by Jean Freedberg
Director of Communications
Just because this column is titled "In The Headlines" doesn't
mean that any old headline in any old outlet will do, or that any
news is good news for the Sierra Club.
Getting your story into the newspapers or radio and television
outlets you want is one of the best strategies for effective
press work. In fact, targeted, strategic press work is what
underlies any good communications plan.
That's why we are developing a comprehensive plan for the Sierra
Club that incorporates the key strategic elements of message,
audience, outlets and resources. In plain English, any media plan
should answer the following four simple -- but often overlooked
-- questions: What do you want to say? To whom? Through what
medium? What resources do you have available?
All too often, we think that the purpose of our media work is to
get the word out to anyone who will listen. But what about when
you wanted the environmental reporter from a particular newspaper
or the local National Public Radio reporter to pick up your story
-- and the only reporters who showed up to your press conference
were from some small radio station and the weekly shopper that
nobody reads. Your efforts might have been more effective had you
made one or two calls to the reporters you wanted at your event
and faxed them some materials -- all from your desk!
Targeting your outlets, thinking about specific reporters' needs
and building personal relationships with them will produce better
results with less effort.
At the national level, gone are the days when every press release
went to every reporter on our list. We maintain big lists, but we
rarely send out anything to more than 500 people at once.
Instead, we focus on targeted "media markets."
A media market is usually defined as an area (most commonly
metropolitan) served by the same media outlets. For example, New
York is the No. 1 media market in the United States, followed by
Los Angeles and Chicago. These major media markets serve millions
of people, so space and airtime are expensive and valuable. But
sometimes small markets -- such as Charleston, S.C., Springfield,
Ill., and Fargo, N.D. -- are as strategic as major markets
because of a particular environmental message we want to get out.
We want to ensure that in our key media markets, the Sierra Club
media operation runs like a well-oiled machine -- with staff and
volunteers working closely together, drawing up media plans,
determining which news operations to target, figuring out the
division of responsibilities among ourselves and stretching our
limited resources as far as we can. Our success in stopping
Congress' War on the Environment depends on how effective we are
in getting our message out in the right place.
In the months ahead Sierra Club media and field staff will be
working with volunteers around the country in a series of
training workshops to develop and implement strategic plans in
selected media markets. Watch these pages for specific tips and
ideas on how to create a strategic media plan for your community.
For more information or to get involved, please contact Jean
Freedberg at (415) 977-5517 or Daniel Silverman at (415)
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