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July 10, 2018
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Molly Blake

The Fourth Estate: A Field Guide

If you’re like me, you’re obsessed with the Thai soccer team’s rescue. The media coverage has been, of course, unrelenting—with entire teams of people dedicated to shielding the boys from the media as they’ve been rescued. It’s a love hate relationship, clearly. For HOAs and PMCs, the media can be both a blessing and a curse. It only takes one google search to find all sorts of bad news about HOAs. 

But dig a little deeper, and there’s some good news. As a former journalist, I understand that people are fearful of the media, but we aren’t all bad. At FRONTSTEPS, we believe that by helping HOA and PMC community leaders build more connected communities and focus on resident engagement, there will be less conflict.  So when something good does happen, it may not be a bad idea to spread the word.  

Here are a few things to consider when it comes to the fourth estate. 

  1. Get buy-in: Talk to your board before you reach out to the media for a feel-good story. There is always a chance that someone is going to challenge your interest and you need to respect the group consensus. It's forever, after all.

  2. Be clear about the story: A recent community gathered to pick up trash on a nearby road and the press got wind of it. The result was a lovely story about the issue of trash on a highly trafficked road and not entirely about the HOA's involvement. A media outlet is far more likely to cover a story that has a real hook. Hosting a BBQ may be really interesting to you, but probably not to the media. Recently, a Missouri woman filed a number of fake liens on homes – under the auspices of being part of an HOA. The liens were ultimately dismissed but by bringing this issue to the media, it attracted the attention of lawmakers who may now consider clamping down on who can actually file a lien. 

  3. Make people aware: Not everyone wants to be on camera. Give folks plenty of time and let them know that a reporter will be in the community. If someone doesn’t want to be filmed or interviewed, respect that. 

  4. Pretty up your community. You know that a camera adds 10 pounds, well the same concept applies to your lawn. Take time to spruce up the neighborhood. Ultimately, the story may be a good marketing tool so put your best foot forward.

  5. Ask nicely for volunteers who can speak to the issue at hand. Discuss the topic and the key talking points ahead of time. This will help the speaker sound more natural and confident about the subject.

  6. One fashion tip: Stripes are generally not great on camera!

Media coverage can be a blessing or a curse so tread lightly. In case you are interested in learning more about building connected communities, check out our white paper.

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