'Final Four' Ways of Implementing a Winning Media Relations Strategy

Best practices for being a champion with the media

by Michael Graul

Media RelationsCredit Union Management’s online-only “PR Insight” column runs the first Thursday of every month.

As the hype of the NCAA basketball tournament has come to an end, it is a perfect time for credit unions everywhere to re-examine their media relations strategy. Whether you’ve just integrated new technology, have an executive with an interesting background or simply wish to share an opinion on current industry happenings, chances are there is a journalist out there who is interested in your story. The challenge is making sure that journalist knows about your story, by delivering it in a way that stands out from the hundreds of emails and calls he or she gets every day.

So regardless of how your bracket did in the office pool this year, here are four strategies every credit union can implement to cut through the clutter and ‘cut down the nets’ as a champion with the media.

1. Align Messaging With Industry Trends

A sure fire way to grab the media’s attention is by offering a story that corresponds with high-profile current events. As you follow national, local or financial trade news, ask yourself: What are people talking about and is it something we are doing or something we can give input on? If so, tell the media how.

For example, the recent Target data breach had a significant impact on financial institutions, costing credit unions and banks an estimated $200 million to ensure account holders were protected. The circumstances of the data breach created a great opportunity for credit unions to offer examples of how they specifically help ensure member security or provide insight on how card processing is conducted.

This approach is also an excellent way to leverage national interest financial stories at home. A credit union executive is a perfect source to provide insight to local media on how changing regulatory requirements, technology and other big-picture industry news affect citizens locally.

2. Build Relationships

A journalist will often come back to a reliable source. To become that go-to resource, ensure your pitch is a good fit for that reporter. One way to do this is by studying the writer’s previous stories before reaching out. This will help you understand writing style and topic preferences to ensure messages are aligned with the journalist’s and avoid wasting their time with a pitch that doesn’t apply. This vetting process will also help make sure the writer is one you feel comfortable working with.

Along with doing your homework, be responsive and accommodating to the media’s schedule. Remember journalists are often on tight deadlines and need input quickly. It also helps to have one designated representative handle media requests to cut turnaround time and ensure the credit union’s messages are clearly understood and delivered.

By treating the media like you would a member, you will find yourself fielding interview requests from reporters rather than always having to push news their way.

3. Speak the Media’s Language

One of the primary benefits of public relations outreach is that messages are delivered by a trusted, third-party media outlet. Help journalists by providing details in a way that allows them to remain objective and trustworthy resources for their readers. Eliminate promotional language in your pitch that can’t be backed up by a reliable statistic. For instance, we often hear from reporters that words like innovative, cutting-edge and leading should be avoided.

Also remember that most news stories are designed to share the most important details first, followed by supporting information. When pitching, be direct and concise in presenting the meat of the story to grab the journalist’s attention.

4. Keep it Member-Centric

The member is top priority for credit unions and should be the focus of media outreach as well. Journalists look for human interest stories that readers can relate to individually. Show how what you are doing at the branch affects your members and in turn can affect the publication’s readers. For example, rather than focusing on the back-end features of new technology, show how innovation is improving the member experience.

Not only does a member-centric approach give the writer what they are looking for, it increases your visibility by showing current and prospective members the benefits of doing business with your credit union.

There is no underestimating the power a positive news article can have on both attracting new members and strengthening relationships with current ones. By taking the time to implement media relations techniques like these, your credit union will see the benefits of media coverage more often and set itself apart as a No. 1 seed with the media.

Michael Graul is an account associate at William Mills Agency, the nation’s largest independent public relations firm focusing exclusively on the financial services and technology industries. The agency can be followed on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or its blog.

Photo credit: Dollarphotoclub.com/ Brian Jackson

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