Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks


So here’s the challenge: could someone who has provided media training for 30 years learn more about it? Yes, they can.

At the IPRA October lunch program, Chryssa Zizos, Live Wire Media Relations, LLC, provided 45 lunch attendees with a “train the trainers” media training workshop. Chyrssa has trained member of Congress, CEOs and a president (yes, of the U.S.).With a direct and humorous style punctuated by anecdotes, Chyrssa shared the following information.

The five sections of media training are messaging, preparing the client, training the client to look the part, prepping the client to use body language to their advantage, and creating a strong concluding statement.

According to Chryssa, people try and make messaging complicated but it’s really about these three questions: “Who are you?” “What are you doing?” and “Why are you doing it?” The answers to these questions form the basis for your key messages.

To determine whether your story is newsworthy, think about FUBO–is your story First, Unique, Best and/or Only. If the story contains these elements, it’s newsworthy. Once you finish messaging and determining whether your story is news, you are ready to media train your client.

Chryssa starts her training by putting her clients into a “tailspin”–hitting them with hard questions and poking holes in their answers. The remainder of her media training prepares the client to handle a tough interview. She uses two journalists in her training–they help grill the client and one journalist writes an article off the trainee interview, while the other reporter critiques the client. The journalist’s critique includes whether the client spoke clearly, provided anecdotes that rang true, and how the client’s words would look in quotes.

During the training Chyrssa stressed that the most important thing to impart to your trainees is that nothing is off the record. If it’s off the record, just don’t say it.

Another helpful hint–the fastest way to kill a story is to have your client say to the reporter, “You know three reporters have asked me that, but no one has asked about this yet.”

Here are a few more pointers:

  • Encourage the trainee to be 100 percent his/herself
  • Leverage the passion your client has for their subject and use it to their advantage
  • Have your client use notes for radio and print interviews.

Good interviews are where the interviewee has confidence, knows the content, is organized and has the skills to respond to the journalist clearly and directly. And as PR professionals, we can help our media trainees be their best and represent their organization to the media in a positive way resulting in great press.


Sheri Singer, Singer Communications, PRSA-NCC Board of Directors member, IPRA Board of Directors member.

Tips to Use PR for Marketing for Your Nonprofit/Association

Public relations can be used effectively to market your association. By way of definition, both PR and marketing are external communications efforts but while PR is the art of managing information between an association and its targeted audiences; marketing focuses on activities tied directly to revenue. Specifically, association marketing refers to increasing membership, producing non-dues revenue, and attracting more participants to your events.

Here are some ways to use PR for marketing. 

Hold a telephone news briefing. With the smaller newsrooms today, reporters are covering more in the same amount of time. Gone are the days when reporters had the luxury of leaving their offices to attend a press conference. That’s why many press conferences are being replaced by telephone news briefings–a press conference held by phone. Telephone news briefings can be held before your annual meeting, when releasing a new report or survey, or in conjunction with your Capitol Hill Day. The benefit is that reporters can call in from anywhere and listen to the briefing and ask questions without leaving their desk. 
Get hometown press. Holding your Capitol Hill Day or announcing your awards recipients are activities that lend themselves to local press for your members. The media outreach for a Capitol Hill Day may be: “Susie Jones was in DC to talk to Sen. Brown about XYZ;” and for awards, “Jim Miller is the recipient of ABC National Award from 123 Association.” This is a very effective way of garnering press and clearly illustrating the value of membership. 
Promote passage/defeat of legislation. When your nonprofit works to pass or defeat a piece of legislation or regulation, make sure you promote your efforts. Let your members know how they can get involved along the way. When the passage or defeat occurs, send out a blast email immediately notifying your members. Consider sending a statement to reporters on your media lists to let them know that your organization had a part in the legislation. 
Draft articles for other related associations. Reach out to another related nonprofit and offer to write an article for one of their publications or their website or blog. You may already have an article or blog that you can dust off and recycle. When the article runs, be sure to let your members know. 
Create a Speakers’ Bureau. A Speakers’ Bureau can provide visibility for your association among its targeted audiences. A simple way to create a Speakers’ Bureau is to tap your current association leaders as experts and ask them for recommendations of good speakers on a variety of key topics. The Bureau members can serve as speakers for your association, presenters at related meetings, and media spokespersons.  
Draft messages/train spokespersons. Use your nonprofit’s mission statement to write key media messages that accurately represent your association. Once the messages have been drafted, identify association spokespersons–board members, association staff, other leaders and train them on how to effectively deliver your messages. This training ensures that all your spokespersons are on message, that your message and brand are consistent and that the spokespersons are representing your nonprofit effectively. 
Determine the digital media appropriate for you. To figure out what digital media tools are appropriate for your nonprofit, conduct a digital media audit. An audit looks at the digital media options available to your association such as a Facebook, your website, blogs, Twitter, etc. After conducting the audit, draft a report to make recommendations on what would work for you given your financial and human resources, and your association’s needs and goals. Use the report findings to author a digital media strategic plan that can be incorporated it into your overall communications strategy. 
Draft op-eds and letters to the editor. When appropriate, your association can respond to news articles by writing and placing op-eds–a 700-word opinion piece that comments on the news of the day; or a letter to the editor–a 200-word letter that comments on a specific article that appeared in a print or online publication. Don’t forget to comment on blogs related to your industry.
Track and monitor your efforts. Since PR is not an exact science and marketing professionals are often asked to track their successes, we recommend using an Excel spreadsheet to track media requests, and Google Alerts (a free media monitoring service through Google) to monitor your association’s mentions in the media. Promote your successes to your members. 

Following these tips will help you use PR tools to market your nonprofit to your target audiences.

Sheri L. Singer, President, Singer Communications
PRSA-NCC Board Liaison to the Nonprofit/Association Committee