Ten Things Geospatial Organizations Should Do Before Sharing Big News With the Press

By Adena Schutzberg

1. Make Sure it’s News

While a new contract for a small consulting firm may be the biggest news of the year to its CEO and staff, it may be harder for bloggers and journalists to see it in the same light. Help them out by providing context and perspective. Consider spin, such as:

  • how many jobs it will bring in
  • what new technology will be used
  • how a hometown boy or girl is succeeding
  • the implications of the project for the region, state or country

2. Make Sure All Parties Are Agreed on the Facts

If more than one organization is involved (say a vendor and a client) both groups need to agree to share specific, vetted information. If one company purchases another, both should agree on how many employees each one has. The best way to confirm the facts is to write them down in a press release that both companies (including their legal departments) vet. Do not start e-mailing or calling bloggers and journalists without this document.

3. Make Sure You Are Reaching the Right Media Outlets

Sending a story about gene mapping to a publication that specializes in mapping technology may not be a fit. Do some research. Search a potential publication’s website. Have they mentioned any of the players in your news or the same industry, even competitors (say a vendor or politician) before? Have they mentioned the topic (tax mapping or LiDAR)? Can you make a link to topics they have mentioned in the past? If you answer no to all of these, this is probably not the right media outlet to contact.

4. Decide Who Will Tell the Story

In some organizations there is a dedicated press relations person or team. One of those individuals may already have a relationship with one or more bloggers and journalists. They can pitch the story and set up an interview with representatives of the players in the story. In other organizations the CEO or a vice president handles such communications directly. It does not matter who reaches out to the media outlet, but a single person, with a communications plan (see below), is the gold standard.

5. Have a Plan

Whoever is contacting the media, via e-mail, text, Twitter or phone, should be ready to share, briefly, the pitch, which includes:

  • who they are - “I’m calling from Great Press Relations Firm on behalf of our client Big GIS Company”
  • why they are calling - “We have big news related to a new partnership!”
  • why it’s important - “The new partnership will extend the use of our technology to 10 times as many users!”
  • what they want - “We hope you can share our news with your readers!”
  • how to proceed - “How can we best help you tell our story?” or “We’d love to set up a call with our CEO”
  • any restrictions - “We are happy to share the news with you today, but it’s embargoed until Monday at 11 AM EDT. Do you agree to that?”

6. Be Ready for a Response

The best way to be ready for a response is to do a small amount of research. How small? Skim the last few issues of the publication! Is your news “like” the news in the publication? If not, you might get a “no” of one kind or another:

  • No, that is not a topic we cover.
  • No, we do not agree to embargoes.
  • No, that’s not news.

If you don’t put the news in context for the publication’s focus, you might get a “more information” request, for example:

  • How does that relate to GIS?
  • How does that relate to TomTom?
  • How does that relate to the recent Esri contract with the state of Florida?

Press relations firms typically have to go back to the client for that information, which is fine, so long as a reply is timely. If the story is from your own organization, a reply should come very quickly, Mr. CEO!

If you’ve pitched well, you’ll get a “yes” and need to move on the sharing of information.

7. Share Valuable, Accurate Information

Since the facts are all laid out, they should be easy to share electronically or over the phone. There are typically other big ideas you want to share; they should be determined ahead of time, too. Don’t be offended if the writer chooses to include only some or none of these other ideas. The writer’s job is to write for the readers; you are “just” a provider of stories. If you want to control the content, it’s time to either publish the news on your own website or buy what’s called an advertisement.

8. Share Multimedia

Have photos, infographics, videos, interviews and/or brochures online and available for linking to, or embedding in an article or blog post. Slide decks and PDFs are harder to share, but may be offered for reference. Be sure none of these items have “Company confidential” or similar text on them and be sure everyone has agreed these can be made public.

9. Monitor the Publication for the Story

You may ask if the writer knows when the story will be published and you might get an answer. Other times it’s up to other decision makers and can’t be predicted. That’s when it’s best to set up Google Alerts or watch the RSS feeds of the publication to be sure you do not miss the story! When it is published (preferably the day it is published!), check for errors such as bad links or in some cases, errors of fact. Respectfully ask for corrections. If it looks great, send an e-mail thanking the writer. Consider sharing the link via Twitter or on your website. If you want to reprint the article, be sure you get the publication’s permission first.

10. Reference that First Contact When Re-pitching the Media Outlet

Hopefully the first interaction you have with a media outlet will be valuable and successful for both parties. It’s worth a moment to document that success for the next time a story matches the outlet’s or writer’s area of interest or expertise. The easiest and most valuable way to document successful media interactions is to document them on your organization’s page with a link to the story or blog post. Some websites have a page titled “In the News” or “Press Coverage.” (Don’t reprint the content unless you have permission!) When new geo news pops up, review the list to see if any of the previous contacts or outlets are appropriate targets. If so, lead with the shared history: “Back in 2012 you wrote about our new LiDAR-sensor-toting helicopter. Today, we have an offering!”

Published Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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