissa is the Media Director for the California Bicycle Coalition and Director of PedalLove.org. She is a writer, media relations specialist and active living advocate. Her mission is to share the power of artistry and personally engaging storytelling to inspire. Her passion is to recruit fresh voices from diverse multi-generational perspectives to share their stories in traditional and new media platforms to engage new audiences. Melissa has placed the Pedal Love initiative, its creative team, events and CalBike in local, regional, statewide and national news outlets such as the Associated Press, Bicycling Magazine, KABC News, KPCC's Airtalk, Houston Public Media, Los Angeles Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, Momentum Magazine, the Sacramento Bee, the San Francisco Chronicle and more. Image by Lisa Beth Anderson.