September 16, 2018

Opinion

Press release: a powerful communications tool

Most think tanks organise events around the publication of a book or report or run workshops, seminars and round tables to exchange and disseminate information. Ideally, a policy engagement and communication team within a think tank explores different ways to bring visibility to its products and how to reach the right audience by unpacking and sharing key information.

The Public Affairs Centre (PAC) held two events recently:

  • The launch of the third edition of the Public Affairs Index, an annual report designed to measure the governance of the different Indian states and rank them according to various parameters.
  • The first Dr Samuel Paul Annual Memorial Lecture in remembrance of PAC’s former chairman and founder.

The Policy Engagement and Communication (PEC) team at PAC decided to leverage these events to reach out to a niche audience via the media.  To do this, a comprehensive media database was collated and updated, and a press release was drafted to succinctly capture the key aspects of the two events.

The press release included:

  • A meaningful and eye-catching headline, where we used key words to help bring better visibility in search engines: “Kerala scores a hat-trick, best governed State in India, says the Public Affairs Index 2018”.
  • A brief body copy that encapsulated all aspects of both events. Journalists are often overwhelmed with story pitches but are too busy to write what we want them to. They depend on a good press release to provide all the information they need. We included basic details like time, day and venue, and ensured that we had a catchy intro: “Kerala has scored a hat-trick as the best governed state in India as brought out in the Public Affairs Index (PAI) 2018. In earlier reports of 2016 and 2017 too, Kerala had bagged the top honours among the larger states. Among the smaller states, Himachal Pradesh retained its numero uno position for the 2nd consecutive year”. This caught the eye of many media houses and several governments.
  • We included the “5 Ws” (and the H) to ensure clarity and completeness, and kept it short and simple.

To gain traction on social media for our events, we used a database of Twitter handles for all the relevant stakeholders, including government departments and officiilas, funders, consortium partners, think tanks, CSOs and NGOs.  For two weeks after the event,  we shared key messages with these diverse stakeholders. This helped us reach a wider audience with a customised message. Having well-thought action points within a cohesive communications strategy helped the scheduling of our outputs, and also ensured consistent social media content throughout the events’ campaign.

We also planned other activities, such as press conferences and one-on-one interviews. As a result, the engagement in the last 28 days reveals that Tweet impressions have reached almost 21,000, which is a 300% spike compared to the previous month.

Conclusion

In our experience, careful planning with clear objectives for communications outreach activities can never go wrong.

Following the process described before, we were pleased to see that we had received over 50 mentions in regional and mainstream media (print, electronic and online). The press releases elicited interest from journalists, government, and individuals who connected with the story and unpacked and quoted the data in larger articles. This, along with our performance on social media, is encouraging.

About the authors:

Annapoorna Ravichander:  Head of policy engagement and communication at Public Affairs Centre in Bengaluru, India, and On Think Tanks Editor at Large for South Asia.

Varsha Pillai:  Programme manager at the policy engagement and communication team at Public Affairs Centre in Bengaluru, India

Comments