How did you first get into the business?
I started working in consumer high-tech PR at the beginning of the dotcom boom when the internet was literally brand new. Every dotcom start-up company had the potential to change the world and make millions off an IPO. I loved the fast-paced nature of the business, but there was something missing.
My career perspective changed completely when I started training for a marathon to raise money for AIDS Project Los Angeles. The participant experience made me realize that I wanted to shift gears and see if I could make a transition into non-profit PR.
I jumped head first into learning about non-profit PR working on the AIDS rides and Susan G. Komen 3-Day® breast cancer walks across the country. There are a lot of similarities in the PR world between working for start-up companies and non-profits. For me, the biggest difference was my new career path felt like I was contributing more to a greater good.
What do you consider good PR?
For me, good PR is really about understanding, embracing and nurturing your audiences – whether it is your organization’s donors or the media. It’s about putting yourself in your audience’s shoes. What do they want or need in order for them to take action? What are they looking for out of your organization?
In practical terms, good PR that helps to secure media coverage is about taking away all of the roadblocks that prevent media from wanting to tell your story. It’s our job to make it as simple as possible for the producer or reporter, so they want to come back year after year.
For example, MuckFest® MS has amazing visuals that broadcast TV and photographers love. In addition, the participants have compelling and oftentimes emotional stories to share. But there are still roadblocks for media to attend. The event takes place on weekends when broadcast TV news stations always have fewer camera crews to send out to cover stories. You’re also competing with several other charity events on the weekend.
Our solution? Last year, we began offering a “Media Preview Day” on Friday mornings. This gave the media more flexibility and it also gave them their own exclusive, first look at our event. In return, it enabled us to get more TV segments by letting media do live interviews during their morning newscasts with some reporters even jumping in the mud themselves.
What tips do you give to non-profit organizations who have limited time?
I always recommend investing time in developing your organization’s media lists. And remember, it’s about quality not quantity. Most organizations think the list needs to be thousands of contacts – but are they relevant to your organization? More specifically, non-profits should have at least these four go-to lists: Calendar of events listings, local broadcast & print outlets, national media and influencers.
Maintain relationships with media that took the time to cover your organization. Saying “thank you” goes a long way. And share their stories on social media. Better yet, tag the reporter’s name in the story so they see that you are sharing it too. Remember, they are probably trying to build their fan base, so they like that you’re helping to get their story more viewers. Same with the media outlet – tag it too. To get even more views, use local or issue-based hashtags, so other relevant audiences also see the story.
What has been your favorite experience working on MuckFest MS?
It was great taking my two sons out to MuckFest MS Los Angeles last year. They loved playing in the Lil’ Muckers area. It also let them see that you can have a job that is fun and gives back to a good cause.