Act, Don’t Just React: A Holistic Approach to Communications

Posted by Megan Wendell, Oct 08, 2013 2 comments

Today’s media landscape of shrinking newsrooms, thinner newspapers and less in-depth arts coverage poses challenges for cultural organizations. It also offers new opportunities — as long as you’re ready to act by anticipating the needs of the press and public.

Today’s journalists are doing more with less, often providing photography, video and/or audio to go along with their written stories. Many of the reporters I talk with are under tighter deadlines to publish content to the web and under pressure to attract more clicks on their articles. As both the media and arts organizations navigate the demands of the 24-hour news cycle with fewer resources, a proactive and collaborative approach to communications can benefit everyone.

Cultural organizations hoping to land media coverage today must anticipate the needs of the press and be a valuable resource to reporters and editors. This includes offering multimedia content, which can include b-roll footage of a performance or event, behind-the-scenes preparations and Q&As with artists and organizational leaders — anything that offers an intriguing and relevant audio/visual component. The more “packaged” your pitch is with resources you can provide to a reporter or editor, the more likely you are to secure coverage in a variety of outlets.

Much of this multimedia content can then be taken to your own web and social media platforms, giving you opportunities to directly tell the story of your organization and create deeper understanding and engagement with audiences.

Almost anyone in your organization can be a source of compelling content if you collaborate across departments — and not all of this content needs to be created from scratch. For example, an exhibition’s curatorial essay can become a blog post of excerpted material, which can be shared in your email newsletter, while an interesting essay quote or related question can be posted to Facebook and Twitter. Perhaps that curator can also give a 2-minute video “tour” of the exhibition that gets posted on YouTube, with a still photo or video clip on Instagram. All of these pieces come from the same source material but are then interpreted for how audiences communicate and engage through each of these media platforms.

Just remember that, as any good publicist knows that pitches need to be tailored to individual journalists and outlets, organizations must understand how content translates across different direct-to-audience platforms. Don’t try to communicate an overly complex idea in a tweet or Facebook post, and watch your analytics to evaluate what content is actually creating engagement.

As you plan the media relations calendar for your year or season, consider how your story pitches and the content you’ll need to provide to the press can work for your other audience communications. Programming, artistic, and educational staff should be part of this planning process — and those departments should be discussing ideas with the PR team as their programming is being developed, not as an afterthought.

This is a holistic approach to communications that requires time, effort and cross-departmental collaboration, but it is a method that pays off over the long term — ultimately cutting down on the duplication of efforts among staff, producing consistent and proactive communications and putting you one step ahead.

2 responses for Act, Don’t Just React: A Holistic Approach to Communications


October 08, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Hi Megan,

I like the fact you bring up the point of involving the rest of the organization in a conversation for PR pitches. There is more than just marketing an event that would qualify as an interesting PR piece.

Bravo also on mentioning treating each member of the press as individuals and packaging properly to this effect. I always send out my releases one at a time with a friendly email explaining my story with an angle specifically for each receiver. This has made a huge difference in the amount of press I have been able to get for my clients.

Building relationships with the press will help your chances as well.

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October 09, 2013 at 11:42 am

Thanks, Shoshana. I agree, personalized press outreach and relationship building produce much better results. Though it can be time consuming, it's really common sense in the end - communicate with people on a personal and authentic level, and they'll respond.

On the organizational collaboration issue, I think it's still a big issue. Not all organizations are really making their PR/marketing teams part of the larger conversation, but I think the marketing folks must have a seat at the table to be most effective.

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