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Best Practices for Engaging Media During a Branding Endeavor

As city, county, and regional leaders know, engaging the media during a major community project or initiative is critical. Depending on the project, working with media can sometimes be a necessary evil, but oftentimes, will provide several benefits that help produce positive outcomes. On the other hand, ignoring or leaving the media in the dark, especially those interested in the project, typically leads to speculation, more difficulty publicly, and undesired results.

A community branding project is no outlier regarding best practices for media relations. Journalists and news outlets can serve as a key voice that provides a platform for community leadership to control the project narrative and ensure understanding publicly. 

For example, the media are a resource for dispelling perceptions that a community brand project is soft and intangible or all about a logo. Instead, there is an opportunity to broadcast the definition and strategic purpose of a brand: to change or clarify your reputation and value proposition as a community or drive certain economic development results. 

If that message isn’t broadcasted—through the media or elsewhere—rumors and misinformation will run wild. 

That being said, there are nuances for exactly how and when media should be engaged. A delicate line exists between transparency and behind-the-scenes work that must be balanced to protect the ultimate success of the project. 

For example, engaging media early on in the process to educate the community on the project’s purpose, goals, and how they can get involved is a smart approach. Leveraging the media to broadcast logo options, on the other hand, is not, and could lead to a variety of opinions that diminish consensus and confidence in the project.


When spearheading the development of a community brand, best practices to keep top of mind include the following:

Leverage your media relationships. “Relations” is key in media relations. A branding endeavor does not necessarily require engaging every possible journalist proactively. Work with those you have built trust with over time and those who express genuine interest in the project, whether that’s genuine positivity or skepticism. It’s an opportunity to educate, control the narrative, and minimize misinformation about the project goals and investment. 

Find engagement opportunities at ideal times. As noted above, not every step in a brand’s development needs public or media attention. In fact, it could derail the project. There are times where it’s appropriate, such as when the endeavor kicks off and as community input is requested. Other times are best reserved for more private decision making that is informed by prior community input.

Have response strategies for less-than-ideal times. Of course, your goal to remain quiet at more intimate times doesn’t eliminate the possibility of media inquiries or coverage. During these stages, ensure the team is equipped with holding statements that strategically provide honest updates without disclosing information not yet ready for public consumption.

No contests or reveals. When more tangible elements of the brand are developed or completed, avoid the temptation to share them with the public and media in dramatic fashion. On the surface, a contest to vote on branding options seems like a good faith attempt to earn public buy-in but will often derail the project. The same goes for an eventful reveal of a logo. There are other ways to tell the finished brand story with the public and media that embrace transparency and are more effective.

Engaging your local media in the right way could make or break the success of your branding endeavor. A proactive and fully developed strategy is critical. Every community is different, and we can help you build the right approach.