Sharing Best Practices
in the Travelers Aid Family
Promoting Your Agency as a Go-To Expert
In the early days of the Summer of 2016, Crisis Center of Tampa Bay has been in the news far more than any other Travelers Aid member. The agency worked to get its name and services out to the community, explains Ken Gibson, the director of marketing and public relations.
The Crisis Center operates the 2-1-1 confidential crisis assistance helpline in Florida’s Hillsborough County and has access to 4,600 other community resources beyond their own services. In addition to its extensive counseling services, Crisis Center operates the Travelers Aid booth at the Tampa International Airport and TransCare, the 9-1-1 basic response ambulance service for Tampa as well as medical transport services. With a staff of 200, Crisis Center provided assistance to 160,000 last year.
In the interest of assisting other Traveler Aid members to improve their media placements, Journeys asked Gibson to explain their operation and how they got more than 15 media mentions in just June and July.
As a pre-condition for any successful media outreach program, “it must have the buy-in” of the board and the agency’s top executives, he said. “Our board likes to see us in the news.” The support of the board and the CEO is crucial because flexibility is the key to getting on the air. An agency will need to “be flexible, drop things at a moment’s notice” in order to adapt to the reporter’s deadline schedule rather the reporter working around the agency’s calendar.
For a TV interview, Gibson said the agency gets about 2 hours notice. “They will call at 10 and need to have the interview completed by 2 to get on the 5 p.m. news.” The call from the inquiring reporter may come because of a news release or agency announcement or because the agency has developed a reputation as the go-to expert on a specific topic.
If a reporter sees the agency as a dependable source – meaning they will work with a station’s schedule and provide useful information – the reporter will return again and again for future stories, Gibson noted.
In the case of the Crisis Center, the agency has developed core strengths in handling emotional trauma in a crisis situation, sexual assaults, suicide prevention and family stabilization. It has the experts, and frequently CEO Clara Reynolds, a licensed social worker as well as holding an MBA, is the voice of the agency in press interviews. Gibson added that some staff members are fluent in Spanish and effective communicators with the region’s Spanish language media outlets.
Gibson noted that Crisis Center will turn down interview requests when the topic is beyond its core services. In those cases, the agency will recommend other, more appropriate agencies within the Tampa Bay community.
Crisis Center operates the 2-1-1 confidential crisis assistance helpline in the area and has access to 4,600 other community resources beyond their own services.
So just what made news in Tampa
The relatively light sentence of a Stanford University swimmer after a sexual assault trial and the sexual assault incidents on the Baylor University football team triggered either opinion columns or letters to the editor in the Tampa Bay Times which cited the work of Crisis Center in assisting sexual assault victims. And, a local TV station reached out to Reynolds for comment when a Florida trial court judge was sanctioned for her poor treatment of a domestic violence victim.
In the wake of the June 12 shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, where the assailant killed 49 and injured 53, the Crisis Center garnered 11 media mentions – either full interviews or news outlets used portions of an agency statement. While Orlando is a 90 minute drive from Tampa, Gibson said residents regularly travel back-and-forth between the two cities. There were Tampa residents who have gone to the Pulse, had relatives of club patrons or knew someone in Orlando impacted by the event. Gibson said that Crisis Center posted a statement on its website and on social media noting it had staff available around the clock to provide “emotional support” at 2-1-1.
The Pulse shooting was sandwiched between another high-profile Orlando shooting and the alligator attack at Disney World. The three incidents combined produced an air of secondary stress in the region creating new or heightened anxiety levels for some, especially children, Gibson explained. The Crisis Center’s advice to deal with secondary stress was featured on at least two telecasts.
At the Crisis Center Gibson is the only full-time staffer devoted to marketing and media outreach. Now in his third year, Gibson previously handled public relations for a small publicly traded company. “I did not set up the system; it was in place when I arrived.”
Reynolds arrived about a year ago and is fully supportive of the outreach efforts.
How to Boost Your Media Profile
Step 1 – Build a media contact list. Know the beat reporters, news editors, assignment editors who would cover your agency or the issues your agency tackles.
Step 2 – Do an inventory of your agency’s core strengths. Know your agency’s experts.
Step 3 – Armed with educational materials, make the time to visit the beat reporters, news editors and assignment editors to introduce and educate them about your agency’s programs. Visits should not be limited to traditional media outlets. Seek out relevant bloggers, e-news outlets or high-profile social media operatives.