The Why and How of PR for chief executives and busy professionals

By Boni Sones

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Page 8. Enlisting the support of others.

  • The trade press

You will be surprised at how much material there is around already that can help you. The trade press is an excellent source of information for your sector. National government, local government, charities, the third sector are all represented in the trade press.

Find out which two journals are most suited to your area of work and subscribe to them. Take time to read them each week or month. This is an important role for a chief executive to perform. To communicate externally you do need to be aware of what is going on. The trade press will give you a taste of that. It is up to you to follow up the stories and find out more information yourself.

Trade press journalists build up an area of expertise and will need the information you have. Take time to develop relationships with them and to get to know who you can trust. This relationship is to your mutual advantage.

Action: Name one journal that you should be reading? Ask others what they read and pick out the name of a journalist whose work you like. Don’t forget you can reply to what others say and write a letter to the editor if you agree or disagree.

  • National journalists

There are specialist journalists on all the nationals both tabloid and broadsheet with specialist areas of expertise such as local government, health, education, business, politics, public policy and sometimes charities.

There are a number of PR tools that you can subscribe to that will help you identify who they are. You can get phone numbers, fax numbers and email addresses from these. Alternatively if you know you want to talk to a certain journalist on a certain paper you can phone up and ask for the contact number and email address yourself. You may have to start in this way.

Don’t waste journalists time they don’t have much of it to give. However many now publish their email addresses at the end of articles they write. You can tell them if you agree or disagree with what they have written. But be creative think of what they should be writing about and suggest to them what the next or follow up article should be.

Action: Identify a national journalist who works in your field of expertise. Read their articles regularly and email to tell them if you agree or disagree and why. Build up your confidence with the media generally. Be prepared for what you say to be quoted.

  • Local journalists

Local journalists are more likely to be accessible to you but may be busy so ask if this is a convenient time to ring and when to ring back. They have very little time to get out of the office and come and visit you. Why not go and see them, tell them why your group, your issues, or your campaign is important. Don’t forget to include your local press agency in these relations, they are important so find out who covers your area.

Ask for advice of how you can get more publicity. What’s wrong with the press releases you are writing? You can talk to the subject specialists where they exist, or contact the editor or news editor. Again local papers often print email addresses and ask for ”come ons” – they may want to hear what you have to say.

You might think about asking one of your local TV presenters or radio presenters or newspaper reporters to come and open your events. Personal relationships count and this is a good way to meet journalists face to face. They will probably have plenty of advice they can give you and they may be willing to become a patron.

Action: Plan an event that you can invite a local journalist to speak at or launch. Why not instigate your own local question time on your issue with three or four known personalities including journalists.

  • Government departments and local authorities

As chief executive you know full well that you do not operate in a vacuum. You rely on the help and support of others. Although you may have set up your organisation or run an organisation because there is no proper state provision you will probably look to government or local government for funding at various times.

Take time to know what’s going on in government, in local authorities and who is responsible for what. You can often list the support of a local MP to help you. They can put down Parliamentary Questions on your behalf, and raise issues through House of Commons procedures like Early Day Motions. They can enlist the support of MPs from all parties when they do this.

Equally local county and district councillors can come to your rescue. They will be aware of why your services are needed and if they are not you should take time to tell them. Council websites tell you who they are and who chairs the relevant local committees. Before you make your phone call or request a meeting find out what they have said in the past about your issues. You may want to suggest that they are also quoted in your press material so get their email address.

Action: Research who is likely to want to join with you in launching your new campaign. Who is going to support what you say and who will oppose it? What evidence do you have to support your views?

  • Considering other partners

National government, local authorities, charities and the voluntary sector, now actively encourage policies that empower local communities. There may well be a number of helper organisations that have been set up at grass root level to bring together groups like yours. You need to ensure you know who the members of your local strategic partnerships are.

These might be organised on a regional basis but it is well worth going to see them or attending one of their meetings. In time you may want to become a member yourself and help to contribute to the work of others.

Going to meetings and meeting with others is an important source of external communications. As chief executive you need to get out and be a figurehead for your organisation. Asking a direct question at a relevant meeting can be very influential as is being asked to become one of the guest speakers yourself.

Action: Find out how you contact the partnerships that matter to you and who convenes the meetings.

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