Gamma Iota Sigma
Public Relations and Publicity
Public Relations, a term often used and more often misunderstood, is the planned efforts that an organization makes to establish and maintain a positive and professional image. Public Relations then, is an important ingredient that should be considered in the planning stages of all of your chapter's endeavors. A thorough Public Relations effort will complement many of your chapter's other basic goals such as: increasing the involvement of your current members; attracting new member, and; encouraging local insurance industry contribution and recognition.
Publicity, on the other hand, is the actual communication of information concerning events, persons, or projects through various media channels to attract public notice. Your publicity effort is of crucial significance in making the public aware of the good your chapter is doing, and that you're well organized and professional. The most cost effective publicity tool for informing the media is through the use of a well written news release. A description of how to develop a news release will follow later on, in the last several lines of the section.
Whether you're aware of it or not, your chapter already has a Public Relations program. The big question is then, are you portraying a positive and professional image or . . . an impression that is negative and uncomplimentary? Your best evaluation will come from closely examining what your chapter is or is not currently doing. For example, are you answering your chapter's mail promptly? Are you using professional looking stationery?
The following tips should help you to guide your chapter's activities toward a more effective PR effort.
1. A strong identify - your first step: As was mentioned earlier, Public Relations is basically an image building process, and first impressions are lasting! Including the Gamma Iota Sigma logo on all of your printed materials is the first place to start.
2. Identify your "Publics": In developing your public relations strategy, be sure to carefully identify the specific "publics" that are important to your organization's existence. More often than not you will find that you'll need to make minor adjustments in your Public Relations techniques when approaching each different "public" targeted by your chapter. Remember, your most important public is your chapter's members.
3. You need a target: You'll find that if you develop a formal written Public Relations plan your PR targets will be much more visible. Ideally these newly adopted Public Relations goals and objectives will serve as a foundation for many of your other projects and programs. Don't be afraid to set specific dates for completing certain PR activities. . . they'll help you to be more effective.
4. Make things happen!: In Public Relations you can't sit on your duff waiting . . . you've got to make things happen. Right now you're probably missing many wonderful PR opportunities because you're not capitalizing on the good you're doing by keeping your "Publics" informed. Many techniques tend to compliment each other, such as: photographs, bulletin boards, posters, fliers, news releases, newsletters to members (and your industry supporters!), public speakers and meeting notices to the local industry.
5. Always remember your members: Your chapter members are, by far, your most important public. Keep them informed, because if they don't believe in Gamma Iota Sigma, who will? One of the best methods of communicating with current prospective members is through a well-written, professional-looking newsletter. A newsletter is the perfect forum from which you can convey: news about members; future activities, projects or meetings that are planned;
Chapter accomplishments; financial news and information; and news about other Chapters, or from the Grand Chapter. Make it look good - your newsletter, in addition to communicating news, conveys an image of your chapter's professionalism and degree of organization. Remember to send a copy to your alumni members.
6. Evaluate your program: Are you reaching your targeted "publics?" The Public Relations and associated communication process requires continual evaluation and feedback. How do you know if your Public Relation Program is working? Try attaching a questionnaire to one of your newsletters. Check the growth in your membership, too! Also, are you accomplishing your original goals and objectives?
"First you've got to do it; then you've got to tell people about it."
We've already discussed how useful a newsletter can be in communicating with your members. How then, can we get the word out about Gamma Iota Sigma to the local insurance industry and other non-members? You can approach the industry and non-members through personal contact through what they watch on television or through what they read. Since contacting everyone personally or gaining television coverage of your chapters activities is impractical and for the most part not feasible, your best approach will be to make Gamma Iota Sigma known through what people read.
The best way to contact the print media is by using a well-written press release. Basically, a press release is appropriate for publicizing just about every or any occasion. The trick is to determine what each publication considers as newsworthy enough for print. Some newsworthy ideas suitable for a press release might include: Appointments of officers; Competitions with other groups; Awards your chapter or individual members have won; Education seminars or programs; new projects; outstanding speakers; member or chapter participation in local or national business and civic events.
So, where do we start? The key to a well-written press release is developing the opening sentence, or "lead" as it is commonly referred to. It's got to be a "grabber" so to attract the editor's attention, and readers alike. The question is then - What is the most important point to your story? Start with the most important point, and then finish out this first paragraph with who, what, when, where, and why. Be sure to write in short sentences and stick to no more than five lines per paragraph if possible. One page is always best, but a two page press release is acceptable. The second paragraph should contain other important details about the event you're announcing. Your last paragraph should be devoted to your specific chapter and Gamma Iota Sigma in general.
Sample news releases and mailing lists for the Professional Insurance Agents Association (PIA), Independent Agents Association (IIAA), and several other national insurance trade publications are included in the pages that follow.
When drafting your press release it is important that the proper format is followed. Your press release should always be typewritten on your chapter's letterhead (8-1/2 x 11" stationery). Start with the upper left corner, on page one, and type the person's name and phone number who can be contacted for further details. In the upper right hand corner, a few lines under the date, type "For Immediate Release" of "For Release on or after (date)." Begin the body of your press release about two inches below what you've already typed (date, contact person, when to release). Be sure to double space between lines when typing. Type only on one side of the page and leave 1-1/2" margins on each side. Never finish a page in the middle of a paragraph . . . leave extra space at the bottom and start on page 1 if you have to. Write "-more-" at the bottom of every page except the last page. Always type "# # #" after your last paragraph.
There are also a number of other basic "Do's" and "Don'ts" you should keep in mind:
"Publicity Handbook", Copyright by Sperry and Authinson Co.