A few questions on an automated phone survey and old school media relations generated unique postings across multiple big city news outlets and blogs. Turning that coverage back into a new post of our own closed the loop, giving us the opportunity to provide fresh insight and credible information to our community of stakeholders. A simple and effective tactic that nearly every advocacy campaign can deploy.
Everyone in the communications biz is very big on social media these days, and rightly so. It’s fun, fast, and holds out the promise of quantum leaps in public engagement (‘going viral’).
But did you know that the number one way people hear and learn about your cause is still mainstream news coverage? Think about what feeds all that conversation on Twitter and around the water cooler – headlines snatched from subway-platform video screens, snipped newsbites heard while cashing out at a shop, and magazine articles passed from site to site in the cyber-universe. One reason is that ‘old school’ journalism still has a reputation for being accurate and relevant to the larger public interest, and we can prove from years of opinion research that news media still counts most for raising awareness of your issue.
Getting your story into the news media is rarely an easy task, however. Buying advertising and then being granted ‘advertorial’ coverage is a long-standing PR technique, but it can cost as much as a small car for a single day’s ad in a major paper.
The key factor is still content – you have to have actual news in order to get into the news. That much has not changed (and nor should it). But after you’ve put out a press release or published an open letter from experts on your issue, where do you get solid news value on your issue?
One source is public opinion polling. When you can show that people care a lot about an issue, or that they see it differently than politicians and experts expect them to, you have generated real news value. The key step then is to leverage your research into actual news coverage.
Here’s how we recently did just that.
In May, Stratcom fielded a ten-question automated phone poll (Stratcom’s RapidPoll) covering current issues in the Toronto municipal political scene. This included tracking Mayor Ford’s approval rating, the widely reported confrontation between Mayor Ford and a Toronto Star reporter, and the possibility of a waterfront casino.
We fielded the poll on Tuesday May 15th, yielding 954 completed surveys and a margin of error of +/- 3.2%. By late afternoon on May 16th, Stratcom contacted the Toronto Star and sent out a news release regarding the single polling question on the confrontation between Mayor Rob Ford and Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale. On May 17th we sent another news release regarding the Mayor’s approval rating, which included our tracking data from three previous waves of the RapidPoll. Also on May 17th, we sent the results regarding the waterfront casino directly to the CBC and the Toronto Star. Stratcom broadcast the news releases through Facebook and Twitter, and wrote several posts on this blog.
These efforts involving staggered news releases and contacts made separately over several days resulted in at least eight media hits across major news outlets websites, morning radio, and local blogs.
This method of generating news coverage illustrates the potential power of integrating traditional and social media in your communications strategy. It generates meaningful news content and gives you a great deal of control in framing, releasing, building and disseminating your story. Moreover, all of this can be accomplished for a fraction of the cost of elbowing your way into the media with more traditional PR tools.
It’s a big challenge to align your own issues with top-of-mind interests of the public and the media, and there is real communications skill involved in survey design, reporting and managing the release your findings. But the pay-off is significant: enhanced control over your messaging and amplified reach in traditional and social media.
Here’s some of the media coverage we generated:
Poll on Toronto casino reveals a strong NIMBY factor
Toronto Star – May 22, 2012
Poll numbers don’t bode well for Toronto casino: expert
CBC – May 22, 2012
More travellin’ blues for Ford
Spacing Toronto – May 22, 2012
Interview with Councilor Mike Layton regarding Toronto casino, mentioning the poll results
Metro Morning on CBC Radio One – May 23, 2012
Morning Brew: Where’s Ford?, poll says casino fans are NIMBYs…
Blog TO (May 23, 2012)
Poll Position: Strong Opposition to Casinos in Toronto
Torontoist – May 23, 2012
Poll results not a shocker: Toronto is casino-phobic, and people want a referendum
Open File – May 23, 2012
Friday Wrap: Gardiner and Ford’s poll numbers both falling
Metro – May 25, 2012