And in Quirky News: Media Relations and Getting Your Message Out

by Christine Payton
South Louisiana Community College
Lafayette, LA

If you missed the session on media relations and getting your message out at NCMPR’s national conference, you can thank me later for this blog.

You missed one of the most useful sessions and entertaining presenters at the conference.  John Pope, award-winning higher ed reporter at The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, spelled out pretty clearly how to engage reporters and get your message published. And he did so in a funny, relevant way.

First, be FAT. (This doesn’t mean go on a feeding frenzy of beignets and café au lait!)

Pope meant: Be Fast, be Accurate, and be There. This translates to: Respond to reporters in a timely fashion, provide accurate information, and be ready to respond anytime because our world is “all news, all the time.”

The second piece of advice Pope gave is to know a reporter before you pitch a story idea to him or her.  He told us, “I’m 65 and I tweet!” Follow reporters on Twitter. Read the stories they write. Understand their beat. When you have a clear idea of what they cover, then craft your pitch accordingly.

When making that pitch via email, don’t use attachments. Pope suggested putting everything in the body of the email. Use links to videos and photos sparingly. Save those for follow up.

Besides knowing reporters, we need to know our experts on campus. Know who can speak to the media and who wants to speak with the media. Keeping a list of these experts will come in handy when reporters are looking for sources.

Pope also suggested keeping a close eye on national news topics. Reporters are always looking to localize these topics and you may have an expert who can be a local source.

Lastly, look for those quirky stories on campus. Offering a course on ghost hunting? That could be a news hook for the right reporter. Check course offerings. Speak with faculty. Do some digging to find those interesting, out-of-the-ordinary courses that are being offered.

After Pope’s session, I asked if he’d ever write about our college, South Louisiana Community College, which is two hours south of New Orleans. He told me to find the right story and tweet him. Challenge accepted.

Christine Payton is the director of public relations at South Louisiana Community College in Lafayette, Louisiana.


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