Archive for March, 2011

It’s time.

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Dear Colleagues,

As you have probably read or heard, Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett announced his recommended FY12 Operating Budget on March 15.  Mr. Leggett’s $4.35 billion operating budget seeks to close the $300 million gap for FY12 by reducing services, staffing levels and employee compensation, while protecting essential services and his priorities of education, public safety and the safety net for the most vulnerable.  In this budget year, one of the only major County departments to see any increase was the Police Department.

The County Executive’s proposed budget recommends an overall 15% reduction for the Arts and Humanities Council budget*. This proposal will decrease our budget by almost $600,000, reducing it from $3,866,820  in FY11 to $3,286,694 in FY12.

Following the release of the proposed budget, AHCMC staff held two meetings with constituents on March 15. The first was a meeting of AHCMC’s advocacy committee comprised of AHCMC Board members and representatives of several of the organizations we serve. The second was an open community meeting which was held at Imagination Stage. At both of these meetings I shared the results of my November through February meetings with County Councilmembers where I discussed the potential impact of budget reductions. In these meetings with Councilmembers, I noted the Governor’s intention for the State with regard to the arts, and, in consideration of the economic driver we represent, asked that our budget remain flat or at least, that our sector receive fair treatment.

Nonetheless, due to the County’s budget deficit, the Councilmembers I spoke with unanimously noted that it was improbable that AHCMC would squeak through the budget unscathed. Over and over, I was told that hard choices would be made this year. And though County Council recognizes, appreciates and supports the work of our arts and humanities community, they noted that we should prepare for a budget reduction.

Friends, times are tough and yes, this budget reduction is going to hurt us. Yes, it will negatively impact the arts and humanities multiplier that pumps millions of dollars back in to Montgomery County. But we can appreciate that these are extraordinary times and such times call for extraordinary measures. And while we’d like our budget restored, in light of deep cuts in other sectors this year and last, we must continue to tighten our belts and find efficiencies in our operations where and when possible.

Our core message continues to be:

To members of the County Council, we will note our appreciation for the difficult challenges they face.  But we’ll make it clear that this reduction cuts into the meat of our programs and the myriad of crucial ways we impact Montgomery County. And we’ll remind them that the arts and humanities sector pumps $53 million into the local economy, but that this multiplier will decrease sharply with this cut.

We’ll also point out that the arts and humanities augment other county agencies’ activities by serving those in need through programs for at-risk youth; for those in the judicial system; people with disabilities; MCPS’s most impoverished students, seniors and new Americans.

Arts and humanities do much more than provide entertainment for the cultural elite; we fill the gaps in social services, contribute to education and help make Montgomery County the wonderful place it is.

Over the next weeks you’ll receive Advocacy Alerts from us with with details on the Advocacy Campaign, the Advocacy Tool Kit and instructions for the April 5 Potluck.  I urge you to take time to participate in the campaign and encourage your staff, friends, board and constituency to do so as well.

We’ve got a lot of work to do over the next few weeks but together we can accomplish great things!

Peace,
Suzan

*While the County Press Release noted AHCMC suffered an 24% decrease this includes a one time grant that will not be renewed in FY12. With that grant removed the actual reduction is 15%.

Pitch in and ask your County Councilmember to support the Arts and Humanities budget. Click here to open the Advocacy Toolkit!

Pitching Your Perfect Press Release

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Last post, I talked about how building relationships with journalists and bloggers is crucial to a successful pitch, but what does that pitch actually look like? How do pick to whom you will send your pitch? Well the great news is, with new media there are several great new ways to send out pitches online and to find new contacts.

The online media pitch is becoming wildly popular. Instead of stuffy, hard copy news releases, online releases allow for links to salient information and highlight important points through mixed media. These online pitches can also be distributed easily through e-mail or housed on websites which specialize in pairing pitches with journalists.

Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is one such website. Users can sign up as either a source or a reporter. Reporters submit queries to the HARO site which in turn e-mails sources that could potentially provide good information on that subject. Sources can submit pitches to reporters in their field after receiving the e-mailed query. The website certainly isn’t a replacement for good old-fashioned legwork and stick-to-itiveness, but it is a good way to supplement your existing channels. It can take a while to get integrated into the site, but once you do it is a valuable resource. Heather Whaling has some good tips on how to use HARO.

PitchEngine

Pitch Engine lets users search releases by topic.

Also take a look at PitchEngine.com. Pitch Engine allows you to upload a multimedia pitch and then share it via social media and e-mail. The site automatically shares your release on major search engines. Users on Pitch engine can filter news releases by topic and industry, so your organization can be found by the people who matter. Readers can even subscribe to your news feed via RSS.

When it comes to the pitch itself, there are a few sites Press Release Grader that will, no surprise here, grade your pitch for you. Press Release Grader takes your pitch and generates a basic list of statistics as well as tips for improvement for content and links.

Online pitching can be exciting, but keep in mind that your news releases should remain professional. Also be mindful of what information should go out on a press release that could potentially reach hundreds of reporters. Sometimes less is more, and bloggers and journalists will appreciate exclusive content. Just take a few moments to decide what will work best for you.

Making Friends with Bloggers

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

So you want to pitch to a blogger. Great! You’re hip to the times and ready to open some new channels. The important thing to remember here is that new media is all about relationships. Different bloggers have different preferences for how they want to receive pitches/press releases and some bloggers don’t want a pitch at all.

Here are the basic steps:

  1. Find a blogger and read their posts
  2. Build a relationship
  3. Pitch your story

So let’s walk through the list.

1. Find a blogger – There are tons of blogs out there that cover tons of topics. The first step to pitching your idea is to find a blogger who covers topics related to your industry. Your pitch idea should be of interest to the blogger you reach out to. The best way to do this is to actually read some archived posts. Make sure that your blogger of choice is willing to work with you as a representative of your organization.

2. Build a relationship –After you do some reading, try building a relationship with the blogger you are interested in by leaving comments on their blog, sending them interesting ideas that don’t relate to your organization, and read more than just their most recent post. Commenting and sharing interesting information with a blogger can really help solidify you as a contact. Link to bloggers through your own blog or invite bloggers to write a guest post.

Without building a relationship, chances are pretty high that your pitch will go straight to the recycle bin. View bloggers as a sort of picky, opinionated journalist. Bloggers can write about anything, and the last thing you want them to write about is how you were rude for approaching them out of the blue or worse, that you offended their morals by offering them payment. This may seem like a big commitment just to pitch a press release, but Kevin Dugan makes a good point: if networking with the blogger seems like too much work for the news you want to share, you probably should not pitch to them at all.

If all goes well, not only will you have successful pitched your news or event, you will have a new networking contact. Other readers of the blog may also build a relationship with you through your community activity. This can bring traffic to your own blog and social media pages.

3. Pitch your story – By this point you should know the best bloggers for the kind of story you want to pitch and have developed a relationship with them. Don’t forget to maintain the relationship after you have sent them your pitch, even if they did not include your information in a blog post. You don’t want to burn bridges, and there are always future opportunities to expand your relationships.

Our Arts & Humanities Blogger Brunch is coming up on March 18! Confirmed panelists include Jessica McFadden of A Parent in Silver Spring, Jacqueline Trescott of The Washington Post, Sommer Mathis of TBD.com, Andrea Falken of Greg’s List DC, Mike Grass of Washington City Paper and representatives from Patch.com and USA Today. Meet the new media and hear from them about what makes a great story! (Tip: If you register by Friday, March 11 at 5 pm, you can snag the Early Bird discount.)