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Q & A with Communications Expert Thom Clark

Guest post by DeAnndra B.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Community Media Workshop President, co-founder, and resident communications expert Thom Clark, to pick his brain about the upcoming Developing A Communications Plan training.

It’s currently one of the most requested trainings and is offered by The Workshop multiple times each year. Led by Clark, it has been a core training at The Workshop for more than twenty years. There is clearly a demand, and need, for this type of communications training; marrying traditional media relations strategies with new media strategies.

Thom Clark

Q1 – How did the Developing A Communications Plan training come to be one of the most popular trainings at The Workshop?

It’s a basic strategy workshop we’ve done from day one. Born of the first week of the core training, Professional Media Relations, there was a need to provide a shorter training for a conference in Denver as an early effort to help children advocacy groups improve their access to the media and their storytelling. Collaborating with Workshop co-founder Hank DeZutter, we built a syllabus and curriculum as an effort to get down on paper what this training was really about.

Over the years it has evolved as I collaborated with former vice-presidents of The Workshop, including some spokesperson and messaging training elements, similar to week two of Professional Media Relations. In addition to some elements from Sue O’Halloran’s Storytelling training, in particular the elevator speech technique. The current version of the training is a basic strategy workshop with a sharper focus and far better materials, establishing the basic plan as something we ought to put front and center. It worked well and I am doing this training all the time now.


Q2 
Can you speak to the need for a non-profit to have a communications plan?

Most nonprofits have identified a problem that they’re trying to solve. There are customers and clients they want to attract to programs, there are board members, funders, donors, and volunteers they need to tell their story to, which includes successes or challenges in addressing that problem. Often, there are policy makers, government officials, and regulators who also need to hear how an organization discovered a problem and have come up with, or attempted, a solution to it.

If a nonprofit operates in a vacuum, they wont be as successful in changing public policy or moving clients along to be more successful in their lives (after the program), much less raise money, and attract the right staff and board members if they’re not telling their story. Organizations can tell their story through their own media (websites, e-newsletters, etc.), and/or traditional media (print and broadcast). Media coverage doesn’t just happen, it takes strategy and some persistence to gain media attention to help amplify your work which will hopefully help raise more money and attract better staff and volunteers to the organization.


Q3
 – Here at Community Media Workshop we produce a media guide. How do you plan on incorporating how to use the media guide* into this training?

I could do a better job than the seven minutes I cover it, usually. “The book alone can be a training in terms of what’s in the front part as well as what’s in the back.” We do try to cover the media guide in trainings especially if participants have this tool in front of them.

In a recent training, I talked about how to use it as a browsing tool. I usually talk about finding reporters who you may not know are covering your issue, and get to know one a month, every other month. At the end of the year you will have 6 new reporters who are paying attention to your issue. I discussed how to attract the attention of a reporter, who doesn’t know you, by phone or email and it is largely by paying attention to their last piece, or last several articles and commenting on them, usually with a glass half –full approach.

*(Note: the media guide contains an editorial section with tips on pitching, worksheets for creating a communications plan, building a media list, an online communications plan, a social media policy and more.)


Q4
 – Can you tell me your top three objectives or goals that you would like attendees to get out of this training? If they leave with nothing else what are 3 things you would like them to walk away with?

First, we often use an elevator speech exercise that leaves most participants with a far keener sense about the importance of being concise. They have to decide what one program or offer you want to tell this new audience about. You have to get them to the point where they’re asking for more information instead of overwhelming them with too much in the first few minutes of talking with them.

Secondly, a better sense of strategically discovering which 6 or 12 reporters they need to build a relationship with and not worrying about a several hundred-name press list. They should pay attention to the media and figure out whom they need to learn and get to know.

Lastly, I expect people to have a keen sense of the 3–legged stool model of goals, audience, and message working together leading to better storytelling. That’s really at the core of what we do. That basic approach to strategy has not changed much over the last 20 years even with all the new technology available and changes in the media landscape. This model is a really good way to break down to the non-media relations professional how to get a handle on building an effective communications plan.

 

Q5 – You often mention that, in developing a communications plan, working with the media, and doing media relations is not about getting publicity for the boss, what do you mean by that and why is that important?

It comes out of my sense that for many years we had trouble getting foundations to support our work because they say it as so much PR for the boss and didn’t feel the need to fund that type of communications. It was perceived that, “if a group is making news the media will find them”. Not only is that a naïve understanding about how the media works, but also more than likely if a group is making news and the media finds them, it is because of a crisis. So, it is not the type of coverage they want to have.

In addition, the perception that most nonprofit organizations are run by self-described visionaries who had a great idea, was able to get some funding and went on with the work, but are primarily ego-driven ‘cause why would anyone want to do this work for next to no pay. And, in some times that stereotype is true, but more often than not it undermines the real motivations of people who are in this field.

The nonprofit sector represents over 7% of the employment base in Chicago. So there is something we’re trying to do to help the world. We see gaps in what people need to have fulfilling lives and we try to help them with those gaps. So the story, to me, is not about who is running the organization, but what the organization is doing. My interest in helping organizations tell their story more effectively is to get other people to join the journey. To understand what problems they are trying to tackle, why they’re effective, and to come help us. Whether it is volunteers, donors writing larger checks or bringing in clients. That is far more effective than having the ego of a founder or executive director soothed with a profile in Crain’s Chicago Business or the Chicago Tribune.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why You Can’t Google or Bing Your Media List

Guest post by DeAnndra R. Bunch.

I know that many of us take to Google, Bing, and YouTube to gather information or to find out how to do something whether it is for personal or professional necessity. These online search platforms are great tools for learning something new quickly, easily, and, dare I say it, for free.

I cannot tell you how many times a day I search Google for news, research, how to do something tech-related (Excel still puzzles me sometimes), and general information (read: how many stars does this restaurant have on Yelp).

I agree that you can probably “bing” or “google” almost anything these days and receive accurate related search results. Of course there are exceptions, one of which is media listings.

Last week a colleague at The Workshop posed a question to me via Twitter:

My responding tweets:

 

 

 

Believe it or not, we get this question all the time. So much so that about 2 years ago we made a video to answer this FAQ, which I posted for you below.

Media Guide FAQ #2 – Why do I need the media guide? from Community Media Workshop on Vimeo.

Our media guide Getting On Air, Online & Into Print is a comprehensive guide to Chicagoland media. With the exception of the Chicago Tribune (and only within the last year) the majority of media listed in our media guide do not update their staff contact information thoroughly and regularly on their website. So, even relying on an outlet’s website can be ineffective. Our research process is extensive. It takes us an entire summer every year to produce a new media guide, which still requires continual updating all year long. We have already done the research for you to save you time, trust us.

And, being a media guide subscriber automatically increases your professional network. You can call me or any one of our talented staff  members for media relations, social media, and communications advice anytime. That alone is worth a subscription to the guide.

Books are not dead media

While digital advancement has propelled the media guide into a new online format, Workshop President Thom Clark muses on how he still enjoys the print version of the guide when researching Chicago media…

Call me old-fashioned but when it comes to developing a new campaign for media outreach, I still love turning the pages of our annual media guide.

Oh, I love the convenience and speed of going online to look-up a contact phone number, or Googling a media personality to maybe find an email address or even some beat info.

But I still keep the “phone book” version of Getting On Air, Online and Into Print close at hand, right on my physical desktop near the phone. It’s one of best browsing tools around. If I’m looking up a specific media outlet or contact, I never know when I might stumble across another reporter I hadn’t thought of unless I’d been browsing through the guide’s almost 300 pages of listings.

Plus the front section of the book has all the Workshop’s favorite communication planning worksheets, essays on the ever-shifting media landscape, sample media alerts, twitter handles, and specialty reporter lists by issue––resources you might be able to find with dedicated research, but we’ve already done the heavy lifting for you and put it all in one place!

As someone who always loved the unexpected tome that popped up while researching term papers through the library’s card catalog, I still find browsing the pages of our media guide creatively rewarding if not as efficient as some digital tools certainly are today. I’m always finding some new reporter I didn’t know about or a new media outlet I hadn’t heard of while looking up the cell number of a veteran editor.

And once you send that email or place that call, I still love putting pen or pencil to paper right in the book to write-up the encounter, jot down a new email, or make note of a new beat assignment. The updated info might make it into a spread sheet or database as well, but I still write all over my book, avoiding curled up post-its or a stack of pink message slips.

I may be old fashioned by choosing to use the print version of Getting On Air, Online & Into Print rather than the digital version or other digital tools at our fingertips; but the paper media guide still serves as an affordable and appropriate technology for this nonprofit communicator.

Community Media Workshop Releases 2013 Media Guide

Chicago nonprofit Community Media Workshop stays true to its tradition of connecting the community with the media with the release of the twenty-second edition of its Chicago media guide.

 

With information on over 900 media outlets, including online news sites, the 2013 edition of “Getting On Air, Online & Into Print” Chicago media guide is the most comprehensive, up-to-date guide to Midwestern media.

“Our shifting media landscape–with avid news consumers now getting most of their news online–is also expanding as legacy print & broadcast outlets put more and more on the web, alongside bloggers and hyperlocal news sites who are beginning to fill in gaps in neighborhood reporting,” said Thom Clark, President, Community Media Workshop. “While the role of traditional media is shifting, the channels of story transmission for nonprofit communicators have proliferated.  Our guide will help you navigate the new, along side the traditional.”

The 2013 Getting on Air, Online & Into Print guide goes beyond listing direct phone numbers, emails, Twitter handles and beat information for reporters. Veteran users of this media guide often find the first 52 pages of advice, communications planning worksheets and the latest in media relations tools as important as the reportorial listings.

CLICK HERE to order the 2013 Getting on Air, Online & Into Print media guide or call the Workshop at 312-369-6400.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE.

Communiqué from Morocco

For a long time I’ve believed that the Community Media Workshop is a unique institution–offering resources and sharing knowledge that strengthen civic institutions’ ability to transform communities in Chicago and beyond. Our unique mission has now been presented the opportunity to expand its reach–Morocco! Read the rest of this entry »

Workshop helps employment center step up work with local media

A 2011 story by Barrington Patch about CareerPlace

At a time of record unemployment in Illinois and the country, organizations that can help people find employment and build their skills are more important then ever. Yet, CareerPlace, located in Barrington, found that more than 40% of people in their area didn’t know about their services and classes for unemployed individuals.

“We struggled with finding the time to reach out to the local media,” said Monica Keane, executive director of CareerPlace. “I thought Professional Media Relations would be a good way to learn how to get information to the public.”

After attending the Community Media Workshop’s Professional Media Relations course in early 2011, Keane said she realized that when working with the media, everything is about a story.

“I learned to stop telling the business of the agency and to tell the story of the people who are touched by what we do,” said Keane.

Since the Workshop course, CareerPlace has received more media coverage in community press (check out the Patch story here) and started developing relationships with local reporters. Keane says she can now pick up the phone and call certain reporters with possible story ideas. She’s also used the Workshop’s online press release generator and Chicago area media guide to aid in her media outreach work.

“I’m just really impressed with the Workshop,” said Keane. “The willingness of staff to roll up their sleeves and get involved with the nonprofits they serve is so important.”

Keane enjoyed her time at the Workshop so much that she decided to hire Workshop staff for a custom consulting project—development of a train-the-trainer curriculum “Using Social Media to Search, Network and Find Your Next Job” to give CareerPlace trainers tools to help job seekers use social media in their employment searches. The project was supported with a grant from the Barrington Area Community Foundation.

The Workshop team continues to work with CareerPlace to ensure successful social media trainings for its participants in the coming year.

The Workshop’s 2012 Professional Media Relations course starts Jan. 20. There are still spots available. Register today and start making your own local media connections!

 

 

Develop a media story for your organization and pitch reporters, face-to-face

RoiAnn Phillips of HealthConnect One

RoiAnn Phillips decided to attend Professional Media Relations because she wanted a better grasp of media strategy and outreach as she took on more communications work at HealthConnect One.

Her “ah-ha moment” came when instructors told the class how to tailor a pitch to pique reporters’ interest, but her big breakthrough came a couple of weeks later. During the five-part workshop, she was able to pitch her organization’s upcoming report analyzing breastfeeding rates in Illinois to WBEZ Reporter Chip Mitchell. That opportunity resulted in three stories (below) in the coming months about the report and HealthConnect One. One hospital even decided to step up its breastfeeding efforts after hearing one of Mitchell’s stories on WBEZ.

“The WBEZ stories wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t taken Professional Media Relations,” said Phillips. “Without the class, I wouldn’t have understood how to frame a pitch and I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be in the room with reporters.”

REGISTER FOR PROFESSIONAL MEDIA RELATIONS TODAY.

Check out the WBEZ stories that resulted from RoiAnn’s time at Professional Media Relations and follow-up work with reporter Chip Mitchell.

Report: Breastfeeding in Illinois hinges partly on race, income – April 26, 2011

Hospital regulators let formula vie with breast milk – May 5, 2011

After WBEZ report, hospital steps up breastfeeding efforts – August 2, 2011

Professional Media Relations
$395 for the five-part media workshop
Starts Jan. 20, 2012
Includes numerous handouts, worksheets & a copy of the 2012 Getting On Air, Online & Into Print media guide ($125 annual subscription value).
Reserve your spot today.

Visit our website or call 312-369-6400.

All the media tools you need to tell your story – for free!

In addition to communications trainings and one-on-one consulting, the Community Media Workshop also provides a wide range of free resources to help you get your organization’s story to the right reporter. Here are just a few of the many media outreach tools and tips you can find on our website.

Press release generator. Interested in creating a press release about your issue or campaign? Check out our press release generator to help you get started.

Media Event Quick Contact List. Looking for the most up-to-date quick contact list of assignment desks and editors at Chicago’s major media outlets? Download the 2012 Media Event Quick Contact List.

Community Calendars. If you have an event coming up that you want listed in Chicago media calendars, check out this resource to see a comprehensive list of calendars and links where you can submit your information.

Submit to Newstips. Newstips is the Workshop’s blog that distributes news tip information, submitted by hundreds of nonprofits across Chicago, to more than 500 journalists. Email Newstips Editor Curtis Black at curtis@newstips.org with your story ideas.

Tip sheets, worksheets and up-to-date information about the shifting media landscape. We’re constantly publishing new tips and tools for nonprofit communicators such as how to set up your organization’s Google+ page or tips for building and maintaining your media list. Subscribe to our bi-weekly electronic newsletter or visit the NP Communicator blog weekly to see what’s new.

And don’t forget about Chicago’s most comprehensive media guide, Getting On Air, Online & Into Print. If you want contact information for thousands of Chicago-area and Midwest media outlets and reporters, subscribe to our 2012 media guide. Now in print and online.

If you’re interested in registering for scheduled trainings, visit our training page to check out what’s coming up. At the beginning of 2012 we’ll be offering Professional Media Relations, a five-part course that culminates with nonprofits pitching their stories to reporters face-to-face. For the first time ever, we’re also offering an intensive Social Media Bootcamp where attendees will walk away with an online communications strategy and social media policy for their organizations.

If you prefer a custom training for your organization or one-on-one consulting, contact me at nora@newstips.org or 773/510-4819. You can read more about two of the organizations we’ve recently provided one-one-one communications assistance to–Investing In Communities and LISC’s Smart Communities Program–at the NP Communicator blog.

Let us know if there are other resources you’d like to see on our website or training topics you hope we cover in the future. We want to hear from you!

 

An essential resource for every Chicago nonprofit and grassroots group… download it here

When I was a communications staff for a regional nonprofit organization here in Chicago over 10 years ago, I spent plenty of time calling and faxing city news desks and assignment desks very early in the day of an event or press conference to ensure that we were included in their agenda. Through this on-going communication and development of relationships with assignment desk editors I found out what times they were meeting, what information they needed and exactly who would be possibly covering our story or event. This practice got us coverage, helped expand our relationships with the media and pushed our mission forward to the public. Read the rest of this entry »

7 Tips to Building and Maintaining Your Media List

Pitching your story begins with a good media list. Taking the time and care to put together a media list that puts you in touch with the right reporter is a smart investment of resources that increases your chances of success.

Use these tips to create a media list that will help you place your story. Read the rest of this entry »

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