from Steve Coleman,
Washington Parks & People
This advice is directed toward Brooklyn’s Prospect Park Alliance, but the tips and strategies are applicable to park groups at large.
1. Prepare simple background materials to go into custom press kits assembled for those you contact, including your best coverage to date, first-person stories about the Park and profiles of Park people, and fact sheets that tie the Prospect Park story to its wider impacts and to its counterparts nationwide. You have already begun to get some good national press, such as the feature a couple years ago in Hemispheres (the United Airlines in-flight magazine) that profiled the revitalization of Prospect Park, Forest Park in St. Louis, and Meridian Hill.
2. Use the Park itself to convey messages (through programs, signage, displays, and imaginative photo opportunities) about the significance of its renewal. Fortunately for you and for all of us who care about urban parks, many national editors and reporters live a stone’s throw from Prospect Park. So if we can simply get their attention as they come through and demonstrate the wider significance of what is happening in their own back yard, we will be well on the way to boosting national media coverage. Maybe some of your neighbors who are news media professionals would volunteer to help with pitching the story to their contacts.
3. Use repetitive marketing in diverse free media forums. From light posts to location scouts for movies and Sprint commercials (which use urban park settings across the country), reach out broadly to promote your story.
4. Become a credible, quotable source on parks and urban revitalization. You may actually increase Prospect Park coverage by being ready to speak on broader parks issues and needs. Make a Source List for key reporters to use in contacting Tupper Thomas and other lead spokespeople. Indicate their areas of expertise and pager numbers for after-hours calls when reporters are on deadline.
5. Anticipate or create news “pegs” — annual programs like Earth Day, anniversaries of significant events, national and local news and policy actions, celebrity Park appearances and performances, ten millionth visitor since the restoration began, etc. Construct newsworthy, even surprising, Park programs and actions that will showcase your message and tie into larger themes and issues.
6. Beginning with neighborhood, borough, and city reporters who know you best and who have covered your work well in the past, pitch the story about Prospect Park as part of the larger national urban parks movement. If a local story is getting picked up by the Associated Press or other wire service, make sure the wire service writer is fully briefed on the story. The New York Times, Newsday, and the Wall Street Journal are all tied into major national news services and have huge impacts on news agenda-setting nationwide.
7. Produce “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” a report and visual presentation on the transformation of the Park, complete with a source list for more information on the impact of the Alliance and its nationwide counterparts. Schedule the report to be released at an appropriately timed national press conference (perhaps on the anniversary of the Alliance) in Prospect Park celebrating the urban parks movement nationwide. Plant excerpts of the report as Sunday op-ed pieces in advance of the press conference.
8. Call for compelling information and stories, showcasing the national significance of the urban parks movement, to be presented in the press conference from other local park leaders nationwide and from such national leaders as PPS and the Urban Parks Institute, the Trust for Public Land, the National Recreation and Parks Association, and the Urban Land Institute. Approach targeted “softer news” media outlets with different feature angles of the story, such as Better Homes and Gardens, the Christian Science Monitor, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Essence, Harper’s, Monitor Radio, National Parks, National Geographic and National Geographic Traveler, National Public Radio, the New Yorker, Old House Journal, Parade, and Reader’s Digest. Pick a few good targets at a time, rather than trying to reach everyone at once in blunderbuss fashion.
9. Once other national news stories begin appearing, call contacts at TIME, other newsmagazines, and network news programs to pitch them on the story. Be clear and compelling in drawing the connections between the Park and the larger news stories. Succinctly tie together as many threads of the news story as possible, giving a sense of breaking or developing news.
10. Follow up diligently. Use the press conference and report as openings to establish long-term relationships with the national press.