Are You a Resource or An Advocate?

Philanthropy411 is currently covering the Communications Network Fall 2013 Annual Conference conference with the help of a blog team.  This is a guest post by William Albert, Chief Program Officer at The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.  Follow Bill on Twitter – @balbert1

AlbertAt a pre conference session Wednesday afternoon, the good folks at GYMR public relations laid down some terrific ideas to make all our work with the press more successful—12 terrific ideas to be precise. Cynthia Dodd Adcock from Independent Sector  has already given us all a good summary of the proceedings.

To this terrific list of 12 tips, those of us at the session were given the happy task of developing a lucky 13th; another way to work your magic with the fourth estate.   Given all the upheaval and change in the modern media landscape—less staff, more to write and post, fewer beat reporters, the growth of social media, the list is long—our suggestion turned out to be rather old-fashioned.

It goes something like this:  When working with the press, it is better to be seen as a reliable resource rather than anxious advocate.

Think of it this way:  We all have friends and family that we only tend to hear from when they need something, or have a problem they want you to help solve.  Annoying right?

Same goes with the press.  If the only time a journalist hears from you is when you want to pitch them your story you are an advocate.  If you are helpful to journalists when they need you not just when you need them, you are a helpful resource.  Given the choice between the two, which is likely to be a more fruitful relationship?

Here are three modest thoughts to ponder on your way to becoming a reliable resource:

  • Answer your phone.  Duh.  Journalists work on deadlines.  That means you have to be ready to help them at times that may not be particularly convenient for you.  Get over it.
  • Being a resource may mean going outside your comfort zone.  If a journalist calls you to pontificate on some topic that is not necessarily in your wheelhouse, that doesn’t mean you can’t help them.   For example, provide them with the names and contact info of folks at other organizations that might be helpful.
  • Give journalists heads up on helpful resources or ideas developed by groups other than your own.  If a colleague organization has developed some terrific new health care app that you think a journalist would find helpful, send them a “thought you might appreciate this” type email.

Additional thoughts?  Let’s hear ‘em.

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