Media brands can appear cold and institutional unless you present a human face to your users. A community outreach strategy puts you on the streets to help your neighbors, giving your brand a personal touch that is unmatched in building customer loyalty.
#1. Sponsor a Community Event
A media sponsorship is one of the easiest forms of community outreach. A newspaper which sponsors a half-marathon can get its logo on all the banners and advertisements, and bring its sports columnists out from the newsroom to participate — either by running or handing out water bottles.
But don’t expect this brand-building boost to come for free.
As you can see by sponsorship investment levels at the Taste of Chicago, event planners know that exposure has monetary value and will charge for it. It’s no different than all the logos you see plastered on a race car. Logo placement and sizing come with dollar signs attached.
Your best bet may be an in-kind sponsorship, especially if you have a small marketing budget. Instead of cutting a check, you offer event organizers a trade. Your newspaper could get the same sponsorship by offering a series of free ads for the half-marathon — maybe even some stories promoting the event.
That arrangement will involve your sales department. A news manager should be involved in the negotiations if there’s any requirement for news coverage, to avoid the common problems when news is used as a sponsorship tool.
#2. Help a Charity
The benefits of community outreach are maximized when your media company helps a charity. Your people are seen pitching in to help a worthwhile cause give those in need a better life.
But just as donors are picky in which charities get their dollars, you should also do your research to find the one that will give you the best results.
You want to be able to turn around to your audience with a compelling reason they should give to the charity you’re recommending.
That’s easy if you can say your radio station is working with a group to give coats and warm blankets to children who need them. But if donations will be paying for an office staff’s printing needs, the pitch won’t tug at people’s heartstrings and your media brand will see little if any benefit.
Charities have their own rules and structure. Make sure you understand their system before signing an agreement. Otherwise, when you want to put the children’s faces in a proof of performance advertisement showing how much you helped, you may run into obstacles because the charity will not let you publicize the children’s names or faces.
#3. Start a Community Dialogue
If your city is faced with a serious issue that has people talking, your community outreach can include getting people to sit down to discuss solutions. For a news media company, this is a great way to take a leadership role that separates you from your competitors.
A television station could organize a forum to talk about why the city’s downtown area is in decline and what should be done to give it new life. The station would find a large meeting space, invite some elected leaders, concerned citizens, parents and business owners to speak and answer questions from the audience. The event would be carried Live on the air as a station exclusive.
By using the station’s newscasters as emcees, their credibility is enhanced if they are prepared to ask good questions and are presented as authorities on the subject. Depending on the subject matter, make sure on-air news talent aren’t seen as taking a side on a controversial issue, like a landfill project that would provide jobs but raises environmental questions. They should be coached on how to remain impartial.
#4. Hold a Contest or Competition
Everyone loves winning, and holding a contest or competition is a way to build excitement over your community outreach goals. Think of the benefit to your media brand if you gave away a new car.
Consider whether there’s enough of a payoff to your investment. Not only do contests or competitions require money, but also plenty of planning to make sure they are successful. Otherwise, you can face accusations of ripping off your community with a rigged or slipshod event.
Pay careful attention to the rules you set up and get your legal department’s input. You must have control over the entries you receive and have clearly-stated reasons for disqualifying someone from winning. Think of the effects if someone from your arch-rival competitor won your car, or someone who lives 1,000 miles away and has never heard of your company.
There are a lot of reasons to hold a contest or competition. Use the checklist to see if there’s a payoff for your media brand:
- Being noticed,
- Finding potential customers,
- Getting acquainted with other businesses,
- Finding partners,
- Getting investors etc.
#5. Choose a Guest Editor from the Community
Part of building your media brand is creating buzz. If your community outreach includes allowing someone to serve as guest editor, you’ll get people talking.
A local magazine could have the mayor edit an issue, choosing the topics, outlining coverage and picking the cover layout design. But a guest editor doesn’t have to be a famous face. A breast cancer patient could present a unique voice by guest editing an edition that would hit newsstands during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. You might even get free publicity in other forms of media.
Finding the right guest editor is critical to meeting your brand-building goals. That person must be able to take direction from your staff and commit the time required to make the magazine issue their own. Sometimes you should interview a lot of people to find the right person.
Weighing the pros and cons of a guest editor will lead you into choosing the person who will maximize this outreach opportunity. You may decide that profiling the person in a special edition is easier than letting him hold the reigns.
#6. Form a Partnership with a Business
A media company isn’t unique in wanting to use community outreach to strengthen its brand identity. By forming a partnership with another business, you can potentially double your results in reaching your audience.
It’s common for TV and radio stations to work together on projects. The TV station has recognizable faces to put into the community, while the radio station can broadcast from an event throughout the day. They benefit from each other’s strengths.
But a station can also forge a relationship with another type of business, such as a hospital. A TV station’s news team could work as hospital volunteers, meeting patients and their families and bonding with them. The hospital could allow the station to have access to its doctors to use for on-camera interviews on medical topics.
Just make sure each side knows what is expected of the partnership. A news team must maintain the standard ethics of journalism, while the hospital must focus on saving lives and not just helping you put logos on wheelchairs.
By the way, be attentive choosing a business for partnership because it is easy to get public negativity if your partners have problems with law, police or maintain illegal activity.
In this case, check carefully who you choose as partners. To do that, get acquainted with their customers and people they cooperate with.
#7. Appear at Media Sales Events
Chances are, the sales department at your media company already has a community outreach strategy. That is to recruit new clients, while making their current clients feel special.
Events can be planned to target the client relationship while also building your media brand. News departments and sales departments are often seen as feuding sides of the same business, but their objectives are similar.
It is not needed to spend great sums of money in order to be noticed. It is enough to create your own logo, film a short report, and show people that you exist.
Take Your Media Brand to the Streets
You want to be seen as having the clear advantage over your competitors in everything that you do — whether that’s covering breaking news or offering banner advertisements on your website. Making the pitch requires cooperation and consistency throughout your company so that you speak to the community with one voice.
Newscasters can appear at receptions for advertising agencies and their clients, as long as they know what is expected of them. Your community outreach goals can be damaged if journalism ethics standards are breached at a sales event.
Community outreach deserves to be a major part of your media branding plan. By moving beyond bumper stickers into personal contact, you will shatter the perception that all media companies are faceless corporations with little concern for the people that they serve.
In this case, follow these points:
- Sponsor a Community Event
- Help a Charity
- Start a Community Dialogue
- Hold a Contest or Competition
- Choose a Guest Editor from the Community
- Form a Partnership with a Business
- Appear at Media Sales Events
About the Author!
Alissa Zucker is an essay writer working for Mcessay. She is interested in reading classic and psychological books which give her inspiration to write her own articles and short stories.