The Grand Lodge Public Relations Committee


Public Relations Basics









Elks Media Relations

2750 N Lakeview AVe

Chicago, IL 60614

Phone: (773) 755-4892

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 Public Relations Basics


Like charity fund raising, media relations is an ongoing process; requiring energies, tact, and personal involvement. Your strategy for press coverage goes beyond trying to land one big story -- you want the press to know that you are THE “organization of expertise” to contact whenever they are creating a story on a subject relating to your mission.


Don't think that every press release is going to result in a story though -- it's not. But maintaining regular press contact will build recognition of your lodge among reporters, and will result in ongoing benefits down the road. As stories and listings for your lodge appear, you won't just be reaching new audiences--you will also be reaching current members and supporters reminding them of what your lodge is doing and what they have chosen to be a part of.  When considering press coverage, be sure and remember that:


·         The Elk’s mission statement has the perfect brief description of our organization. An overview of the history of Elkdom is also available; it should be in every press kit and displayed prominently on your Web site as well. The Grand Lodge has these items as well as brochures and other great items. 


·         Everyone at your lodge should be able to recite the mission statement from memory. If it's too long for staff and board members to easily remember, it's too long for the press to remember as well.


·         Media relations needs to be fully supported by your lodge, and you need policies and procedures to govern your lodge's press relations. Be sure you have answers to the following questions.


1.  Who is responsible for press relations at your lodge (writing press releases,  

      answering calls from the press, inviting press to events, etc.)? Does the  

      person who answers the phone know to refer ALL calls from the press to 

      that person?


2.  Do all staff members and volunteers (including board members) know         

     what to do if they are contacted by a press representative?  Should they talk      

     with that person and then let the lodge’s public relations director know

     they have done so, or should they refer the reporter to the public relations

     director first before any interviews take place?  (Decide on a strategy and 

     make sure it is communicated to everyone.)      


3.   Who at your lodge needs to know that a photographer or camera crew is

      showing up at your lodge or a lodge event?  If the lodge feels an event is

      inappropriate for a camera crew to film (for instance, a dress rehearsal for

      a play the night before opening), what alternative filming opportunities

      can you provide?  And, finally, always notify people they are going to be

      (or might be) photographed or filmed before it happens!  You don’t want

      someone who is upset on the evening news.          





·         The person who answers your phone, or anyone who signs anyone up for an activity at your lodge (volunteers, people who attend events, etc.), should ask people who call how they heard about your lodge or activity. This will help you see how effective your outreach activities are, and help you plan strategically for the future.


·         You should identify media outlets in your area. You should have the names, postal addresses, phone numbers, fax numbers, and e-mail addresses of all local daily and weekly newspapers, all TV stations, all radio stations, all organizations and editors that maintain event calendars (including the local chamber of commerce and tourism board), and all TV programs, radio programs, and specific beat reporters that would be interested in your lodge in particular. If you are in a rural area, you should also identify and know how to contact the major media outlets for the nearest metropolitan area.


·         Most major metropolitan areas have a media guide, published by a local professional association (Women in Communications, Public Relations Association of America, etc.) or by a civic group (Junior League). Call other nonprofit organizations, the nearest United Way, or a press representative to find out if such a guide is published in your area. You can also use the phone book and the Web to compile this information.


·         You don't necessarily have to have people's names to go along with positions -- sending something to "Attention Calendar Editor" at your local paper will get it to the right person as quickly as putting that person's name on it. And given the high turnover in media, it's certainly easier to maintain your database this way.


·         You should not contact all media outlets every time you send a press release or have an event. If you do, you will overwhelm the organization, and reporters and editors will stop reading your materials. Also, some publications are highly-focused: a weekly neighborhood or community paper may only be interested in activities that directly and obviously involve their particular community or population served. Therefore, you may have to tailor press releases to these publications to illustrate this connection.


·         You should develop a media outreach calendar tailored to your own lodge’s events and resources, as well as to your goals for media outreach. Note the dates of events your lodge will sponsor in the next 6 to 12 months. What about events that will involve your Exalted Ruler or other key staff (a high-profile speaking engagement, for instance)? What about the launch of a new program or service? The launch of your annual charity fund raising campaign? Once you've developed this calendar of events, you can set your dates to contact the media. Your press release "send" schedule should follow this basic model:






 1.  Announce events, workshops, etc. Announcements should be sent two to

                        three weeks in advance for daily and weekly publications; they should be

                        sent six to eight weeks in advance for monthly publications.


 2.  Assignment editors at TV stations should get press releases that announce 

      events you think would provide good video for the nightly news.

      Remember that TV stations are looking for lively visuals--with faces and

      movement. You should also fax the assignment editor 12 to 24 hours   

      before such an event—a one-page fax with just the who, what, why,

                        where, when, how, a contact name, and why this event is particularly




 3.  Beat reporters (people who are assigned to a particular subject or issue

      area such as education, entertainment, senior issues, sports, etc.) should  

      get press releases only for events, workshops, or services that relate to 

      their particular area of focus. Send these two to four weeks in advance.

      For announcements of a major event, you may want to send a "Save the

      Date” press release several weeks or months in advance.


 4.  Press releases can also be sent out on an as-needed basis, such as the

      departure of your Exalted Ruler to the Grand Lodge Convention, a major 

      donation given or received, an award to your organization, etc.


 5.  As mentioned earlier, some publications are highly focused. A weekly

      neighborhood or community paper may only be interested in activities that  

      directly and obviously involve their particular community or

      population served. You may have to tailor press releases to those

      publications to illustrate this connection.


 6.  As radio stations have a music format, and have very limited time for

      public service announcements. Send your press releases only to those

      radio stations that feature regular news times, audio event calendars, and 

      public affair shows, following the guidelines above. For other radio

      stations, consider event partnerships.  If are you hosting an event, such as

      a “Car Show” fund raiser, ask if that would be a good place for a radio

      stations, to set up a live broadcast. Or are you trying to target a particular 

      community or population that also makes up most of an audience of a

      particular radio station (for instance, if an you are hosting a conflict

                        resolution workshop for youth, perhaps the radio station teenagers listen to 

      most in the area would be willing to sponsor this event and promote it on

      it on their station).





                          7.  Some public policy issues may affect your Lodge’s target population.

      If so, non-press organizations and people should also get your Lodge

      press releases (as appropriate).  This is how you will build a public

      reputation and get calls from the press as appropriate.  Some of the

      organizations you may want to send selected press releases to include:      


A.    City (mayor, council people), county, state (legislators), and federal officials (congress people and senators) that represent your area.

B.     Chambers of commerce, tourist association, arts council, etc.

C.     United Way (even if you are not a United Way agency).

D.    Nonprofit development or support centers that serve your area.

E.     Nonprofit and public sector agencies with a similar focus.

F.      Professional associations and civic groups.


                    8. Make sure the press views your Exalted Ruler and other key staff and  

                        board members as accessible. For instance, your PR person should have

                        lunch or dinner, one-on-one, occasionally with key local reporters, not

                        necessarily to pitch stories or do an interview, but just to network and

                        cultivate a relationship. However, members should not consider these

                        meetings off the record; they need to watch what they say and conduct

                        as representatives of the lodge.


          The basic information in this document will get you started on the road to building   

            a reputation with the press and getting media coverage.  Remember to evaluate

            your efforts every few months.  Include in your evaluation, answers to these

            questions: Are stories being generated?  Are press people attending your events?

            Are more people attending your events or calling your Lodge? (Remember—you

            should ask anyone who calls your lodge how they heard about your event or

            services).  Also make sure all staff members know the results of your efforts:


      1.   Distribute copies of all articles that appear about your lodge, 

      positive or negative, to all staff and board members. As resources

      allow, and as appropriate, also send copies of stories to volunteers,

      donors, and members/clients.


2.   Find space in a public area at your lodge for a "brag board," where

      you can post articles about your lodge that are published. Also

      watch the "Letters to the Editor" column for things that might

      relate to the Elks, and distribute them appropriately. If your 

      Exalted Ruler or other members writes a letter on behalf of your

      lodge (with approval, of course), make sure all staff and board

      members get copies.


3.   A notice should go out to all staff and board members if a TV or

      radio program is going to do a feature on your lodge (more than

      just a mention of the dates and times of an event).



How to Succeed in Media Interview


Dealing with media can be direct and even enjoyable, provided, of course, that you know how members of the media think and what they want. To help you prepare for an interview, take the little quiz below. The questions originally appeared in Nonprofit Management Strategies. The answers are below.


1.  News Is:


     A.  Important information.

     B.  Information about your organization.

     C.  Whatever the editor says it is.

     D.  Information that is timely, unique, and important to the people in your area.


2.  When Being Interviewed:


     A.  You have several basic rights.

     B.  You have no rights, the reporter makes the rules.

     C.  You have the right to approve the article or story.

     D.  You may redo the interview if you don’t like it.


3.  “No Comment” Is:


     A.  Better than admitting guilt.

     B.  A phrase best used in connection with litigation.

     C.  A signal that you are covering up something.

     D.  The best way to avoid answering a sensitive question.


4.  Errors Appear in Stories Because:


     A.  The reporter doesn’t allow you to review it.

     B.  There is a multi-layered editing system that creates errors.

     C.  Reporters aren’t knowledgeable about your organization.

     D.  Reporters are human and make mistakes.

     E.  You did not communicate effectively during the interview.


5.  What’s the Best Time for an Interview?


     You have the option of deciding when a reporter should come to do a story for the       

      5:00 p.m. news.  Should you choose:


     A.  10:00 a.m.    B.  2:00 p.m.     C.  3:30 p.m.      D.  Live at 5:00 p.m.


6.  A Media Interview Is:


     A.  An annoyance.

     B.  A glorious opportunity.

     C.  Asking for trouble.

     D.  Only occasionally worth it.


Answers to Quiz


1.  News is important information. (C)


2.  When being interviewed you have several basic rights. (A)


3.  “No comment” is a signal that you are covering up something. (C)


4.  Errors appear in stories because you did not review them;

There is a multi-layered editing system that creates errors;        Reporters aren’t knowledgeable about your organization; Reporters are human and make mistakes; and

You may not have communicated effectively during the

    interview. (A, B, C, D, and E). 


5.  The best time for an interview is live at 5:00 p.m. (D)


6.  A media interview is a glorious opportunity. (B)