Before generating publicity, you and your staff must become familiar with media outlets. These include newspapers, magazines (including trade, regional, general interest and special interest) and local radio and television stations. You should read, listen to and watch these media outlets regularly to understand what they consider newsworthy and how they present it.
Furthermore, learn and follow the reporters and editors who cover areas of interest to your facility, such as health, fitness, nutrition and business. Compile a media list of addresses, phone numbers, fax numbers and pertinent editors and reporters to target potential news stories. Be sure to update this list frequently, as turnover in the media is typically high.
By following the media, you can customize story ideas to fit the needs of different outlets and avoid providing them with information they would not use. In other words, the more familiar you are with a particular medium and/or reporter’s style, the better your judgment about topics of potential interest. For instance, an all-news radio station may not be interested in your feature about an elderly aqua class, although a local magazine may want to feature an elderly participant who is recovering from heart disease and becoming a senior athlete. Your local daily newspaper probably wouldn’t publicize that your facility has added daycare or enlarged its cardiovascular room, but a fitness trade magazine may use the information. The business pages of your local weekly newspaper and the people section of a fitness industry magazine both might run information about a promotion or new hire.
Publicity requires that you generate news. News can be promotions, new hires, expanded services, additional programs, anniversaries of the facility or special events (blood pressure or cholesterol screenings).
Even if your facility isn’t the actual source of the story, it can gain publicity by being the site for photos or visual footage. For instance, a local television station in Chicago recently featured a series on the evening news about a product used to improve the appearance of “cellulite.” Although Chicago’s East Bank Club had no direct relationship to the product, it was the background site for footage of people exercising. This amounts to free and valuable publicity for the facility.
Communicating examples of newsworthy happenings to the media typically takes the form of a news release — a one- or two-page summary/announcement of the news items designed to elicit media attention. The message of your news release must be stated in terms of your audience’s interest. People tend to ignore ideas, opinions and viewpoints unless they are affected by them personally. It is your job to make the information applicable and of interest to as many people as you can in your target audience, and in so doing, convince the media outlet that its readers, listeners or viewers should know about your topic.
In addition to generating publicity, community relations is an essential component of public relations. Today, people expect more of a business than just honest economic performance; your company must be a good corporate citizen and maintain strong relations with the community as a whole, and with key individuals in the community. In the end, strong community relations is a win-win situation. Local businesses can work jointly on promotions, serve as mutual reference sources and influence legislation and civic affairs.
Community goodwill is capable of producing an intangible “warm, fuzzy feeling” about your facility that advertising is unable to do nearly as effectively. Also, if you distribute news releases about your community participation, often media attention is attracted and valuable publicity results.