by Madison McConnell, Project Specialist at City of Lakes Community Land Trust
One of my main goals as the VISTA at the City of Lakes Community Land Trust is increasing public awareness of our work and our organization. In our first quarter we’ve had one big win in this area – an article in a neighborhood paper, the Southwest Journal, about affordable housing came across my desk. The staff writer on the subject wanted to discuss a property the land trust purchased with funds from the Kingfield Neighborhood Association – unfortunately, that home is still under renovation and doesn’t currently have an owner occupant. Luckily for us, this writer really wanted to get the CLT perspective, so I got her in touch with a few of our South/Southwest Minneapolis homeowners to work with her on the story.
Not only were our homeowners eager to share their stories, the writer was super appreciative. She saw the work I was putting in to make sure she got what she needed from our organization, and was able to work from the perspective she was interested in.
This was a BIG win for my role as the VISTA here at the CLCLT. I could mark it off as such and move on, but I think leveraging this for future success is a vital part of establishing sustainability. Since our work should leave our organizations in a better place than when we came in, I want to make sure that we maintain this relationship with the Southwest Journal organization and with this writer.
How do you sustain a relationship with a media outlet? And why is that important? Well, for an organization like the CLCLT, the more people know about what we do, the more people we can help. In turn, if we can show that to funders, the more money we can bring in to keep doing what we do. But how do you keep these relationships going? I have six tips:
- Identify influential reporters in your niche – What audiences do you want to reach? Which reporters does your target audience read? Make a list of the influential reporters in your niche and prioritize it since a targeted list is much more effective than a long, generic list of media members.
- Keep your media lists up to date – Media contacts are constantly changing. Reporters get shifted to new assignments, move on to new jobs, and so on. It’s important that you maintain your media list on a regular basis to keep all your contact information updated. Otherwise, when it comes time to pitch a story, you won’t have anyone to pitch it to.
- Respect the reporter’s time – Reporters are constantly busy, and time is money. They are always up against deadlines. For freelance reporters, the faster they get the story done, the more money they make. Respect the time of your media contacts – you want them to respect your time, too!
- Be there when they need you – It’s not just about you reaching out to the media when you have a story to tell. You also need to be there for them. A reporter may call you for a comment on another story or for a tip, and you need to be there for them whenever they need you. That’s how you build a true relationship and establish yourself as a quality source.
- Stay in touch on a regular basis – Sometimes, building media relationships is as simple as just letting them know you’re around. Introduce yourself to the right reporters, offer suggestions, and try to get listed on their contact list as an expert source for a particular topic. They can’t contact you if they don’t know you exist.
- Never lie to a reporter – Don’t stretch or “spin” the truth, or comment on something you don’t really know about. When you lie, you put the reporter’s credibility at stake, because their name is on the line with every story they publish. And that’s something they won’t soon forget.