Anyone who works in communications or public relations in the nonprofit sector in Washington, DC knows that DC is a tough market. The competition for placement is massive. Unless your organization is a household name or you have a celebrity tied to your cause, or it’s a slow news day, you have to be extra strategic to get your story picked up.
The staff at Safe Shores – The DC Children’s Advocacy Center is small and our Communications Department, well, it’s only me. And as a relative newbie to the DMV, I initially struggled with securing media opportunities for the organization. For this reason, we recently hired a communications consultant with strong and longstanding ties to the community and established relationships with members of the media to help guide our overall outreach plan.
The recent boost in Safe Shores’ exposure came as a result of the organization using the Penn State child sexual abuse scandal as an opportunity to educate the public on why child abuse occurs, the risk factors, the consequences, and how to identify and report maltreatment. We moved quickly to place commentary and interviews that positioned Safe Shores as a media resource and our executive director, Michele Booth Cole, as subject-matter expert on child sexual abuse prevention.
We earned several placements. On November 28, 2011, Cole was featured on WHUR’s The Daily Drum with Harold Fisher. Using the allegations against Jerry Sandusky as context, Cole gave tips on how to recognize abuse and tools to react responsibly when faced with it.
That same day, commentary by Cole appeared on Washington Post’s The Root DC Live blog. "Child sexual abuse: Four steps America must take" lays out a plan to raise awareness about the nation’s child abuse epidemic.
In December, Nooga.com, an online newspaper in Chattanooga, contacted Safe Shores for expert commentary for “Portrait of a Victim,” about an abuse survivor. Cole was quoted in the article.
WAMU 88.5 aired Cole’s commentary, “Protecting Children is an Adult’s Job” on December 11 about protecting children from sexual abuse.
The Washington Informer ran Cole’s commentary, "Adults, You Can Prevent Child Sexual Abuse" on December 15. In the piece, Cole discusses key symptoms of child abuse and what every adult can do to help prevent abuse.
Most recently, Cole was quoted in an article for The Washington Examiner, "Agencies: Child sex abuse claims soar after Penn State." The article includes quotes from several local child protection professionals about the increase in reports of child sexual abuse in the wake of the Sandusky scandal.
As you can see, we’ve worked to maximize every opportunity to get our message out. One placement led to another. Of course things have quieted down a bit since last November, but we stand ready to answer the call whenever an expert on child abuse is needed. We are now preparing for National Child Abuse Prevention month in April. We are excited and eager to make the most of our new media relationships and continue to promote our message of intervention, hope, and healing.
Jada Irwin is the Senior Communications Associate at Safe Shores - The DC Children's Advocacy Center.