This is the conversation that I have every Monday at 11:35 a.m. Eastern Standard Time:
STACY: (Answering the phone.) Hi, this is Stacy, how can I help?
CALLER: (Long pause.) Oh, um, yes, who is this?
STACY: This is Stacy.
CALLER: Tracey what?
CALLER: Oh, what’s your position there?
STACY: I’m the Sections Editor, what can I do for you?
CALLER: (Pause.) I just wanted to see about getting something in your Art Events Cal—
STACY: (Judiciously interrupting.) You should e-mail all the details to Sharon@danspapers.com. [expand]
CALLER: Well I did e-mail it, I just—
STACY: (Joyously interrupting.) That’s great! You’re all set then.
CALLER: Well I e-mailed it but I wanted to check—
STACY: (Studiously interrupting) Sharon’s great, if there’s room, it’s sure to be in there!
CALLER: Well, we had an event last month and I didn’t see it in there. Of course I don’t always read your paper, or look at it, not very often.
STACY: Alrightie, but you sent your stuff to Sharon, so you’re all set! So—
CALLER: Er, yeah, I’m not sure that I sent it to Sharon…lemme see…um, (rustling of papers.)…Oh, yeah, here, I sent it to… “firstname.lastname@example.org.” Do you think Sharon got it?
CALLER: This time we’re having a wonderful—
STACY: Ma’am I’m very sorry but we’re in production today, I really have to get back to editing the paper.
CALLER: It’s this Saturday, that’s not too late, right?
STACY: Oh, I’m very sorry, our calendars’ deadline is Friday at noon. So, no, it’ll just be online.
CALLER: So it’s too late for this week’s paper?
CALLER: So you can’t get it in?
CALLER: Alright, well, thank you for your time.
STACY: You bet, bye-bye now.
* * * *
Without naming names, the caller could be an artist from Shelter Island, a volunteer from an observatory on the North Fork, or a Friend of a public library in a hamlet that rhymes with “Dridgehampton.” They all want to generally tear me a new one about an e-mail they didn’t send.
After the weekly conversation above, one of two things happens. 1) Sharon (of Sharon@danspapers.com fame) gets a long, bitchy e-mail from the caller. 2) Sharon never gets an e-mail from said caller.
I used to advise nonprofit organizations about dealing with the press. I guess I still do. Here are my top three suggestions:
#1. Call, then don’t call.
Call to get the right e-mail address for the appropriate section or calendar and then e-mail, do not call. (Faxes are truly a thing of the past.)
Regardless of how cute your Santa is or how hard you’ve worked—there are many equally worthy events out there. If you call me I’m sure to remember you—as someone who wastes my time.
#2. Dedicate and delegate.
Dedicate serious effort to your publicity campaign. Find a professional or a top notch volunteer who is able to devote the time and attention it takes to get the word out. Your representative will have to research local and regional media contacts, send out press releases and photos on schedule, post calendar listings online, be available for questions from the press and maintain a positive attitude.
#3. Check thrice, send once.
You don’t send out contracts or blueprints from your organization after only one person has viewed them, right?
Never send out a press release or invitation until three sets of eyes have reviewed it. Two is not three and three is not a committee. Three people should be able to catch all the errors, a committee could re-write it till the cows come home.
Remember, God so loved the world that he did not send a committee. He didn’t call on a Monday either. [/expand]