Vivanista is a community that helps charitable organizations increase their awareness and effectiveness of charitable fundraising through sharing of best practices. It provides tools for event promotion and allows organizations and individuals to leverage their volunteer experience into future endeavors. In this post, Vivanista’s Cherie Turner delves into the critical area of media relations for fundraisers, serving up an ultra-helpful list of “do’s and don’ts.”
Events benefit from media coverage. And seeing a story about your hard efforts or photos of you and your friends looking glamorous and radiant is satisfying and exciting. That’s why everyone seeks it.
So, as anyone who’s worked on getting press coverage knows, it’s challenging. It can become much more rewarding, for you and your chosen media outlets, if you develop good relationships with their editors. Having been on the editorial side of the equation for over a decade, I have dealt with a huge variety of approaches from those seeking my attention. Some have inspired wonderful, mutually rewarding relationships and some have inspired me to cover something else. We all seek the first option, and it’s not as difficult or mysterious to master as you might think. Here are my top five dos and don’ts to creating great relationships with editors.
- Know the publication: This might seem like obvious advice, but it’s amazing how few people follow it. Consider: why would an editor be interested in working with someone who doesn’t take the time to know what her publication is about? It’s both a matter or respect as well as efficiency: if you know the publication, you’ll know what type of story about your event to pitch. A well thought and appropriate story idea is far more likely to be of interest to an editor.
- Be mindful of an editor’s time (or lack thereof): Editors are often on deadline or juggling multiple projects; they’re busy just like everyone else, and it’s easy to catch them at a stressful time. So be efficient in your dealings. Yes, your event is important; it may be your top priority. But it’s only one of numerous other things that editor is dealing with. Be mindful of her side of the situation, too.
- Know what you’re looking for: There are three basic ways events get coverage: a calendar listing, post-event coverage/a story about the event itself, a story about someone or something linked to the event. Know what you’re looking for before you call or e-mail a publication. If you’re looking for story coverage, present some compelling storylines to follow. What’s inspiring, unique, or newsworthy about your event? Give an editor something to work with, and you’re more likely to get in the publication.
- Be politely persistent: It’s a good idea, recommended even, to make sure your materials reach the right person. Start the process by sending your materials via e-mail. If you haven’t received some sort of response within a couple days, a follow-up e-mail is completely appropriate. E-mail gets lost or sometimes accidentally passed over; it’s OK to just ensure that yours actually got seen. If that second attempt doesn’t get a response, phone the editor. If you’re still not getting any response, make one last attempt and then move on. Editors are always looking for content; if you know they’ve seen your materials and they’re not responding to you, it’s safe to assume they’re not interested. Put your efforts into finding another outlet that is.
- Get materials in on or before deadlines: This applies both to your original press releases as well as any requested materials. Know when a publication starts planning its issues; know that some magazines plan months in advance. Time your submissions accordingly. If you are working with an editor who’s interested in covering your event, make sure she has everything she requests when she requests it. If you show yourself to be a reliable resource, you’ll be top on that editor’s list of people to work with again.
- Insist that your event or story idea is perfect for the publication: That’s the editor’s job; she knows her publication and decides what will work and what won’t. Offer the information, and share what you honestly believe will be of interest to the readers (and not just serve to be self-promotional). If there’s still no interest, move on.
- Pull rank: If you’re unhappy with a decision or something that ran in the publication, talk to the editor you dealt with. Do not go over her head. There’s no faster way to ensure that you’ll never be called on by that media person again than if you undermine her authority or go bothering her boss about something you should be calling on her to handle.
- Pitch the same story to everyone: If you have a great story idea, send it to the publication you think it would fit best. There are multiple ways your event could be talked about; find a unique angle for each publication you approach—focus your efforts. No editor wants to see the same story you pitched her in someone else’s publication. The same can be said of photo submissions; send different images from your event to different publications. Everyone likes exclusives!
- Ask to approve a story: I know it’s tough because this is your big moment to shine and you want to make sure that everything is exactly how you think it should be, but the fact is, the story isn’t yours, it belongs to the publication. Go ahead and offer to check facts or make yourself available to answer questions, but in the end, you have to trust the abilities and talents of the editors and writers working on your piece. They’re the professionals, let them do their job.
- Flip out over an error: It happens—mistakes occasionally slip through. Be sure of this: the editor responsible for the mistake feels worse about it than you. It’s the biggest fear in publishing, getting something wrong. Knowing that, your best approach is moving forward. Let the editor know the mistake occurred and what she can do to amend the situation. If it’s online, it can be corrected. If it’s in print, a correction in the next issue can run. Also, if you want error-free copies of the print version—for archiving purposes or to send to sponsors, friends, etcetera—some publications may be able to correct the original digital file and create a PDF for you of your story which you can print out.