An Introduction to Public Relations For Local Changemakers

Instead of defining what public relations is, I’ll start by telling you what it isn’t:

1. It’s not an advertisement

2. It’s not writing a story for a reporter or publication

3. It’s not just writing press releases

While the industry is seeing massive changes – meaning a single, agreed upon industry definition does not exist – the overarching purpose of PR is to create and build validation, credibility and brand awareness. Unlike advertising, media coverage has the advantage of third-party validation which often has a greater impact on public opinion. It goes without saying that generating positive public opinion is massively important for local community groups, projects and initiatives to drive community understanding support and strengthen local relationships.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach to implementing a successful PR program, however, for the purpose of this series, we’ll focus primarily on building awareness and credibility through media relations and specifically on local media – one aspect of PR. This means telling your story to local newspapers, online news sites, blogs and/or radio.

Why do I need PR?

Before you pick up your phone and call a journalist, it’s important to first establish why you’re doing it. Ask yourself the following questions.

  • What do I hope to achieve from PR?
  • Do I have a story to tell that people will care about?
  • Is this the right time?

Your PR goals should align with your overall objectives for your community group or initiative. Do you want to secure funding? Obtain more volunteers? Secure partnerships?

This will help determine who your target audience is, what you want to say to them and how you will reach them.

If you do not have a strong reason as to why your initiative’s story will make an impact on a publication’s readers (and therefore on the journalist), you shouldn’t expect coverage. People should be eager to consume the content that you’re sharing and want to hear what you’re saying. Therefore, you need to ensure you develop a story that people will care about.

It’s important your story is relevant and timely. Given the fast pace of today’s media landscape and 24 hour news cycle, you need to ensure that media understand why they should write about your initiative now.

Where do I start?

Once you’ve determined that this is the right time and you have the right story, you’re ready to get going.

Read more on how to do the next steps:

How to shape your story for local media

How to get in touch with media

Let us know if there’s anything else you’d like to know on PR in the comments section! We would love to hear any of your recent efforts here as well.

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Kate Lynch is a communitcations and PR professional and director at Allison+Partners in Dublin.

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