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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.

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 »

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 »

Video: Why Google can’t give you the same data as our media guide

Workshop Media Guide Researcher Deanndra Bunch talks about her process to ensure the media guide data is up-to-date and accurate. Visit our website to subscribe to Chicago’s most comprehensive media guide today.

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

Video: Why is the media guide priced like it is?

As we work to complete the 2012 media guide Getting On Air, Online & Into Print, we decided to take some time to answer your FAQs about the popular tool. In this short video, Workshop Vice President Nora Ferrell explains why the print media guide and the online media guide are priced the way they are and what you get for that value. Visit our website to subscribe to Chicago’s most comprehensive media guide today.

Media Guide FAQ #1 – Why is the price the way that it is? from Community Media Workshop on Vimeo.

Are you a past media guide subscriber? Join us for breakfast!

Friends of the Workshop, we are looking for past Chicago media guide subscribers to join us for a focus group. If you purchased a media guide BEFORE 2011 (the 2010 edition or earlier) but haven’t purchased in the past year, we want your feedback.

The focus group will take place on August 19 from 8:30 to 10:30 am at our offices. Your feedback will help us update, improve and market the Chicagoland media guide’s hard copy book and new online version.

To thank you for your time, you will receive a free copy of the 2011 “Getting On Air, Online & Into Print” book. We will also provide coffee and breakfast.

Visit the link below to confirm your participation and reserve your copy of the media guide. Space is limited. We hope you can join us!

When: Aug. 19, 8:30 to 10:30 am
Where: The Community Media Workshop, 218 S. Wabash, 7th floor

CLICK HERE TO RSVP.

Thank you for your help!

The Community Media Workshop Team

Goodbye Oprah! We’ll miss you from our media guide

Like many of her millions of fans and followers, the Workshop is feeling a bit solemn as the queen of media moves on. Today, we have officially “end-dated” the Oprah Winfrey Show” from our Media Guide database after over 11 years of monitoring and updating her and her producers’ cell phone and direct line numbers.

Through the years we’ve taken great strides to make sure our subscribers had access to the show and have plenty of stories that follow the whole process. We’ll continue to monitor Oprah’s work and provide any contact info as it comes along.

We wish her and her staff all the best of luck.

Make sure you check out our upcoming Making Media Connections conference to find out who else you can pitch here in Chicago as well as subscribe to our Media Guide to find out who to contact at Windy City Live and the Rosie O’Donnell show, both two new shows filling the void left by Oprah’s departure on WLS.

Register for Making Media Connections, win an online media guide

Here’s your chance to win a free subscription to our new online media guide! Anyone who registers for the 2011 Making Media Connections conference by noon on Friday, April 22, will be entered in a raffle for a one-year online media guide subscription.

This is a win-win. You’ll receive the early bird discount AND a chance to win an online media guide, regularly $495 for an annual subscription.

WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO? Just register for the 2011 Making Media Connections Conference this week
BY WHEN? Noon, Friday, April 22 (One week from today!)
AND I COULD WIN WHAT? A one-year subscription to our new online media guide
QUESTIONS? Call 312-369-6400 or email cmw@newstips.org
Did we mention who will be at the conference? Deidra White, CBS 2; Mary Schmich, Chicago Tribune; Charles Festa, Threadless; Tom McNamee, Chicago Sun-Times; Bruce Dold, Chicago Tribune; Lynette Kalsnes, WBEZ; Martha Carlos, Red Cross Chicago; Robyn Ziegler, Illinois Attorney General’s office; Charlie Meyerson, WGN; and many many more journalists, nonprofit leaders and communications experts.

Read more at the conference website!

And did we mention why www.chicagomediaguide.org is a must-have tool? Updated weekly, this is the best and most comprehensive media database of Chicagoland reporters. The online guide allows you to search for reporters and outlets, save and export custom media lists, and target your communications strategy.

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