As part of a recent marketing effort, EGLahr PR & Media offered a one-hour pro bono consult to first responders, and a local nonprofit won the prize. A freebie is a good way to network and perhaps make a small difference for a business or organization looking at PR and communication challenges.
Enter the Berkshire Music School, a Pittsfield-based nonprofit that provides private music instruction to hundreds of kids from around the region. The school has a lovely website, nice brochures and collateral materials, a respected reputation, no big problems, an upcoming 75th birthday and lots of happy music students. In short, things are going well. So how could BMS draw some attention to the work of the music school, on the eve of this big anniversary?
Well, what’s your story? I asked. I always ask this.
We talked for a while, and I peppered the director and board president with questions in that old journalistic style. Soon we hit on the story they’d missed in the busy-ness of their own leadership and administration: the school’s demographic was shifting dramatically — away from the young after-school student to older music-minded adults. In fact, the number of older adult students returning to their childhood instruments, or taking up a new one, had been on a steady rise. Cabaret class, jazz piano, ukelele classes — all were being invaded by an older crowd of retirees and others interested in lifelong learning. Many are from among the ranks of music fans who are drawn to the region by the delights of Tanglewood and other rich music offered here year-round.
Bingo — there’s your story! With only an hour of free time, we advised BMS to take charge of the news pitch themselves. Don’t bother with a press release, just call a particular writer at the local paper and get straight to the point. Within a few weeks time, a story appeared about the changing demographics of music school students, with lovely pictures and lovely writing. The story will be a springboard for shifting strategies in the music school’s outreach efforts, and will have a life of its own as well.
PR need not be complex and costly — there’s a time and place for that — but sometimes an objective ear can tease out the headline.