Media Relations Lessons from My Summer Vacation Fiasco

The modern media relations lessons we teach at Nonprofit Marketing Guide were reinforced for me personally last week.  Even though I wasn’t seeking media attention, I got it, resulting in my quote appearing online and/or in print in the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Miami Herald, the San Francisco Chronicle, Time Magazine, and a bunch of regional dailies and trade press.

My family and I vacation on Ocracoke every year. Unfortunately, contractors building a new bridge higher up along the Outer Banks severed the electrical line that feeds Ocracoke. As a local said, Ocracoke is at the very end of a very long extension cord. When the power goes out anywhere along that line, Ocracoke is blacked out.

The line was cut very early Thursday morning. We woke up in a hot and stuffy rental house. Thursday at 5:00 pm, the county issued a mandatory evacuation, asking everyone but permanent residents to be off the island by Noon Friday.

As we were leaving Friday morning around 10 am, I shared this on Instagram and Twitter (I told everyone to look sad for the selfie; the 11-year-old hid behind a book rather than suffer this indignity):

 

Just two hours later, around Noon, while we were still on the ferry, I got a call (which I missed) from Jonathan Drew, an AP reporter in Raleigh.  While eating lunch in Beaufort, I noticed the missed call and gave him a ring back around 2:30 pm while sitting on a sidewalk bench. He asked a bunch of questions about our experience.

A couple of hours later, while we were still driving home, my husband was reading news on his phone, and he said, “You are in the Washington Post!”

Here’s the AP story that’s appeared all over the place. 

A little while later, a friend said she saw us on TV too.

I’ll be honest: I have repeatedly made fun of our local CBS news channel for reading tweets on air. They often pick what I consider to be the stupidest stuff. Well, guess who was the stupid this time?

While my kids were not terribly impressed with the newspaper coverage, they thought the news anchor reading my tweet with our picture on screen was hilarious. It’s at about the 3-minute mark. (The woman in the beginning of this piece was also sharing on social media, by the way.)

Jonathan, the AP reporter, said he found me via the Instagram post after searching a bunch of related hashtags. He called me back yesterday for a follow-up story he is doing on vacation insurance.

A recap of these lessons for you:

  • Report on the spot, as events are happening. You don’t always need poise and polish because authenticity and grit are attractive too.
  • News moves fast! It was about six hours from my Instagram post to being published on websites like the Washington Post.
  • Use public social media accounts like Twitter and Instagram.
  • Use relevant hashtags.
  • Make sure your phone number is very easy to find.
  • Always call the AP reporters back quickly. All of the publications listed above used the AP story.
  • The media doesn’t need permission to use your public feeds on TV.

Get more media tips in August and September during our three media relations webinars and Thought Leadership and Media Relations Accelerator. 



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