March 10, 2014
Imagine there’s breaking news dominating the airwaves—and it’s regarding your industry sector. This is your moment to shine, to take to the cameras or the microphone and share your polished expertise and your messages. You are the go-to source on this subject!
Or are you? Is your phone ringing off the hook, or is it silent? Without adequate preparation, visible messaging and established audience relationships, you may be ignored or simply overlooked. They may not know they should come directly to you.
Whether during a crisis or in “peace time,” it can be a challenge for association communicators to own their spaces as visible, go-to resources for a variety of audiences. But it can be achieved with a strategic plan in place, and this four-pronged approach can help you in crafting or revamping your group’s communications strategies.
- Want to own it, and grab it. Don’t wait for it.
- A proactive, comprehensive battle plan is important to get your group or organization ahead of the latest stories, but first, you have to know exactly who you want to be, what it is you want to do and say and to whom you want to communicate it to.
- Is your audience a combination of consumers, media, regulators and legislators? Where are they getting their information? Identify existing gatekeepers, including trade media and other groups.
- Audit media coverage; social channels, congressional records and regulatory comments — wherever your organization should be — and figure out who is getting traction with your issue. Are allied organizations taking your share of voice? Are you losing it to the opposition?
- Get your leadership and spokespeople onboard with your plan by sharing this audit, and manage expectations from the outset. Executive support goes a long way toward success.
- Get your house in order.
- Shore up your messaging. Strengthen your message points and anecdotes, make them compelling and make them consistent and optimized across all platforms.
- Audit your information and your digital platforms. Is your content fresh, original, optimized and interesting? Do you provide something of unique value? And are you updating your platforms regularly and using them to guide conversations on an issue?
- Review relationships with reporters and influencers. It is easier to engage them if you have proactively determined who they are, what they are looking for and how to be a resource to them.
- Take action and prepare to react.
- Proactively seek opportunities by researching editorial calendars, developing pitch copy and regularly delivering to media contacts. (Without spamming them of course!) Fly-ins, “lobby days” on Capitol Hill and a “speaker’s bureau” positioning your experts also increases your visibility.
- Be reactive and responsive to the news landscape. In breaking news, pitch your available experts for comment. Respond to stories with notes to reporters, letters to the editor and op-ed/column submissions. Follow and interact with reporters in social channels, establishing relationships and responding to their work with positivity and “added value.” Keep an eye out for relevant Help a Reporter Out or ProfNet source requests.
- Measure and retool.
- Assess how your association is doing. Have your spokespeople been quoted in more media hits or been sought directly for comment or advice? Has your issue area in general received more attention, and has your group’s point of view been included?
- Celebrate your successes. Executive leadership and the C-Suite should know that dedication to a plan has led to positive results with an opportunity for growth.
- Fine-tune your program where it needs shoring up. You’ll continually need to retool your assets and your plan in order to stay the go-to resource.