Is your association looking for creative ways to get its name out to current and prospective members as well as solidify its reputation as a knowledge leader in its given industry? Advertising, social media, e-blasts and newsletters are effective, but association public relations management should also include another effective method of free publicity. Free publicity is not guaranteed, but if your association can get mentioned in a general interest or trade publication or your executive director is interviewed on a TV segment, that’s invaluable coverage. Associations should try to garner this type of exposure as a regular part of the marketing and public relations strategy.
It doesn’t matter what kind of association you represent. Whether your members are event planners, plumbers or lighting distributors, they are experts in their field and there will be opportunities for quotes in newspaper and magazine articles. Maybe there’s a new trend in event planning and a trade publication is looking to interview an event professional. Do not sell your association short —it’s a gold mine of valuable resources.
Now that you know the necessity of free publicity efforts, the question is how do you get this kind of exposure for your association public relations management plan? You start by sitting down to create a road map that will become your public relations strategy. Remember that these kinds of opportunities will not typically come to you, you will need to seek them out. You can get noticed in several ways. You could receive mention in the media, participate in community forums and garner other speaking engagements, volunteer or donate to community organizations, become active on social media or share your expertise via a blog.
Getting your company publicity through a news organization may be achieved in a couple of ways. Your company could get mentioned in an originally reported article or the news you submit will be reported in an upcoming edition of the publication or program. But in order to be successful, you will need to imagine yourself in a reporter or editor’s shoes. After all, news professionals generally don’t mention a company simply because you ask.
As a part of your association public relations management strategy, think about what might get a reporter or editor’s attention and look at the type of news you have to share. Try to pitch news that is unique or different. For example, is your association launching a new professional development certification program for members? That’s a new product and will probably be interesting as an association public relations management piece — plus, that gives your association a competitive edge that may attract new members. Another idea is to capitalize on a trending topic. If you’re a technology association and there has been a major hack of a company’s customer data that’s been in the news, think about how your association can provide an expert point of view to comment on the situation or offer advice on how other companies can enhance its data protection. The goal is to take a step back and think about what differentiates your association from the hundreds of others out there. Think about what makes your members and your association unique and how to use that information for maximum exposure and impact.
Consider your target audience for association public relationship management. Are you a regional association looking to reach prospective members in a two-four state area? Or do you draw members from across the United States, North America or all over the world? Every association will answer this question differently and that is to be expected. Also, you will want to think about which types of publications will work best for your organization — will it be newspaper, magazines, television, trade publications, online outlets or radio? When you have compiled a draft list of target publications, then it’s time for research. Dig a little deeper into the publications in which you would like association public relations management to have placements. Find out how the reporters there work — for example, does their news coverage stem from geographic areas, or do reporters seem to cover certain subject matters regardless of geography?
As we already mentioned, give thought to what kind of information you plan to share. News of a new association manager or executive director will probably appeal to trade publications. If you can contribute an expert opinion on a national trending topic, that news will probably appeal to mainstream publications and news outlets. If you plan to share news of an employee promotion or a new hire, local and hyperlocal publications will probably work best. Is the keynote speaker at your upcoming conference someone of note? If so, think about the type of audience to whom the speaker would appeal and then target publications that reach that audience.
You’ve probably heard about layoffs in the news industry over the past decade, but this doesn’t mean that your chances for publicity have diminished. In fact, the opposite may be true. The staffing levels at news organizations may actually benefit your association public relations management strategy. These days, reporters have to produce more news in the same amount of time. And for that reason, they are often receptive if organizations provide accurate and digestible news they can easily share. The key is to ensure that your association is reaching the right reporters, not just any reporter. And if you’re reaching out to reporters in different markets or beat coverage areas, it never hurts to tailor your pitches slightly for each group or each reporter.
Remember to distribute the news from your association public relations management team in a timely manner. Announcing a new executive director three months after she’s assumed the position simply won’t have the news value it has within 30 days of the appointment. What other kinds of news can your association share? Consider announcing major anniversaries of the association, new products, etc. And make sure that you always follow up on press release emails or faxes with an email or phone call. Reporters and editors are busy and sometimes they will appreciate a reminder.
Media relations is more productive when you think of news organizations as partners, not adversaries. Write about and submit news that readers want and it’s more likely that the information you submit will make it onto TV, into radio segments or into publications. One topic that news organizations seem to consistently appreciate and use is updates and photos about an organization’s volunteer work (and don’t forget to include photos!)
How you compile your press releases for your association public relations management plan is just as important as the content when it comes to getting media attention. Make sure that the ‘who, what, when, where and why’ questions are answered within the first two sentences. Don’t forget the always important question, “Who cares?” You’ll need to articulate why your association public relations management announcement is news and why someone should be interested. Answer all of those questions or you will risk your news ending up in the trash.
There are also other ways that your association can get publicity aside from placements in media outlets.
Start a blog to share your association’s expertise. Want to position your association and its members as thought leaders in your industry? Write a blog that uses specific keywords which people enter into a search engine when looking up online information—if you’re unfamiliar with this process, research search engine optimization. Have association members author the blogs so they have a chance to display their industry expertise. Publish the blogs online and share the links on your social media channels. This will drive more visitors to your association website.
Be consistent on social media. Get your association more visibility by creating accounts and posting consistently on social media. No, you don’t need to be on every social channel out there, but look at the pros and cons of each and determine whether Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and the like will work for your particular association. For example, if you decide to set up a LinkedIn account, make sure you take advantage of all the channel has to offer, including LinkedIn Groups and public forums that are relevant to your members and to association public relations management. Sharing content on various social media channels is another way for your association to demonstrate its expertise. Sharing content positions your company as an expert, which may lead to increased publicity for your association.
Lend your expertise. Be on the lookout for speaking opportunities at the local, region and national levels as a way to increase your association’s exposure. Host seminars or publish industry white papers to solidify the association’s expertise.
Volunteer. Boost the association’s visibility through volunteer work. Don’t forget to share a post and photos on social media. There are thousands of worthwhile organizations out there, but a few of national note include the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club, Habitat for Humanity, among others. Your time and effort will be appreciated by local non-profits and also demonstrate the association’s commitment to helping in your local community.
We recommend your association public relations management strategy include a broad spectrum of options to garner brand awareness. Remember, you won’t be able to increase your visibility unless you put the news out there. Good luck!