How PR can Expand Your Association’s Voice to Achieve its Goals

By Sarah Cooper

Many goals and issues of associations, private companies and corporations overlap. There is the common goal of promoting campaigns, fundraising or drawing attention to a relevant story, and on occasion, navigating a crisis. In recent years, companies and associations have looked to PR specialists to lead these initiatives. What they’re doing, in essence, is creating a jigsaw puzzle and finding the fit with your stories and the right journalist.

Connecting the Pieces of the Puzzle

The best way to get your stories and messages out to the world, and to prospective members, is through the media. A PR team or specialist can help the association disseminate messages and current campaigns and align with the appropriate journalist to spread the word.

The media relations process starts prior to the event or campaign that is being pitched, it starts with building a relationship with the media so that they’re aware of your organization’s existence, mission and messages. This is key to a PR strategy. You can’t get media coverage if the media doesn’t know you exist and trusts you.

How does the media get to know you? Your publicist or communications specialist should have a solid understanding of your goals, events, and mission. From there, they can cultivate a meaningful media list and initiate introductions with the contacts on that list and outline what the association does, their mission, who their spokespeople are and if they have any events coming up.

Once that initial touch point has been made, the publicist would begin pitching and sending press releases to media, completing the jigsaw puzzle of a story fitting with an outlet. The result may be broadcast or print coverage, which is a great way to quantify efforts, but more importantly, it brings attention to prospective new members and creates public validation. By creating this relationship and speaking publicly, it positions your organization as leaders in your industry.

Earlier in my career, I was the publicist at a large not-for-profit arts organization that offered summer camps. Because we had built a strong relationship with the media, we were seen as the trusted voice in the children’s camp and education worlds and were often called upon by news outlets to provide quotes, feedback or thought leadership. Your organization then becomes a voice for your industry and you can be called upon to give quotes or opinions when challenges, notable events or a crisis in the industry occur.

Changing a Challenge into an Opportunity

Having a crisis communications plan is something that many companies – private and not-for-profit – put off because they don’t see the immediate need for one, until it’s too late.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) had a PR strategy already in place and were able to deploy their messaging and position themselves as thought leaders in 2016. During the 2016 Republican Candidate Presidential debate, misinformation and inaccurate claims around childhood vaccines were being spread during the live broadcast. The following morning, the AAP’s Executive Director released a statement to the media which was then included on major news broadcasts. The first tweet that was sent out from the AAP account received over 100,000 impressions and also included pre-existing and recognizable hashtags, #vaccineswork and #GOPdebate to provide context, inserting themselves in a large conversation online, with the ability to track their results. Their PR strategy included drawing upon leaders and staff within the AAP community to further spread the message. This initiative produced nearly 301,000 impressions on Twitter; one Facebook post reached almost 383,000 people and earned nearly 24,000 likes, comments and shares and also earned the AAP first place for Crisis Communication in Ragan’s 2016 Nonprofit PR Awards.

Completing the Puzzle

All this is to say that the ability to communicate well with the right audience is critical in the success of associations’ campaigns and missions. A publicist or communications specialist will be able to tell your story from start to finish, take the reader or journalist on a ride and make them feel your passionate for your association. Results don’t always happen overnight, but a carefully calculated plan will directly help your association in reaching new members and hitting your goals.

Sarah Cooper is a Senior Account Coordinator at Managing Matters and focuses on providing clients with strategic, unique and insightful PR strategies for clients as part of their focused PR & Marketing division specifically tailored to associations.  Managing Matters is Canada’s premier association and event management company. Please let us know if there’s a topic you’d like us to write about, [email protected]