Generating Media Publicity The news media in your community/service area present your facility with a number of opportunities for accomplishing your World Blood Donor Day (WBDD) communications objectives. The news media reach a significant portion of your target audience of frequent and former donors every day. Your challenge will be to use your creativity, hard work, and communications strategies to generate ongoing publicity for your facility. The following steps will help you generate media publicity for WBDD and throughout the year. Step 1 – Understanding the Media What Reporters Want When it is important to generate publicity, it’s important to understand how the media operate. A vital part of that understanding is knowing what reporters want. Reporters want to accomplish a number of things, including to: Develop stories or produce programs that have audience appeal; Have access to newsmakers, experts and valuable information; Maintain objectivity about their stories; Get the jump on their competitors; Get space or air time that other reporters at the same paper or station are competing for; and Find or uncover a new angle to a story. Some things that reporters, in general, try to avoid are: Printing inaccurate, incomplete or irrelevant stories; Covering topics or issues that have already been covered; Missing their deadlines for filing stories; and Wasting their time. What Your Blood Center Wants Your facility’s needs are very different from reporters’ needs. Generating publicity for your facility’s campaign efforts essentially means you have to mesh your interests with those of the reporter(s). That is, you must make the topics and issues that are of interest to you of interest to reporters. Reporters may be interested in technical advances geared toward making blood more safe, special events designed to meet ongoing blood needs, lifesaving stories, and so on. Dealing with Reporters When dealing with reporters, you should be sure to: Contact the appropriate reporter at the appropriate publication or program; Respond quickly to the reporter’s request(s) for additional information or interviews; and Be prepared to answer questions and discuss issues in depth once you have piqued the reporter’s interest. On the other hand, do not: Offer the reporter stale news or hackneyed story ideas; Call when they are on deadline; Persist if a story idea is rejected; or Pressure them to cover a topic by “going over their heads.” Step 2 – Do Your Media Homework Reviewing Donor Media Habits It is important that you learn as much as possible about donor media habits. Doing so will help you focus your efforts on the media channels most effective in reaching potential donors. You can find specific information about donor media habits in your area. Start by calling the advertising departments of local newspapers, magazines, radio, and television stations. Even if you are not going to buy advertising, ask to be sent a copy of the advertising media rate kit, which typically includes information on the demographics of readers, listeners, or viewers. Step 3 – Develop a List of Reporters Creating Your Press List Once you have done your homework and have a good idea of which media the potential donors in your area watch, listen to and read, it is time to develop your press list. You will want to know who the reporters are at each of the local newspapers, magazines, radio, and television stations who write about blood donation. They would include health, community, and lifestyle reporters. Identifying Key Reporters Working successfully with the press over the long term essentially means you have to establish positive, ongoing relationships with reporters. If you are not familiar with the reporters who cover health topics for the media in your area, spend some time finding out who they are. For smaller newspapers, the city desk editor may be the person to contact for local events. Look for reporters via their bylines on articles about health or other issues related to blood donation. Or simply call each newspaper or broadcast station and ask for their names. Who covers stories about blood donation and/or transfusion medicine at this media outlet? Local chapters of the Public Relations Society of America also may have current lists of media contacts they would be willing to share. To make sure your list is complete, be sure to contact: Newspapers (dailies, weeklies, monthlies, and any other small community newspapers); City and regional magazines; Local trade and business publications; State or local bureaus of national wire services (such as AP and Reuters), and religious and ethnic news services; News operations at local radio and TV stations, including university stations; Local cable television stations; Public broadcast stations (which may not have news operations but may have programs on health); and State or local bureaus of national television and radio networks (if available in your community). Both health reporters and consumer reporters are likely to be interested in blood donation issues. While you are composing your list, you might also want to identify calendar editors. Calendar editors may be more likely to be interested in listing the time, dates, and locations of special community blood drives. Health and consumer reporters would be less interested in covering a specific drive and more interested in covering news and feature stories. Step 4 – Build Rapport with Reporters Introducing Yourself Once you have compiled a list of reporters, you will need to call and introduce yourself. Do not wait until you want to try to place a story or article—do it right away. Tell the reporters the kind of information and experts you have access to and offer yourself as a resource to them on blood-related issues. Find out how reporters like to have information brought to their attention—by phone, fax, mail, or email. Also, it is wise to find out when their deadlines are so you know when not to call and by when you must get information to them. Keep your introductory conversation brief, but follow it up with a letter and a press kit. As you read, view, or listen to a reporter’s story, write a brief note acknowledging the piece. Everyone appreciates a kind “pat on the back.” Proposing Story Ideas When you deal with the press, remember there are essentially two kinds of stories: news stories, which are stories the public needs to know about right away, and feature stories, which can run one day just as well as the next. What is a news story? An example of a news story could be your facility’s kick-off event for WBDD or a blood shortage in the area that requires immediate attention. What is a feature story? For celebratory days (World Blood Donor Day), weeks (Blood Collectors Week) and/or months (National Blood Donor Month), you might want to “pitch” a story that would profile frequent blood donors and their personal motivations for giving, and/or a profile of a patient who was saved by blood transfusions, and/or an interview with a physician who uses the blood provided by your center in transfusions. These are all ideal feature stories. Whether a story is a news story or a calendar announcement may depend on the size of your community or the size of the newspaper. A small community with a biweekly paper, for example, might consider a blood drive announcement to be a solid news story. It may, for instance, announce the drive, cover and photograph the collection, and report the drive results. In larger communities, the story would most likely end up on the calendar page, if it appeared at all. You will find some fill-in-the-blank feature releases in this section of the guide that present story angles that might interest reporters in your community. You may think of other ideas as well. You can use these samples as guides for drafting your own. You do not have to draft a feature release in order to pitch a feature idea to reporters, although it helps. All you have to do is supply the idea and the resources the reporter will need to write the story: background information, fact sheets, names of experts to interview, possible locations at which to shoot, and so forth. Maintaining Contact Once you have established contact with reporters for World Blood Donor Day, be sure to maintain it. Send reporters information when you have newsworthy stories and feature releases or when you have a story idea that may interest them. And remember, if reporters call you and ask for assistance it is important to respond quickly to help them. You also should consider sending them thank you notes in response to stories they write, as well as holiday cards/greetings during the holiday season. Taking Advantage of Public Service Advertising Participating in a media campaign will help your local recruitment efforts by increasing the public’s awareness of the need to donate blood. Extending the PSA Reach Your facility can use these materials by localizing them and working with local radio stations, especially since many of the radio stations may not use the PSAs without being convinced that there is a local tie-in. Research of public service directors in all types of media has demonstrated that even if a PSA campaign is produced by a well-respected national organization, and even if the spots are good ones, the chances of the media using a PSA increase if there is a community tie-in (i.e., if a local organization is involved in the campaign). Experience has shown that smaller community newspapers (dailies, weeklies, and monthlies), regional magazines and business publications (such as employee newsletters) will include PSAs if they receive them and believe them to be important. Working with Public Service Directors It is no secret that competition for public service space and airtime is intense. In trying to get the media to use PSAs, your facility will be competing against a host of other national and local nonprofit agencies. Public service directors are the staff people in radio and TV stations who decide whether to run PSAs, and when and where to place them. These directors also are, in many cases, responsible for initiating community affairs projects for their stations or papers and often look to local organizations such as your facility for support, ideas, statistics, and background information. Your facility’s task is to convince local public service directors that blood donation is an issue that is of importance to the community, their listeners or viewers, and warrants their airtime or print space. Here is a suggested outline of the steps your facility may take to get the PSAs used: Identify the public service directors at local radio stations and the advertising managers at newspapers. Using the media list you developed for your publicity efforts as a guide, make a complete list of the public service directors in the area. Send a letter to the directors introducing your facility and describing your public awareness campaign. Be sure to indicate that you will be calling to set up an appointment to discuss your facility and its PSA campaign. Follow up your letter with a call. Try to arrange an appointment to discuss the PSAs and the community’s blood needs. You should need only 15 or 20 minutes of the director’s time. Remember that radio stations and newspapers are busy places, and requests for airtime and print space are abundant. Be flexible and courteous. Think up an innovative way to deliver the letter and your PSAs. PSA directors are inundated with requests, so yours has a better chance of being run if it stands out. If you can not get an appointment, follow up with a detailed letter. Fully describe your campaign and its implications for the community. Include copies of your press kit and the PSAs. If you are able to schedule an appointment, take a press kit and fact sheets with you. In your meeting, emphasize the importance of the campaign to the station’s or publication’s audience. Talk about efforts your blood center will undertake to recognize the station’s or newspaper’s commitment and support. Follow up your visit with a thank you note.
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