Affinity Lab Spotlight: December 2009 Newsletter
Washington DC Public Relations Firm
(Affinity Lab member)
Why did you start your own business?
Sarah Massey: “I launched Massey Media as a public relations consulting business exactly four years ago. A colleague from AFGE (American Federation of Government Employees) needed public relations assistance while opposing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s attacks on workers rights to choose a union at the workplace. Rumsfeld said that the unions were a threat to national security. This is illustrative of Bush Administration doublespeak, meaning the government didn’t want to pay employees living wages and benefits. I helped position AFGE in the media, showing the strength and determination of the union for its members and its cause.
Lacy and Sarah
What I learned on that first job was how to lend the expert extra set of hands that campaigns needed, do the great work of making headlines, advance the issue for the client, and build capacity for the client. We then researched and identified a demand for creative media consulting in the progressive political arena and stuck with our niche market until we had mastered it. Most of Massey Media’s clients have been progressive nonprofit organizations, but lately we’ve been expanding our mission. Throughout 2009, we expanded Massey Media’s target markets to include socially responsible businesses and the arts.”
What makes Massey Media different from other PR companies?
One of the reasons our clients select Massey Media is because we are passionate and deeply connected to the issues of our day. Everyone at Massey Media comes from the progressive movement, and we care as much as our clients about advancing their causes. From workers rights to environmentalism, from global justice to public art, Massey Media has a vision of a more just planet where everyone enjoys freedom and has a roof over their head, safe and healthy food and water, literacy, and so forth. We are deeply connected to the media that covers these issues and know how to craft stories that producers and journalists want to use. Our clients know us from the community we serve and see how we work to make stories happen in the press on a daily basis.
Our team has years of experience in the top national and international campaigns: raise the minimum wage, campaigns for global justice, promotion of a climate treaty, protection of voting rights, and so forth. Massey Media identifies the successful campaign tactics and applies them to local projects and small business public relations, and it’s working. For example, we worked with Albus Cavus this summer to publicize their work on DC’s largest public mural in Edgewood. Massey Media operated the media work as a campaign to win more walls for public murals in DC. We announced the artwork project with a press release (campaign launch), we wrote a press release a week telling the story of the artists and the community (developing the campaign platform), taught a workshop on spokesperson skills to the artists and the 45 young people working with the group (empowered campaign supporters), brought the press to the mural wall to see the work in progress, and culminated with a huge community event with live painting (victory rally). The DC art and event press loved it, ultimately awarding us the front page of the Washington Post weekend section and the center spread of the Style section. This coverage has led to more projects for Albus Cavus and renewed interest in public art in DC.
Another reason we stand out is that we take our ethic of empowerment to our clients. When we partner with a client to promote their issue, we hand over all of our intelligence and information tools and help them to use it. Each client gets a Massey Media kit that includes the press results we create, the press list we use and notes with full contact information, all the materials we write, and also a debrief memo on how to be your most effective in story-telling. We believe that using the power of the press is a powerful tool for communications and that the ability to make headlines should be more democratic.
Tell us about one of your newer clients and what you are doing for them?
Massey Media recently started work with the Zinn Education Project to promote their creative teaching tools to high school and middle school teachers. The project brings Howard Zinn’s book, A People’s History of the United States, to life for teenagers. Our public relations work is to place stories about bringing history alive in the traditional press that reaches teachers, as well as social media and popular websites. It’s an honor to be assisting Howard Zinn and the Zinn Education Project, and we feel this partnership a special acknowledgment of our vision. Zinn has helped shape our perspective as active participants for social change. We are proud to be serving our communities by helping people to learn their own history and tell their own stories.
What advice do you have for small businesses and arts organizations who are considering PR?
The most important first step to consider is whether you have the capacity to take on a sustained public relations partnership, both in terms of time and financial resources. The press is demanding. They want stories, photos, and interviews and they want them on a 24/7 news deadline. Do you have time to help supply this or a budget that allows your PR firm to take care of it for you? The best avenue for earned press is to position your business or yourself as an expert in the field. Do you have time to invest in creating this profile? When you get press attention, do you have the capacity to fulfill the increased demand for your services?
The next piece of advice we have is to get ready to get creative. We all think we’re newsworthy; however, the press has a certain approach to storytelling, and there is a lot of competition for their attention and airtime. Your PR pro will help shape your project, product, service, or cause into a story the press wants to cover. This will include chiming in on holidays, (like “Eat Well to Feel Well in 2010” for New Year’s Day) creating fun visuals (fake health care lobby greenbacks with pictures of Joe Lieberman), and having you practice slogans (“hard work deserves fair pay, so raise the minimum wage”) so you get quoted in the press. Get creative and have fun with it!
Sarah Massey, Principal
Lacy MacAuley, Project Director