Pitch It Real Good: 8 Tips for Working the Media
Holding a big adoption event or launching a new program and want your community lining up outside your doors? Your colleagues in the field share what’s worked for them–from bribery with baked goods (oh yeah!) to compelling caption-writing.
1. The 5 Ws—never out of style
To encourage attendance at adoption events, suggests Beth Finamore-Neff at Young-Williams Animal Center, “Prepare a news release written in AP style that clearly explains the ‘who, what, where, when and why’ of the event, including what will make it unique or fun for attendees.”
2. Time it right
Send out releases to all media around 1½-2 weeks before your event, so that outlets can run the story in weekly community newspapers, online, etc. prior to the event. “Then, 2-3 days before,” advises Finamore-Neff, “send a media advisory to all local media encouraging them to attend.”
3. Shake your assets
Highlight what good visuals for TV and print photos will be available in your releases, as well as who from your organization will be offering interviews at what times. Explains Finamore-Neff, “This approach was successful in promoting YWAC’s recent Read to the Animals Night,” held during the first few weeks of the ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge.
4. Feed them
For their recent $100K Challenge kick-off event, the Humane Society of Charlotte held a Meet the Candidates debate for their election year-inspired Dogs*N*Cats adoptions campaign. Their short skit was picked up and shared with multiple networks, but the sweetest part—HSC’s Donna Ragan delivered cookies to all her media contacts along with an official “invite” on the cookie box that included all event info.
5. Get everyone on the same page
Before a big event, HSC’s Ragan has a meeting with executive staff to overview event details and finalize details and key speaking points. “We are also sure that all staff are current and knowledgeable about every event detail so they can answer whatever their potential adopters or visitors might have,” she says.
6. See it through their eyes
Take care to send compelling photos along with your press releases and pitches. “If it’s a story about a specific animal, that picture always has the animal looking right at the camera. Eye contact is so important!” says Angela Speed, Director of Development & Community Relations at Wisconsin Humane Society.
7. Captions=your new best friend
They may be small, but they’re mighty—considering that, shares YWAC’s Finamore-Neff, captions under images are read on average 300% more than the body copy itself. “People scanning the newspaper or reporter’s blog will notice the photo and caption even if they don’t read the article.”
8. Offer a raincheck
The media can’t come to cover your story? Take a tip from WHS’ Speed: “About 45 minutes to an hour before evening broadcasts, we’ll send the release again with a friendly ‘Hey, sorry you couldn’t make it today, but if you get a chance to slip this in tonight or tomorrow morning, or post these online, that would be wonderful…’ I’ll send 3-4 TV-ready photos and a brief synopsis of the story again. This seems to really work on busy media days!”
For more tips and tricks from Young-Williams Animal Center, Humane Society of Charlotte and Broward County Animal Care and Adoption Center, check out the first in Elyse Orecchio’s series on the ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge blog, “Keeping Up with the Contestants: 12 Tips on Scoring Media Coverage of Adoption Events.”