In 2018 Annual Conference

By Cathy Schroeder – FPRA Capital Chapter
@schroedercomm  LinkedIn  

Andy Warhol, iconic pop artist once said, “Don’t pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches.”  

Ah, PR pros delight in column inches of coverage for clients. But some coverage is easier pitched than placed depending on many factors such as timing, context and relevance.

That is why the story of two savvy media mavens earning both national and international media coverage for a museum exhibition of flowers (yawn) is one for the history books.  

Lynnette Werning, APR is the Founder and President of Blue Water Communications a boutique agency serving performing arts projects, destinations, museums and libraries. Werning admits she had her sights set on working with the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens for some time, “I like to hover just below restraining order.”  

Mischa Kirby, APR, Vice President for External Relations at Selby Gardens sought to promote the garden into a “living museum” experience and boost interest. Enter Werning who specialized in this area (the hovering didn’t hurt). Together, Werning and Kirby collaborated around projects featuring highly regarded artists and their work within the unique, natural setting of Selby Gardens. Public relations planning for Warhol: Flowers is the Factory, the topic for today’s workshop actually began a year in advance. And that made all the difference says Werning, “it’s not luck, it’s methodical planning.” 

The strategy and time investment earned both national and international media coverage for the exhibition. The indirect benefits included an increase in visitors, expansion of programs and new memberships. Werning and Kirby outlined their strategy with FPRA Annual Conference attendees revealing their tried-and-true approach.  

  • Develop a strategic communications plan that aligns with the client’s priorities. Werning shared a matrix used by Blue Water Communications that ensures planning is intentional and reflective of the overarching goals.  
Goal=What  Objective=Why  Tactic=How  When (lead time)  Dates (due date) 

Strategic Communications Plan 

Goal = What we’re going to do | Why = Why is it important institutionally | Tactic = How we will get it done 

  • Ask the client what a homerun looks like. In this case, leaders at Selby Gardens wanted an above-the-fold, Sunday cover story in the Financial Times. Werning and Kirby recommend setting this goal and build a plan that helps you get to the ultimate win. (They did score a story with the Times and while it wasn’t on the cover, it was a huge win in coverage.)  
  • Invite potential partners to the table to bolster efforts. Kirby worked with Visit Florida to cover the travel expenses for reporters who otherwise wouldn’t be able to see the exhibit. Seeing is believing. This partnership bolstered the likeliness of coverage as well as promoted the area for tourists.  
  • Invest in building relationships with your media targets. Twice a year Werning and her team visit media outlets in Miami and New York. She admits they make this happen on a shoestring budget, but the visit provides endless returns on client results. Werning and Kirby also expanded their pitching to include every angle possible. Warhol story “fatigue” resonated with the usual art suspects. But did they know he was also a conservationist? That his dedication to so many nature pieces reflected his commitment to preserving this inspiration for his artwork? “We pitch nonstop,” said Werning. “It takes time and relationships. We make five to eight connections before we get coverage.” (Andy Warhol’s, Flowers, 1964). 

In the end, this strategy led to coverage in Marie Claire, Vogue, New York Times and scores of other enviable outlets. Session attendees probed Werning and Kirby for the magic formula (flowers + art = international news…yes, please!). Both were quick to remind us that methodic planning, dutiful media relationship building and relentless pursuit lead to great coverage.   

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