How to get a journalist to love you

th9KKXI7FMPublic Affairs Tip: People love you if you make their life easier.

 

Sure some of you have been here before: twiddling your thumbs trying to think up a good plan to get some journalists on-side. Indulge me, let me give you the bad news first: there’s no quick fix. Patience and perseverance rule. The good news: there’s some things you can do to help journalists like you a little better. Here’s six to help get you started.

 

1/ Quickly respond to their queries. Enough said.

2/ Make their lives easier. Journalists thrive on up-to-date, concise and accurate facts and statistics; and newsworthy stories that sell. Like most of us they’re not super-human and can’t keep up-to-date on every issue. So they tend to depend on a handful of people or organisations that they can turn to and trust when they’re on a sticky wicket. Why not become one of their friends? Recognise the value of the statistics and stories that you collect; and why not think about pinning down and narrowcasting your expertise to a tight, target audience. What issues do you really know a lot about and which journalists would be interested?

3/ Send out useful, engaging press releases and e-mails. Journalists are swamped with them.

4/ Have a sharp press officer on the end of a line. Being over-reliant on websites and social media to get out facts, thoughts and opinions on the politics of the moment can be a tad risky.

5/ Have human stories at the ready. If you happen to be an alert charity or campaigning group you’ll have a good up-to-date “case study” database housing contact details of all those lovely people who have promised to support you by sharing their story with the media.

Last but not least:

6/ A picture launches a thousand journalists. Snap a great shot and get it out there. Fast.

Some useful stuff if you’ve found this interesting

AskCharity a free service designed to help journalists and charities work together.

Volunteer Genie on how to sell a story to a journalist.

Love to hear from you.

 

How to engage well with secondary schools: a free guide

th35OJJ59VPublic Affairs Tip: If you want to engage well with schools step into their shoes.

 

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that local non-profits can find it a bit tough getting schools interested in working with them. It’s a shame because these projects are often full of imagination and young people generally like change. Take me: I still remember the first time I saw a play given by a local theatre company at my primary school. Gob-smacked. Such magic. A world from nowhere.

But don’t lose heart. There’s ways of building healthy, sustainable relationships with secondary schools. You just have to be a Ben not a Bill. They both want to “sell” an (identical) idea – a drug awareness project – to the same school. Both lead a different local charity.

Bill (don’ts)

Bill wasn’t at home when common-sense came calling. So he goes blundering in (in April/a bad time for schools/near exams) irritating schools by cold calling them (without knowing who he wants to talk to), e-mail and mail bombing, phoning up expecting to talk to the head or a teacher (during teaching hours) and gets all hoity-toity with the receptionist (who’d burnt her toast that morning). Outcomes: receptionist slams phone on Bill and forever associates him with burnt toast.

Ben (do)

Bill likes putting himself in other people’s shoes. He knows that the best time to talk to schools about new projects is September (when everyone’s fresh and free of exams); and that the school receptionists are worth their weight in gold (and probably burnt their toast that morning). He has a few names up his sleeve: the PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) head, the inclusion unit manager and the SENCO (Special Education Needs Co-ordinator). He’s talked to his friends and colleagues and found out that they’re sympathetic to the idea of promoting drug awareness. He’s framed his messages carefully around their needs, how the project will benefit their students (being very careful to pitch it to a year, subject, theme) and how it’s value for money. Outcomes: Ben gets a meeting with the right person; and the receptionist forever associates Ben with the person who made her feel better post toast burn.

If you’re interested in getting better at engaging with secondary schools and connecting with young people why not take a peek at:

If you’d like to share your story about what did or didn’t work for you when it came to engaging with secondary schools please do give me a shout. I’d love to hear from you and  include your stories in future posts.

How to write well: 14 tips

dr sofija opacic and creative public affairs Public Affairs Tip: If you want to improve your writing use short sentences; and strong, snappy, unusual words.

Have you ever been stuck for words? Or perhaps not been able to get the right words in the right order on the page? Some of us get stuck when it comes to expressing what we want to say on paper; but there’s hope at hand. Writing has been part of my working life for over 25 years. That means that I’ve had a lot of time to learn from my mistakes. Like a lot of things in life there’s some simple rules you can follow. Here’s14 classic do’s and don’ts I’ve picked up along the way.

Do:

  • Use short sentences.
  • Use snappy words.
  • Use strong, unusual words to attract attention.
  • Pepper with strong, active verbs.
  • Use vivid imagery (a good metaphor goes a long way).
  • Get straight to the point.
  • Be positive.
  • Use concrete facts.

Don’t use:

  • Flowery adjectives
  • Lots of adjectives
  • Long, complex sentences.
  • Vague, flabby words and ideas.
  • Hype (seen as advertising).
  • Jargon and acronyms (unless spelt out clearly).

If you want to know more about how to write well, why not take a peek at:

thBJ5J3LOB

Creating a strong public affairs strategy

media and public affairs professional

Public Affairs Tip: Know your outputs from your outcomes.

Do me a favour stay with me. I know it sounds heavy: developing a public affairs strategy but it really isn’t. If it makes you feel any better think of it as a PR plan with lobbying chucked in.

At the big picture, mega-level a public affairs strategy can help your organisation achieve various essential objectives.

10 common public affairs objectives

❶       Ensure a high degree of brand awareness and perception among key influencers.

❷       Influence and drive the public policy agenda.

❸       Deliver effective campaigns and messages.

❹       Increase the effectiveness of your services.

❺       Keep key issues high up the political agenda.

❻       Promote effective partnership working.

❼       Encourage government to legislate.

❽       Keep your organisation ahead of the game.

❾       Draw down additional funding.

❿       Support modernisation (re-brand/restructure).

 The three steps to creating a public affairs strategy
 ❶       Where are you now?

 Some helpful questions to steer your thinking.

  • How strong is your current profile?
  • Do people know who you are, what you do and why?
  • How do you know that? (evidence)
  • Has your public profile changed over the last couple of years?
  • Is it stronger/weaker?
  • How do you know that?
  • Who are you engaging with at the moment?
  • Are there key audiences you’re targeting?
  • Who are they and why?
 ❷       Where do you want to get to?

 Some common replies to help guide you.

  •  Build a community of advocates to raise awareness
  •  Kick start a new conversation around . . .
  •  Create more positive media coverage so that . . .
  •  Extend reach to key decision makers/influencers/opinion-formers which would include . . . .
  •  Become famous as . . .
  •  Create business opportunities with . . .
 ❸       What does success look like?

 We’re focusing on measurable outputs and outcomes here.

Outputs are the products, services or facilities that result from your activities.

Outcomes are the benefits and changes that result from your activities.

It’s important to know the difference if a stakeholder like local or central government is a major driver of your organizational income generation strategy. So if we take the idea of building a community of advocates to raise awareness of your brand:

The outputs might be:

  • The number of advocates you’ve managed to recruit.
  • The number of advocates who are MPs, journalists, councillors etc.
  • The number of internal advocates who have been trained in effective messaging.

The outcomes might be:

  • A better understanding of . . .
  • Improved quality of life for your clients.
  • Earlier detection and accurate diagnosis of . . .

If you’re interested in knowing more about public affairs strategy, then why not take a look at two CIPR Excellence Public Affair winners: Guide Dogs Dog Attacks Campaign and Fair Fuel UK Campaign

I hope you’ve found this useful. If you have any thoughts, reflections, ideas on this then please do contact me.

What was the message again? How to create a sticky message.

06b6abaa90422778ddd37f485f1ef1b2Public Affairs tip: Spend time getting your messaging right so it connects with people’s emotions.

Have you ever tried to explain to someone what your organisation does? Only to be met with a bewildered, confused and slightly irritated look when the lucky person’s heard you out?

If the answer’s yes, then the first thing to say is don’t panic; it’s a common problem. Converting something complex into a sentence or two takes time; and it’s a bit of an art because you’re aiming to tug at heart strings as well as engaging people’s minds.

This post will help grow your confidence on what messages are and how to develop them so they stick.

Putting it very simply, a message is a clear, concise statement; or set of statements that describes a position, opinion or point of view. Messages form the bedrock of our communication. They’re the basic building blocks that are used to reach out to our target audience and persuade them to think or do something.

Three common organisational messages are the:

  • Strap-line: short, snappy, captures what your organisation’s about and what you’re trying to achieve.
  • Policy position statement: where your organisation stands on a certain issue. These often draw on extensive research, so it’s really important to cut out the jargon. People tend to zone out with statistics and arguments. So please be careful.
  • Elevator pitch: what your organisation does in about 30 seconds. This puts a very positive spin on what you want to change – the kind of impact you want to make – how you change people’s lives for the better, for instance.

Here’s three simple steps to help you start developing your organisation’s messaging platform:

Step 1: Be clear about who you are, what you do and why.

It’s important to get this first step right because without mutual understanding there’s little chance of creating effective communication, campaign, fund-raising, media or public affairs strategies. A common challenge for some smaller non-profits is getting people within the organisation on the same page (trustees, volunteers, staff). With larger non-profits common challenges are sharing key messages between departments; and aligning internal and external communication.

Step 2: Start with your strapline

Have you ever noticed how it’s always much easier to waffle than be concise? A strapline forces you to condense down who you are, what you do and why in around seven to ten words. It’s the jewel in the crown. It helps people engage with what you do and what you want to achieve. So it’s a good place to start.

Step 3: Empower people to become effective messagers

Given the direction of communication (fast, real time) it’s important that everyone is involved in developing and promoting effective organisational messages. Let’s imagine you’re part of an organisation that’s starting a new campaign to change a piece of legislation. Imagine how much more effective – how much more impact it would make – if everyone in your organisation went home and talked about it (on and off line). All those people telling their friends and family about:

  • The one big thing they want them to know about the new campaign.
  • The reason why it’s important.
  • What they could do to help.
  • Why it’s important for them to do something now.

 

If you’ve found this interesting why not try a couple of things out. Doing something will help you embed what you’ve learnt:

  • Look at some of your competitors’ straplines.
  • Find a campaign that’s made you do something. Work out what values sit at the heart of its messaging. Putting it another way: what tugged at your heart strings?

If you’re interested in sharing some of your thoughts or discoveries, please do get in contact. I’d love to hear from you.

Getting over the b-word

Creative Publc AffairsPublic Affairs Tip: Know who you are, what you do and why you do it.

This post is a gift to all those people who get a little tetchy when the b-word’s mentioned. BRAND. Why not give it a go when you have a mo, it might help you express who you are, what you do and why you do it. What have you got to lose? Why not take the first step?

What’s brand?         

It’s what people say, think and feel about you. It’s the impression you make. Think Red Cross and Microsoft what comes to mind?

What’s does brand focus on?

Three main bits:

  • Your mission, vision and values.
  • Your visual identity (symbols, colours and design).
  • Your tone of voice (how you use words to express your organisation’s personality. Think BNP and Green).

How do you create a strong brand?

A start might be to:

    • Know who you are, what you do and why you do it. This should come through everything you do whether you’re updating your twitter account or presenting a formal fundraising pitch.
    • Be clear about your position and what sets you apart from others.
    • Bring your brand alive through words, images and colour.
    • Take people on the journey with you by sharing your vision and a common sense of purpose.
    • Make sure everyone’s on the same page including people who fund-raise, market, recruit volunteers, campaign and develop policy.
    • Be experimental, entertaining and engaging. We like brands that fit in to what’s important to us and what we’re interested in.

If you’ve found this useful, then why take a peek at this.

Please do keep in touch.

Creating social change: the power of optimism

optimismPublic affairs tip: Talk to your values not your feelings.

Welcome to the third and final instalment of this series. At the end of this post you’ll find a comprehensive Creative Public Affairs guide that explores how to engage effectively with secondary schools.

One of the joys of getting older is that you pick up a few useful insights.One of the biggies is learning that staying optimist and inspired helps keep you motivated .

Here’s some tip on how to promote a positive mind-set. Why not try out a few and tell me how you get on. I’d love to know.

  • Feed your personal energy. Stay inspired.
  • Repeat after me: Change is possible.
  • Talk to your values rather than your feelings. It helps you and others to engage with what really matters.
  • Always keep your destination in mind.
  • Keep reminding yourself that people can do great things together especially if you make the messages personal. Focus on people’s everyday concerns and interests.
  • Consistently talk about what you do and why you’re doing it. Again concentrate on positive messages that concentrate on action, impact, effectiveness, outcomes and benefits. Clock what people are paying attention to. There’s your hook!
  • Share your successes eg announce when you’ve arrived at one of your milestones.
  • Choose how you want to be seen. How are you communicating your project’s identity? Are you going to invite opinion/feedback on how things are going? Will you be promoting your work internally in newsletters, bulletins and social media?
  • Seek local news coverage when success happens.
  • Help other people understand how they can get involved in the work you’re doing and how they can make a difference in their local communities.
  • Finally, never give up hope.

After all: “What matters most is that we learn from living.” (Doris Lessing)

I hope you enjoy the Guide: May 2014 VOLUNTARY SECTOR GUIDE How to effectively engage with secondary schools.

Good luck! I’m always happy to promote good stories.

If you need any help on communication, lobbying, campaigning and working with the media, please get in touch.

 

 

 

How to earn the trust trophy: 11 ideas

trophy and artPUBLIC AFFAIRS TIP: Trust is a trophy that’s given to you by other people because you’ve proved to be trustworthy.

 Would you say you’re an honest person? Trustworthy? I’ve been asking myself these questions following some work I’ve been doing recently on how best to promote more effective engagement between non-profits and secondary schools. Building and maintaining trust seems to sit at the heart of the solution. So how do you do it: earn the trust trophy?

Here’s 11 ideas I cooked up earlier.

  1.  Promote honest conversations with the secondary schools. When you pitch your project be honest about what you can and can’t deliver.
  2. Show schools you can deliver a relatively flexible, high quality service that meets an urgent need of theirs that’ll benefit their students/their parents/families.
  3. Set clear boundaries: what will you and won’t you do in the medium and long-term.
  4. Ask questions. Ensure you have the “difficult conversations” upfront. But be mindful: tread with care, tact and diplomacy.
  5. Clarify what the school wants out of your session(s). This is really important in faith-based schools where you have to be clear about what messages you’re going to promote?
  6. Answer positively to any questions.
  7. Provide evidence of your expertise: good, local, professional testimonials; well-designed websites; professional marketing collateral.
  8. Set up relationships with young people. They’re key. They know the school curriculum and how they feel about their school experience.
  9. Dress appropriately professionally and turn up on time. Remember you’re on show as soon as you come through the school gates.
  10. Respond to any communication promptly. Tardiness costs relationships.
  11. Ensure you, staff and volunteers have had safeguarding training.

I hope you found this helpful. In the next post – the final blog of the schools project series – I’ll be delving into how to remain positive and stay inspired.

Do get in touch if you’d like to share your thoughts about what worked or didn’t work for you when you worked with secondary schools. I’ll blend your insights into future posts.

Also if you need any help with communicating, campaigning, lobbying and working with the media please do contact me on 07966 369577 or sofija@creativepublicaffairs.com.

 “Honesty is not a policy, it is a state of mind.” Eugene LHote, philosopher.

 

 

 

10 tips: engaging with schools – making the first move

door

Quick Public Affairs Tip: If you want to open doors, tailor your approach to your target audience and their needs

I’ve always promoted the importance of a rounded secondary school experience. Something that enables people to create the lives they want whether it’s to do with banking or organic food farming. So I was chuffed to receive a commission to develop a strategy on how the local voluntary sector could engage more effectively with secondary schools.

It was a bit of an eye-opener. I’ve opened a lot of doors in my time – universities, trade unions, think tanks, government departments and ministerial offices – but this was a little different. Tougher. After the first couple of hiccups I’d managed to collect some crucial dos and don’ts to making that initial contact.

Dos

  • Make sure you have a contact name within the school when you phone reception. Using a person’s name is always a good way to build trust. If you don’t have a contact name, then you could try business and enterprise; deputy heads, subject heads, pastoral heads or PSHE heads, inclusion unit managers, SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator), welfare and pastoral leads.
  • If you can find someone with a bit of influence in the school to introduce you to the “right” person – perhaps a governor or a member of staff in the school – that would be great. Or perhaps you know someone who used to go to that school who can help introduce you to someone.
  • Time it right.  September’s a good time to approach schools. Avoid post-April.
  • Frame the messages in the offer around their needs, what the school wants and how the project will benefit their students. Be clear about where you’re pitching (year, subject, theme); how it’s value for money; and how you intend to measure success.
  • Be super-nice.

Don’t

  • Cold call schools.
  • E-mail/mail bomb schools.
  • Phone up during school hours expecting to talk to a teacher.
  • Contact the head teachers as they’re always very busy. Their PAs can be very helpful people. They know the school and can help you find the right person.
  • Antagonise the school receptionists. 

Hope you found this helpful. I’ll be continuing this school series with what to do in steps 2 and 3 (building trust and creating strong sustainable relationships).

I’d love to hear about your stories. What worked – or didn’t work – for you when you first approached a secondary school with your idea?

Why not get in touch:

07966 369579

sofija@creativepublicaffars.com

@businesses4good

 

How to create a story the media wants

how to create a story the media wantsQuick public affairs tip: if you need to sell something into the media –  use a story line that people already know well. Stories strike at the human heart and engage our attention. 

Whenever I’m a little glum, one of my favourite pick-me-ups is to re-vamp what’s happening to me into something a touch happier. More often than not it’s re-framing from a tragedy to triumph or comedy. It always works and it’s fun.

The 7 most common story types with strong characters and a lot of conflict to boot are: 

  •  Overcoming the monster – the battle between good and evil. Alice in Wonderland slaying the Jabberwocky and Jaws. 
  • The Quest. Jason’s adventures searching for the golden fleece and Bridget Jones quest to find herself a fella.
  • Voyage and return. Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz becomes older and wiser. 
  • Rags to riches. Cinderella, Rocky, dear Pip in Great Expectations.
  • Death and Re-birth or the redemption story. A common one in US politics.
  • The classical comedy. Midsummer Nights Dream where Bottom’s head’s transformed into an ass’s head but he’s clueless. Has a happy ending.
  • Tragedy: Deluded King Lear who chooses to give his estate to his two “evil” daughters and disinherits the “good” one. He goes mad. She gets hanged. In a tragic story the character doesn’t over-come the monster, reach the end of his quest etc.

Over to you:

  •  What story lines does your local paper like?
  • What stories do “leaders” like to tell us?

I’d love to hear how you’re getting on. If you need help with communicating your key messages – big or small – then please do contact me on sofija@creativepublicaffairs.com or 07966 369579.
Enjoy the day!

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