Over the past fifteen years, I've provided media relations services to a range of organizations in the private and public sectors. The list includes 50 start up technology companies, several manufacturing firms, national associations even large publicly traded companies. Prior to that I had a long and interesting career in municipal economic development.
Of course, client organizations retain my services for one thing - increasing their profile in the media in Canada and, in some cases, in international media outlets.
The ability to recognize a good story is absolutely essential to effective media relations but in my experience the majority of organizations don't do it very well.
A few years ago, I attended a luncheon hosted by a development agency in an Ontario municipality. The speaker was the CEO of a successful company that manufactured a product in demand by various customers particularly in the US.
He gave an excellent presentation, noting at one point that a television series in the US had included the product in one of their episodes. Sales were brisk and there were several new products on the planning board. I approached the speaker at the end of the event, introduced myself. I asked about their media relations effort. As it turned out this company did no media relations whatsoever.
Furthermore, I discovered that the municipality hadn't done anything in conjunction with the company either. Talk about a missed media opportunity!
Municipal economic development professionals are busy from a marketing perspective with paid advertising, direct mail; social media content creation and collateral. But I wonder how many think about media relations. And I am not talking about sending a news release to the local newspaper. I'm talking about assessing all economic activity in the municipality, identifying interesting stories within key sectors and getting those stories to the media up to and including national and international media outlets.
You would be amazed at how much media coverage can be generated from a simple story that is communicated to the right reporter at the right time in the right manner. I mean national and international coverage too. When that kind of coverage occurs everyone benefits: the company, the municipality, the economic development office, the Chamber of Commerce - everyone in that community gets a boost from seeing (one of theirs" in the media.
I believe that within the vast majority of Canadian municipalities there are all kinds of great stories. But they will never see the light of day unless someone recognizes that fact. Done well, media relations can have a profound and lasting effect on municipal economic development.
Shaun Markey is President of Shaun Markey Communications Inc., a boutique PR and media firm, which has provided media communication services to a range of Canadian clients in the private and public sectors. He is located in Ottawa, Canada.