Updated: Jul 2
By: Aishwarya Thapa ( Launchpad Communications)
Any social activism starts out with a simple bottom line, communicating a piece of information that you believe in, to another person in the hope that you can convince them.
Having worked as a PR manager for multiple social campaigns, I understand that activism is a
spectrum, it comes in different shapes and sizes, but any activism that receives media support
always comes out on top for effective impact. Today I’ve put together my learning of how any micro; small to medium scale social activist/organisation can optimize media support to increase the volume of their message.
Why Media Support?
The fastest way to reach large audiences today is online media (web publications), print media
(newspaper, radio, magazines) or electronic media (television, radio), the order of reach would
change depending on your audience.
I have met many activists who are doing great things on ground, using social media wonderfully, but aren’t seeing mass reach and new audiences. I believe that, this void can be filled by PR. Many associate a PR activity only with high profile companies who need to ‘manage the media’ but that’s quite inaccurate. Here’s what will happen if you ignore PR, you may be doing everything right but there’s no one telling the world that, this leads to the uncomfortable situation of catching up to a competitor’s narrative of the industry.
Use PR for a social campaign of ANY size to create strategic communication while leaving an
impact on a relevant TG, specifically, using the media as a tool.
PR Thinking during Planning Stage - PR Thinking
Let me bust a myth at the beginning, most causes/activists decide the campaign/event and then
think of how to get media attention. Don’t expect effective PR if you’re not thinking of a PR angle
from the start. A PR thinking cap requires keeping two people in mind – your target audience and
the media publications they consume.
You are the best judge of what your audience would find interesting, but I can tell you what the
media is essentially looking for:
- Unique proposition
In order to ensure what you are pitching is relevant and unique, ask yourself two questions:
- Is my message and CTA clear
- Am I executing my event or packaging my message differently/uniquely
A. Is my message and CTA clear
Whether you’re organizing an online campaign, an offline campaign or an event, remember to
peel off the layers and pick one main message and call to action. This helps your audience and
the media immediately understand your message. This main message should resonate with a
problem being faced in the NOW.
Campaign: Down Syndrome Awareness Rally, Chennai
Message: Raise Awareness about Down Syndrome
CTA: Join the rally at Besant Nagar Beach on Sunday
Campaign: Down Syndrome Awareness Rally, Chennai
Message: Show parents that inclusivity is COOL, bring your kids out to play at the beach with kids
with Down Syndrome.
CTA: On World Down Syndrome Day, enjoy a beautiful morning at the beach with games, music,
and the waves, with kids with DS. #InclusionisCool
B. Am I executing my event or packaging my message differently/uniquely
Look at your contemporaries supporting other causes or similar causes and make it your aim to
come up with something totally different. Get creative and package your message in a way that
makes you stand out to your audience and to the media.
Example: The Down Syndrome Rally, on World Down Syndrome Day, the team had booked
Besant Nagar beach on a Sunday morning when it’s most packed, we had a band, we had actor
Sai Pallavi come in and speak for the cause, we had all the kids with DS enter from the ocean
which was a lovely photo opportunity, we had a float on the road with an MC engaging the
passer bys and more. So from an audience POV it was a Sunday beautifully merged together with fun and learning. From a media perspective, it was relevant because of the date, there was a huge crowd of 1000+ people, the beach in the morning made for a lovely backdrop, the music and the kids dancing made for amazing photos.
Example: Ranjini Srikantan, a 12th Grader from Bangalore discovered the benefits of Green
Chemistry in school and wondered why more corporations didn’t use it? Her objective was to
spread awareness but here’s how we executed it, along with using a website, social media, and
pamphlets, we knew we needed something different – something that would make people stop
and look up to this young, 17 year old thought leader. We found out that the Industrial Green
Chemistry World Conference was coming up in Delhi. She connected with them about her
initiative and was invited to speak! She prepared a speech that stunned the audiences filled with
CEOs of huge corporations from around the world!
Media Liaison: Now that we’ve covered the basics of PR thinking at the planning stage let’s move to the execution. Once again, to reiterate, I have collated the most practical method for activists without any PR reps or relatively new PR reps. The media liaison process takes a minimum of 1 month, start accordingly.
1. Identify where your audience is:
Identify the medium through which your audience consumes information, is it the
newspaper, is it web publications, is it television, radio, is it a combination of these?
2. Identify the right journalists:
Every publication has editorial departments with tight deadlines and stories planned ahead
for days. Take time to go through your selected media and track it for at least a week or two.
Shortlist the section in the media that your story would fit in, would it be the ‘City Section’,
‘Event Section’, ‘Weekend Supplement’, etc. Note down the name of the journalist who
writes about social causes, city events, or human interest features. This step is pivotal, you
will find no response to emails or calls to any journalist from a publication if it’s not from
3. Plan the timing: The timing of the coverages is key to ensure it actually makes an impact to
your campaign. For example: If you’ve planned an event, aim for pre event and post event
coverages. If it’s a social campaign, aim for the coverages to come out as soon as the
campaign is live and keep it sustained for a few weeks. (Media samples A6, A7)
The fastest way is to pick up the phone and call the office, if you don’t get through to the
journalist directly you will at least be able to get an email id to contact them at. You can also
try looking them up on social media and dropping them a message.
5. Create customized pitch notes for your campaign by including these key details:
- Why are you contacting Journalist X specifically? (So they know this isn’t some mass
- Who are you (Add a tiny intro to yourself so the journalist can get some context about
- What is the relevance of your social cause/campaign? (Briefly explain what your cause is
and why it’s relevant right now.)
- How is your campaign a must do/must visit/must read (Back up your campaign with
facts, figures, insights that are unique)
- End with a call to action (how do you want this journalist to help you?)
6. Keep a press kit ready: A document with information about your organization/campaign, the
founders and good quality images. Be extremely thorough with the language in this
document, it will decide how the journalists perceives you and writes about you to their
audience. Don’t forget to provide clear call to action for your audience. (website, social
media links, email address, phone number, etc)
7. Be quick: Provide journalists with what they need for their story as quickly as possible, they
are on tight deadlines.
Media Coverage Leverage:
Always send a personal thank you message to the journalist for choosing to share your story
amongst hundreds of others they would have been pitched. If you had a good experience with the journalist and the journalist also shared an interest in your cause, let them know you’ll keep them posted with future activities. Do NOT abuse the journalist contact with irrelevant messages or information.
What you do with the coverage after it’s out helps you build a foundation of credibility for years to come.
- Leverage the coverage by sharing it within your professional, personal and social
- Add it as a permanent fixture to your website
- If you have a physical space, frame it up!
I believe, the key advantage of any type of PR effort is, best case scenario your message goes viral (by viral I mean, it gets its due attention) and worst case scenario you get to hold on to the
credibility of being featured in the media. In between are your well deserved results like – getting
new inquiries, building new followers, increased good will with stakeholders, increased motivation within the team, a window to being thought leaders and taking control of a narrative.
By: Aishwarya Thapa ( Launchpad communications )