Before you begin calling up the media and screaming stop press or breaking news,
because you have ‘THE’ development story of the year, put the phone down, stop yourself and answer one question: are you a 100 metres sprinter or a 42 kilometres marathon runner?
Now, what does athletic ability have to do with a media plan for the developmental sector, you may well wonder. Everything.
The first thing that one has to be very clear about, before drawing up any successful media plan, is that this is a long term commitment best suited for people who can stay the distance. An ad-hoc, short term media plan, will get you ad-hoc, short term results. After you have committed to this basic truth, here’s how to raise the profile for your issue:-
Begin at the beginning, the first thing one must one must do is to have a full media list in place. For the print media, include beat reporters (journalists who cover your area, it could be public health, water, poverty or infant mortality), metro editors, the editor and still photographers. For television, keep in touch with the reporters as well as the input desk.
Know thyself, the second thing is to really know your issue very well. Understand your subject, identify the news-peg and make sure that the story is rooted in real facts about real projects and there are pictures available. A reporter senses an overstated story, faster than a politician senses an opportunity to gain votes.
Keep it simple, India has over 1 million NGOs. That’s right, over 1 million. So imagine the information load for the journalist if even half of those organisations contact her for a story. If you want to earn the respect of the reporter, give clear , short releases and background notes, two pages each is more than sufficient to tell your story. Therefore, sending district wise data of arsenic in drinking water will not help your cause; letting the reporter know that your latest India –wide study shows that arsenic levels are rising because government policy has failed to prevent groundwater from being depleted, with pertinent figures on how many people are affected by this, will get you the media attention you deserve.
Use Page 3 Techniques for a Page 1 story, Don’t dismiss the draw of page 3. If a celebrity can get your cause attention, don’t be too proud. One of our clients got great coverage, by getting actor Rajeev Khandelwal (of Amir fame), who at that time was at the height of his popularity as a soap star, to inaugurate a World AIDS function.
Don’t Expect a Story Every time, use The Secret, the best selling book, ‘The Secret’ advises you to be very clear about what you want and then to stop obsessing about it. So devise ways to keep in touch regularly:- use press releases, conference call, press conferences, policy papers, one to one meetings. But if the reporter is not able to do the story this time, no harm done. There is always a next time. So continue to meet up over coffee.
Here’s to a great relationship between you and the media.
Next Week: -What’s your brand, selling yourself as an individual entrepreneur.
The guest columnist is a communications entrepreneur, specializing in social advocacy and research, writing and life skills training.