Nov 16, 2010
The path that Ingrid Gonçalves followed to her position as director of communications at the Center for Labor and Community Research will sound familiar to many nonprofit communicators: “I was hired out of college as an administrator for a program, and I was then promoted to director of communications almost by accident, because we needed someone to do that kind of work,” she recalls. “They liked a newsletter I had done.”
On her boss’s recommendation, she looked up the Community Media Workshop and signed up for a five-week course called Professional Media Relations in January. “It was a really great sort of general course,” she says. “It was good to have someone walk me through the technical aspects of working with media, and to provide strategies for making those interactions effective—even something as basic as asking them if this is a good time for them to talk. It’s not something I would have thought to do, but they’re often on deadline, and they’re not going to be paying attention if they’re trying to finish an article.”
They also got to practice on real, live reporters, who came to the workshop to hear pitches-in-progress. Chicago Sun-Times Reporter Dave Hoekstra liked what he heard when Gonçalves told him about a student-run coffee business—and called for an interview the following week.
“We got a really nice story on the front of the food section, and our students were photographed by a Pulitzer-prize winning photographer,” says Gonçalves. “I never would have thought to pitch a food reporter about a student-run business. I was more focused on education reporters.”
Gonçalves has since gone on to mount major media campaigns on her own, and the Sun-Times story continues to pay dividends. “We use reprints of articles in our fundraising materials,” she says, “and it does grant us legitimacy.”
“Before I took the course at the Workshop, it would be daunting when someone would ask me to write a press release or send something to the media,” she says. “I wouldn’t know what to do. Now I can think strategically: What do I want to say, based on who I’m sending this to? It makes you much more effective.”
For 20 years, Professional Media Relations has been the Workshop’s cornerstone training. This intensive training session is designed specifically for nonprofit communicators to plan media campaigns around one of their own stories, while learning basic public relations skills. Sign up for the 2011 session of Professional Media Relations today. Pitch reporters in person, take a free media guide back to the office, learn tricks of the communications trade. It’s a win-win-win.