PR’s Top Pros Talk… Getting Coverage for Local Organizations
Darlene Hollywood, Principal, Hollywood Agency
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About the Host:
HOST: Doug Simon
GUEST: Darlene Hollywood
DOUG: Darlene, you’ve had experience working with national brands at major agencies. You have your own firm, and about half your businesses with local or regional organizations. What’s a key tip, if you want to get them coverage in local media?
DARLENE: It’s really about finding that personal angle that you can exploit. It’s telling the human interest piece of it and tying that into the local media.
DOUG: Yeah, now, do you find that most of the clients you work with are open to that? Some people have different privacy, they’re not necessarily comfortable. And they want to talk about how they make the widgets work, if you will. How do you go about persuading them to get on board with that type of strategy?
DARLENE: Well, for a lot of the local businesses that we’re working with, there are a lot of not-for-profits, for example. So, it’s not so much about a widget, it really is about who is making the widget or the story behind it. So, I think that there are oftentimes pretty open to having those kinds of conversations on a more public basis.
DOUG: Are you finding there’s growing interest among the media in covering stories that are really local and have a local impact?
DARLENE: Absolutely. And I think it goes the other way as well. I mean, we were right reading a report the other day that still shows that people really have a lot of trust in local media. So, I think from both sides, I think the media wants to hear the stories, but the people want to hear what they’re reporting on as well.
DOUG: Yeah. What are some of the things you’re taking from your experience at the major agencies, working with the big brands that applies to companies who are trying to sort of make their way in a local market?
DARLENE: It’s not any different. At the end of the day, we’re all storytellers, and we’re just telling a different kind of story to a different kind of press. I do think, though, that relationships really, really, matter when it comes to local media. There’s an opportunity to just get to know them so much better than a lot of folks that are working in the national press that you just don’t have access to.
DOUG: One of the challenges, I would think, when you’re focusing on the personal story is once that story is told, where do you go from there?
DARLENE: That is definitely the challenge. But again, I go back to what PR practitioners have always done, and we always try to do well and that’s reinventing the story and coming up with new angles and ideas to just tell it fresh again and again.
DOUG: From a perspective when you’re working with local organizations, how much of that work is tied to media presentation? What are some of the other buckets you’re working with them on?
DARLENE: We are doing a good amount of social media support for our clients, to a lesser extent. But some influencer relations, believe it or not, you do find people in your own backyard. And then there are more hyper local events that we’re supporting, especially now that things are somewhat stabilized and coming out of Covid.
DOUG: Right, so, there’s obviously huge competition to get coverage for local events. It used to be that you had your sort of standard places to go to get, oh, we’re going to have them listed in the events happening this day. How do you go about approaching, getting event coverage, something that’s going on locally in a community, and obviously, that ties into what national brands are doing, because they frequently reach out at a local level as well?
DARLENE: Again, I think it is that there are opportunities because even though, and I speak with a lot of reporters that are working in local media, and they’re saying that they’re getting pitches from national brands that don’t have a play in the marketplace or in the community. So, they definitely are giving us the opportunity to have a presence there, probably more so than a national brand would.
DOUG: What are some of the challenges for a local organization, a nonprofit? I mean, there are so many nonprofits these days within almost any community. What are some of the challenges they have to face and overcome and any advice on how to really meet those challenges?
DARLENE: Well, I think that the number one piece of advice I would suggest is to find a firm that can help you break through the clutter. I think that a lot of these not-for-profits are certainly cash strapped, and they’re not looking to spend budget on using a firm to help get their message out. But it’s pretty important, and again, it goes back to the relationships that we harbor and, the way that we know how to tell a story.
DOUG: Yes, to your point, if they are cash strapped, any sort of do-it-yourself advice that might help them sort of get started, so they can become un-cash strapped as an example.
DARLENE: Just making relationships with the local media and taking the time to do so, making sure that you’re present at places where they’re covering things, introducing yourself, just getting to know them will go a long way.
DOUG: A slightly different area of conversation with them, but a lot of the groups you work with, like a local chamber of commerce, there’s lots of members, there’s lots of participants.
So, what’s a way, any tips, advice on how to sort of activate that membership to help sort of make your name bigger in the local market than it otherwise might be?
DARLENE: Yeah, well, Doug, this was never intentional for me to start to build out the portfolio with a lot of local clients. I just had a real interest in being a good corporate citizen. So, I became involved with the South Shore Chamber and then with their Economic Development Corporation as well. And just by participating, showing up for meetings, networking, meeting people, the business just started to come in. So, it wasn’t that I was actively navigating this network of folks that I thought I could tap for business. And I think that that’s the real message there that I think people don’t appreciate. There’s a lot of business that is right in their backyard, and a lot of local organizations want to work with local partners.
DOUG: Yeah, so, it sounds like there really is an opportunity. Well, congratulations to you on your success and really the important work you’re doing that’s making a meaningful difference in people’s lives in that area.
DARLENE: Well, thank you so much.