Creating Media Opportunities for Your Association

Associations and nonprofits have some of the most compelling stories out there, but getting those stories in front of relevant audiences can be a challenge in crowded markets.

A recent panel at the Texas Society of Association Executives’ Tech Talks, "Media Relations for the Non-Media Professional: Creating Press Opportunities," explored how associations and nonprofits can engage with the media to advance their missions. Pierpont's Stacy Armijo moderated the panel, which featured Austin-area media, including Nicole Villalpando, Specialty Editor of the Austin American-Statesman, and Alicia Inns, a reporter with KXAN-NBC.

What Makes for a Great Story

Strong visuals are one of the most critical components as to whether reporters will cover a story, according to Inns. Whether it's a conference, celebration or volunteer event, your press release should clearly explain what visual opportunities will be present for great photography or video. "Everything is news but not everything is newsworthy,” said Inns. “We have to decide if the story will impact our viewers and visuals help us determine what to cover."

Villalpando explained that she's also interested in the people behind the story. Are they relatable or doing something unique? She added that she loves a good volunteer story and likes to highlight people who are doing something to support others. Villapando is also always looking for experts, but cautioned that she might not have a fit for an expert right away. In fact, she files away every relevant email and draws from them, sometimes years later, when she has a need.

Building Relationships with Media

After years of working with the media to secure interviews for association and nonprofit executives, Armijo emphasized the need to provide executives coaching on what to expect during media interviews. She also suggested having a back-up expert in case your lead spokesperson is busy when the media calls.

It’s also important to manage expectations with spokespeople so they aren't disappointed if the story doesn't turn out exactly as they'd hoped. Inns mentioned that breaking news occasionally trumps human-interest stories and she might have to run out to cover a story on location, skipping the interview she'd planned.

Villalpando shared that one of the best ways to build a relationship with her is to ask what she’s interested in and find out what she needs, instead of always pitching self-promotional ideas.

Once an interview is secured, it's important to confirm logistics ahead of time to avoid any confusion. Asking questions such as: “Have elected officials or speakers approved media?,” “Has the hotel staff been notified?,” or “Is there space for camera equipment?” Addressing these upfront will help ensure media have a seamless experience, while building rapport as they consider future stories.