Media relations part 2: so what’s your story?

I’m pretty sure that I have one of the best jobs at the community college where I work. Might also be one of the easiest.

It’s one of the best jobs because I spend my days singing the praises of students, alumni, faculty and staff. I get to talk with the cool kids — the innovators, early adopters, the risk-taking entrepreneurial types — who are doing great things in the classroom and out in the community. I get to ask "how did you come up with that idea?" and "how did you make it happen?" and "why didn’t I do any of that when I was a student?".

It’s one of the easiest jobs because there’s no shortage of stuff to brag about. I don’t have to search far or very long to find something to pitch.

And making the job even easier is a framework and filter for pitching stories to the press.

Here’s our big picture story. The college is a catalyst for economic growth and prosperity in the communities we serve. It’s not the only catalyst. But it’s a big one. The college puts out a steady supply of job-ready graduates (several thousand a year) who help build stronger, healthier, more sustainable and safer communities

My job is to find pitches that reinforce the "college as catalyst" story.

The only tricky and less-than-fun part of my job comes with managing expectations and nixing requests to pitch ideas that don’t fit with the overall story. Sure, the pitch might generate some coverage. But is the idea worth pitching if it doesn’t advance — or if it muddies up — the big picture, college-as-catalyst story?

So what’s the big story your organization is trying to tell? And are all your pitches to the media variations on a theme, telling "our mission and purpose in life" story over and over and over again?  Worry less about how many times you wind up in print or on air and focus more on sharing that one story you want everyone to remember about your organization.

Published by

Jay Robb

I've reviewed more than 500 business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999 and worked in public relations since 1993.

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