Gaining presence in the media is a complicated task; but if you know the rules of the game and how media work, the possibilities of having an impact are greater.
Don’t fool yourself; it’s very difficult for social organizations to have some impact in the media. When they do, it’s usually because of some tragedy, when there’s a large solidarity event somewhere or when the organization, due to bad practice, hits the headlines instead of their work. It is true that digital media have made it easier to appear in the headlines, but they’ve also brought about a new way of communicating.
A preliminary note: some organizations still believe that communication shouldn’t be their main focus; that it’s better to work than to make a fuss, they say. But this is far from true. Communication departments shouldn’t be a bonus in times of financial bounty; on the contrary, they should be conceived as a key tool to gain access to grants, to raise funds and find volunteers…as well as recognition. Investing in communication is always a risk, but if you know the rules of the game and how media work, you’ll have a greater chance of hitting the lines.
A warning: You’ll also see some managers at organizations that are eager to see their face on a newspaper or on the news, but you can’t bungee jump without wearing a good harness. Before trying to contact the media, it’s important for an organization to have a sound communication strategy: a good, up-to-date corporate website; active social media profiles; a person that is ready to manage requests from journalists; a spokesperson ready to talk to them and a clear and well-structured message, at least.
A piece of advice: According to a survey by Reuters in 2018, television continues to be the top-ranking media. 76% of Spaniards access information on TV, 49% on digital media, and 46% get information from the social media. We are facing a new communication framework. There are many changes to come to terms with, but one of them is especially relevant: a growing trend for news with striking headlines; clauses that will stop you from anxiously scrolling down the screen of your phone.
This all means that communication officers at social organizations need a good database, as well as knowing how the media work; they need to be in touch with journalists regularly, and use favourable opportunities to communicate what it is the organization is doing and, now, more than ever, they must be creative.
Without perverting the organization’s values, a communication officer needs to be sufficiently bold to turn the everyday work in the organization into catchy news. On-line communication demands braveness. In today’s era of communication, the power of headlines is multiplied: short, precise and striking. Headlines as questions, that will make the reader intrigued. Human and personal stories.
And one final note: Often more value is attached to appearing once in media outlet with a large audience rather than appearing more often in other more modest media. Today, all hits are important. Remember this: the work of a communications officer doesn’t end once the journalist explains a piece of information; once that happens, it is necessary to share this: on social media, on the website… In doing so, you’ll get the communication wheel to keep turning.