Adventures in farming and media relations

June 4, 2013
 

By: Michelle
My family has been on a big health kick this year; we're avoiding processed foods and opting for locally grown, organic produce. However, we've quickly discovered that it's not cheap to eat this way, and it can be difficult to find verified-organic items in the local grocery store. That's one of the reasons why we've started our own veggie garden. We just built two raised beds where spinach, kale and carrots are all in progress. We've also planted starter trays of beans and tomatoes (five different heirloom varieties!) that will soon be ready for transplanting.
In the beginning, we had no idea what we were doing and weren't even sure where to begin. We just knew we wanted to grow stuff. That's why we consulted with a local agricultural expert who pointed us in the right direction. It's the same scenario for companies that want to kick off a media relations campaign: if you run into it willy-nilly with just an idea and no plan, the end result will probably be a big pile of organic fertilizer with no fruit.
Here are some rules of thumb for both gardening and a PR campaign:
1. Do your research. Did you know that spinach and kale do best in colder weather, but onions, peppers and melons need warmer temperatures to thrive? Neither did we, until we visited the University of New Hampshire's Cooperative Extension website, where we found tons of useful information. A great PR campaign must start the same way, with research on your audience, appropriate messaging, a call to action and the best timing for announcements and briefings.
2. There's no such thing as being over-prepared. Some people might say we went a bit overboard with our verification that we were using heirloom seeds and completely organic soil. But we wanted the best possible yield with no chemicals. That kind of effort and attention to detail is no different when preparing for a media interview or an analyst briefing: a run-through of messaging, paired with learning as much as possible about the reporter, will improve the quality of the briefing.
3. Make time for care and feeding. Just like watering and fertilizing your little crops, remember that interactions with reporters and editors are not one-off transactions – instead, you should take the time to give each relationship a little TLC with every e-mail or phone conversation. These are living beings, not robots, and should be treated as such.
4. Once you see growth, your job is far from over. So you've built the raised beds, added the compost, soil and mulch, and planted the seeds. You've watered and pulled weeds, and now your adorable little seedlings are popping up out of the ground. This is certainly not the time to rest on your laurels. The same can be said for a successful media campaign: landing the coverage doesn't mean it's break time. Instead, you should follow up with reporters to find out what they're working on next – and how you can help them.
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