public relations

Promote the image of Rotary

Public relations enhances your club's relationship with non-Rotarians. While the practice of public relations varies between cultures, every club has outside audiences with whom it must communicate. Rotary public relations can be directed at local government officials, the business community, students, other community organizations, and the people directly affected by Rotary's service initiatives. Local television, radio and print media are of particular importance to your efforts because they can reach large numbers of people and influence public opinion. The media is a conduit for your messages to the public. Please use the information provided in this section to increase community awareness about your club. It was designed for ease-of-use and to provide "downloadable" information that can be adapted for your club's public relations efforts. Please let us know what you think. Launching a local campaign

You can increase local awareness about Rotary by enhancing your club's public relations efforts. Consider these basic PR principles: The media is interested in news. Stories that are published or air on television and radio have several factors in common. They are timely, of interest to the community, and relevant to readers'/viewer's needs. Public relations is most effective when you create messages and materials for a specific audience. For example, local media is interested in local activities. Community groups are interested in collaborative opportunities. Involving other organizations and community Speakergroups increases the reach and impact of a public information campaign. The relationship is mutually beneficial as others learn about Rotary and Rotary members meet new audiences and potential members. A coordinated public relations program will help your club achieve specific goals, such as increasing membership, expanding service opportunities and increasing community financial or volunteer project support. Mix traditional and non-traditional communications vehicles to boost the effectiveness of your campaign. Because competition for media space is great, consider alternate ways to get the Rotary message out. For example, use your club's website and try to secure speaking forums for your club's spokespeople on radio talk shows. Club public relations opportunities

How do you identify strong public relations opportunities? It helps to read or watch the local and national news and take advantage of any stories to which you can add a local Rotary angle. Activities that have a strong human interest factor and are pertinent to the local community are of particular interest to reporters. The story of someone being helped by Rotary (e.g. a scholar, the elderly, a disadvantaged youth) is often an effective way to get Rotary in the news. Some potentially newsworthy club activities include: local club activities that highlight a larger news trend hands-on service projects that meet a community need an international service project supported by a local club or a local Rotary volunteer a Group Study Exchange participant's or Ambassadorial Scholar's account of life in another culture The story of a local student benefiting from a club or Rotary Foundation scholarship unusual or prominent speakers at a club meeting who will be speaking about Rotary in their remarks projects that assist students and/or local youth Interact and Rotaract club projects Clubs undertake a wide array of service projects and many make potential news stories. Designate a club public relations chairperson to work with the media and external audiences. Determine which club activities would be of the most interest to a reporter and people outside of Rotary.

Media outreach tips

News media such as television, radio, newspapers and magazines are excellent vehicles for informing the wider community about Rotary. However, make sure the stories you bring to the media are relevant to the larger community, not just club members. You don't need to be a professional publicist to conduct successful media relations for your club. The media rely on organizations like Rotary for facts, views, and information. As you grow familiar with media in your area, you will recognize ways to obtain Rotary press coverage. Before you contact the press, however, do your research, name your spokespeople, prepare fact sheets, and write a news release or "media alert. Here are some basic suggestions: Create a local press list Develop a computer database which includes contact information on area reporters you would like to reach. You may also want to target community newsletters, local magazines, student publications, free newspapers, and local access cable channels for stories about club activities. Your list should include names, titles/departments, addresses, PolioPlusphone/fax and e-mail addresses. Update your list regularly. Deciding when you have "news" News outlets are bombarded with paper - faxes, letters, news releases - much of which is not "newsworthy." Avoid sending reporters information that doesn't affect the public in some way. For example, "external" Rotary fundraising events, service projects or anniversaries are eligible as "news." Routine "internal" meetings such as PETS and other Rotary training seminars may not be "news" unless it involves a human interest "angle" such as a community service project or a visit from a Rotary dignitary or well-known personality.

Approaching the media

There are several ways to take your story to the media. The most effective methods depends on the journalist's individual preference: By phone. The media can be flooded with mail. Many editors prefer a brief (60 seconds) phone description of your story, along with reasons why it would be of interest to their readers or viewers. Reporters can tell you instantly whether they are interested in the story and if they'd like you to send additional materials. By mail. Use standard mail for sending one-page letters containing your ideas or background materials for stories that don't have an immediate deadline. By fax. Some reporters discourage unsolicited faxes, particularly for urgent releases. Use the fax only for information that has been requested by a reporter or materials that are timely. By e-mail. Like faxes, unsolicited e-mail can annoy a journalist. Send e-mails only when you have an established relationship with the reporter or your story idea is time-sensitive. Always accept the reporters decision when he/she has no interest in your story. Arguing with a reporter only alienates them and will hurt your chances of placing future stories. Tips for working with reporters Be certain your story is NEWS or has a strong feature angle. Submit story ideas in time for an editor to meet deadlines or plan coverage. Always work within deadlines. Call early in the day as most reporter's deadlines are in the afternoon or evening. Ask the reporter, "Is this a good time for a story idea?" When speaking to a reporter, be brief and stick to the point. Avoid discussing your personal opinions. You are acting as a Rotary spokesperson. Try not to ask reporters if they received your release or if they intend to use it. Address media materials to the person you spoke with or would like to write the article. Send background materials immediately following telephone contact. Be available. Make sure you are available by telephone if a journalist needs more information or wants to check a fact for accuracy. Anticipate answers to possible questions. Inform you club members when you send out information should they also be contacted by the press.

Use contacts

Effective media relations is about building relationships with reporters. The more reporters know about the scope of Rotary's activities, the more likely they are to look to Rotary members as a credible source for stories. Often, there are existing ties to local media that members can tap for expanded coverage. For example, a Rotarian may publish the local newspaper. A former Rotary scholar or GSE team member may be an area journalist. While Rotarians shouldn't expect these connections to earn them special treatment, it can be beneficial to contact these resources for ideas, reactions to possible story ideas or assistance when publicizing newsworthy Rotary activities.

Provide photographs

A high quality photograph can greatly improve the chances of your release being used. Be imaginative when taking pictures. Try to take photos that show action or tell a story. Use a professional photographer whenever possible. Also, newspapers generally require black and white photos. Include a "caption" taped to the back of the photo describing the scene and naming everyone pictured, from left to right. Beyond traditional media As competition for media time and space increases, clubs should investigate alternatives to traditional media such as: online publications, electronic bulletin boards, web page advertisements. your Rotary club's own website. Harriet Schloer, webmaster for the Rotary clubs of Central Oregon, USA has prepared and excellent "Guide to Getting Your Club Up and Running on the Web" trade publications local access cable stations radio public affairs shows corporate newsletters other community organization's newsletters student newspapers university alumni publications highway billboards/bench, bus and airport advertising community bulletin boards entertainment guides tourist information/tourist brochures Writing and Using Press Releases Press releases are a basic media outreach tool. Whether publicizing an event or drawing attention to an important issue in the community, a release should provoke interest and be connected to something concrete. Including a local angle will increase the chances of attracting media coverage. When writing a release, begin with an attention-grabbing headline. Just as important is a well thought-out "news hook" - a compelling reason for the news media to pursue a story. The news hook provides direction to the rest of the release. The release text should answer the following basic questions about the event or issue: WHO? WHAT? WHERE? WHEN? WHY? And HOW? A release should be concise and objective. It may include a quote from a Rotarian authority figure - such as a district governor or club president. Decide what information is necessary to present a complete and accurate picture. A news release should be limited to one or two pages. There may be a Rotary club member with writing and/or media experience that can handle writing press releases and other media activities. Distribute your news release to your local media list at least one week prior to the event. If you are sending a release to a television station, think of its visual needs. You may want to suggest good video footage opportunities, such as hands-on work, unusual events or celebrity appearances. see samples ( District governor appointment, Club press release example, Rotaract press release example)

The idea letter

More personal than a news release, the idea letter suggests a story angle that might attract readers or viewers. It is often appropriate for magazines which require a longer lead time. Present your "pitch" in letter format and offer to help the reporter develop it. The letter should be tailored to the reporter and the medium as much as possible. see sample ( Sample idea letter - "A Rotary Scholar's Perspective" )

Hometown Press Releases

When you attend major Rotary International events, it's always a smart idea to send word back to your local newspaper or television station. Your participation in the event becomes a local "angle" or "newshook" - a reason - for the media in your community to cover the event. "Hometown" news releases are created by Rotary International to help make it easier for "participants" to send word home. If you've recently attended a Rotary International event or are a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholars, click on the appropriate release and complete it as directed. Send the release as soon as possible - you may wish to re-type it - to the print and broadcast media in your hometown. When possible, include photos with your release. The media looks for pictures that "tell the story." If you've traveled abroad, include in your photo something - a landmark, decorations or other background scenery - which shows you were in another culture. Try to also include Rotary "signage." Perhaps you can wear a hat with the Rotary emblem or a blazer or shirt with a Rotary wheel on the pocket. Should a television or cable station be interested in video footage, check with the Rotary Public Information Department (click to pid e-mail address on "For More Information") to learn whether professional quality broadcast footage is available. To complete a release, click on one of the following, fill it out and send it to the media in your community: Rotary ambassadorial scholar press release (for scholars now studying abroad.) Sample Presidential Conference, "African Rotary members travel to Uganda to participate in conference to alleviate poverty in Africa (for Rotarians attending a presidential conference) Using fact sheets and background materials Sometimes you simply cannot include all the information you want to share in a one-page letter or press release. When that happens, you can provide a "media kit" that includes your release, fact sheets and other background materials - such as brochures, bios, fliers, and photographs. Rotary International has developed fact sheets on various topics to aid your local PR efforts. For example, should you want to publicize a local literacy project, you can send a news release on you local program and complement it with Rotary's fact sheet on Rotary and literacy.

Preparing for a media interview

Congratulations! You've "landed" an interview and are well on your way to sharing the Rotary story with your community. Following are a few tips that will help you best prepare for your meeting with a journalist.

Professional Respect

The journalist is not necessarily your friend or your enemy. He or she is a professional "gatekeeper" to the public. Speak with your main audience in mind. Establish a cordial relationship but don't assume a reporter will put your interest ahead of the story or emphasize your perspective. A journalist is never off duty. Be careful even in casual remarks while socializing. Never say anything you wouldn't want read in the newspaper or heard on the air the following day.


Develop the points you want to make. Rehearse them. Anticipate the difficult questions and prepare positive responses. Answer at the top: Answer the question straight out and "bridge" to the point you want to make. Even if the implication of the question is negative, answer it, then move to the point you want to make. Always answer the question: Answer questions honestly. If you do not respond, [e.g. "no comment"], you will seem evasive and give the impression that you have something to hide. Say instead, "I can't speak to that because" and give a reason. Emphasize your main points: Reinforce your main message through the technique called "flagging," with simple phrases such as, "the key point is . . ." or "most importantly . . ." Repetition is another way to emphasize your main points. Speak in personal terms whenever possible: Using personal anecdotes to illustrate your message is the most effective way to communicate what you want to say. Avoid jargon: Rotary terms such as "classification system," "4-Way Test," or even "district governor" can be meaningless to non-Rotarians. Try not to use them. If you do use Rotary phrases, explain them. Metaphors and analogies work wonders: Provide comparisons and examples that bring facts and figures to life. (i.e: Rotary is in 62 countries = We're in 8 out of 10 countries in the world.) Advanced media training techniques Bridging: Deal with the question honestly and briefly, then move logically to your message. Before you bridge, you must answer the question. Examples: "Yes, and in addition..." "No. Let me explain..." "I don't know. I do know that..." "That's the way it used to be. Now..." Flagging: Emphasize to the reporter what you want them to highlight - what one piece of information you want them to print or broadcast - by creating a "star" in their notebook. Examples: "The most important thing is..." "This is the bottom line..." "If you remember one thing about Rotary..." Hooking: You can prompt the next question you want asked by ending your response with a "hook." Examples "And that's just one possibility..." "We've done something no other organization has done.." If interviewer doesn't respond to hooks, bridge.

Key Rotary Messages Following

are sample messages you may wish to select, adapt, or use to create the messages you want conveyed during a media interview. Rotary works to improve the quality of life for all people. Rotary is an international service organization of 1.2 million usiness and professional men and women who, as volunteers, address needs of their home and international communities. Rotary exists to do good in the world. Rotary initiates local and international service projects to promote world understanding and peace and improve the life conditions for people of all ages and cultures. An example is PolioPlus through which Rotary is working to eradicate polio by the year 2005. Rotary's strength lies in the volunteer service of its membership, an international network of business and professional leaders implementing a wide range of programs to meet human needs. Rotarians are men and women of integrity who represent a cross-section of business and professional backgrounds. As volunteers of all ages, they work to meet community and international concerns. Rotary's strength is that it is both international and local. For example, today's critical problems, such as health and sanitation, hunger, and environmental deterioration, must be addressed at local levels. With more than 29,000 clubs serving communities in 162 countries, Rotary is ideally suited to addressing such problems. Through PolioPlus, Rotary leads private sector participation in the global effort to eradicate polio. The value of the half-billion-dollar program by 2005 is multiplied by the thousands of volunteers working in more than 100 countries to support childhood immunization. Rotary's volunteer and financial assistance in vaccination efforts means polio will disappear in nation after nation, and region after region. Polio eradication will not occur until the disease disappears from all nations and all regions. Rotary's community-based leadership in target countries was a deciding factor in the World Health Assembly's goal of polio eradication. Rotary International is the key private partner in the global fight to eradicate polio.

Advertisements and Public Service Announcements

News coverage of Rotary efforts often proves the best way to spread the good news of Rotary. However, when news coverage is not possible or if you'd like to enhance Rotary coverage, your club may consider placing an advertisement. Media will provide advertisement space to non-profit organizations like Rotary at reduced rates. Check with local publications to see how they might accommodate a community organization and consider whether the outreach to the public is worth the expense of placing the ad. Public Service Announcements for television Public Service Announcements (PSAs) are similar to other advertising but generally run as a community service at no charge by the broadcast media. In the United States, radio and television stations allot a limited amount of air time to PSAs and other service oriented programming. PSAs are used mainly by non-profit organizations to announce special events or air messages in the public interest. In other countries, there may be opportunities for non-profit organizations to purchase broadcast airtime at a reduced cost.

Local television cable Rotarianstations are another broadcast outlet that may offer reasonable rates. Television stations require broadcast-quality footage to air a PSA. For television outlets, new :30 second and :60 second PSAs have been created by Rotary International. The following PSAs are currently available for US$10 each. To order, contact the Rotary Catalog Order Desk. Vaccinate: Eradicate: Celebrate: :30 and :60 second piece that uses gripping images and a simple, compelling message "Vaccinate. Eradicate. Celebrate. - Target 2000" to rally support for the polio eradication initiative as the year 2000 nears. Each video has the spots in EN, FR, JA, SP and PO. Voices: These :30 and :60 second spots urge members of the community to get involved by volunteering.

Using famous quotes from historical figures, the PSA highlights the areas of service in which Rotary is involved. The closing line of the PSA is "Your town, your community, your choice" encouraging viewers to help out by volunteering. Geared toward US audiences, this PSA is presently available in English only. Expand your horizons! study abroad: Advertisement featuring compelling images of Rotary scholars set against the backdrop of a spinning globe that urges students to "Expand your mind. Study Abroad." Available in EN and JA, this PSA can also be viewed on the RI video "Ambassadorial Scholarships Program: Investing in World Peace." Public Service Announcements for radio Many radio stations may help you produce a local PSA if you provide a :30 second or :60 second script. If your club is sponsoring an event or activity that involves the public, such as an immunization drive or a career fair, consider sending a suggested PSA to your local radio station that briefly outlines the who, what, where, when and why of the event. Rotary has also produced several PSAs for radio. To order, contact the Rotary Catalog Order Desk. PolioPlus Radio PSA: Available in English and French General Rotary Radio PSA: Available in English and Spanish The Rotary emblem and logos The Rotary wheel is the most recognized symbol of Rotary - and a public relations tool. When taking photos or videos of Rotary events, make Rotary signage visible. Rotarians being photographed should wear their Rotary pins or, when appropriate, the Rotary wheel on a cap or shirt. Use the camera-ready artwork of the emblem provided on the web site in club newsletters, stationary, outreach materials and other publications. For appropriate uses for the Rotary emblem, consult the RI Style Manual. The Rotary wheel and other logos of Rotary International and Rotary Foundation programs are available in various formats from this site. Download Rotary International wheel emblem. The Rotary International Public Relations Award Rotary International is acknowledging the increasing importance of public relations with a new award to recognize outstanding club efforts. The RI Public Relations Award honors clubs that have generated increased awareness and understanding of Rotary through media coverage or public relations efforts. Competition and selection of winning entries will take place within the district. Each district can submit one entry selected by the district governor, working with the district public relations chairperson. Criteria A club entry must relate to a single club project, event or campaign (activities pertaining to just one topic - i.e. drug abuse, literacy promotion) that demonstrably improves Rotary's visibility and image within the community. Clubs should be able demonstrate the effectiveness of the public relations efforts by showing one or more of the following results: significant media coverage increase in community support for Rotary service activities public recognition (such as community award) increased membership. Public relations efforts must be directed at external audiences (non-Rotarians). Internal education efforts should not be considered. Clubs may only submit one entry per year. Entries should consist of a completed form and include samples of outreach tools (press releases, public service announcements, letters to the editor, etc.) and resulting media coverage which may include newspaper clips, and video or audio footage of television and/or radio coverage. In the case of public relations campaigns, clubs may include photos of displays, samples of printed materials (posters, brochures, flyers, etc.), letters of recognition from other organizations, fundraising and membership records, etc. Size of media market should be considered when judging entries. It is generally more challenging for clubs in major media centers to generate press coverage. A small article in a large circulation newspaper may have a much greater impact than a large article in a small local newspaper. Deadlines Club entries should be submitted to district governors by 15 March. The deadline for winning district entries to be forwarded to RI is 14 May. Public relations activities that are initiated up to one year prior to the district deadline for entries are eligible for the competition. Recognition District governors should send to RI the name of the winning club along with their entry and accompanying materials for possible use in Rotary publications and by Public Information staff. The governors will receive certificates of recognition, signed by the RI President, to present to clubs. Governors also sign the certificate and are encouraged to conduct a formal presentation ceremony at a district event, such as a district conference or district assembly in order to generate awareness and appreciation among all clubs in the district. Share your media success! Share your success with Rotary International! When the media has covered your story send your newsclips to be considered for placement in Rotary's quarterly media compilations. Clips should be sent to: Department of Public Information, Media Relations section Rotary International 1560 Sherman Ave. Evanston, IL 60202 If a television or cable station has covered your project, ask the station if it will provide you with a "Beta-NTSC" (professional quality) video copy. If not, a 3/4" tape is preferred over a VHS copy. Send your tapes to the above address. Many thanks!