News coverage about Native American and Alaska Native people is often reported as “poverty porn” or altogether ignored by news media. I was hired by Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC) to replace distorted news coverage with empowering narratives highlighting TCC success stories and to design and implement a media relations campaign that would position the Alaska Native nonprofit as the leading advocate for issues affecting Alaska Native people.
One of 11 Alaska Native Regional Nonprofits, TCC is an Interior Alaska tribal consortium serving 39 remote villages and 37 federally recognized tribes. TCC provides health services and advocates for sovereign tribal governments and other issues affecting Indigenous people. TCC hired me to develop and implement the organization’s first media relations effort since its inception in 1962.
The TCC Chairman that hired me had high expectations for my work. The media relations objective: place 10 positive news stories in national top-tier outlets and 50 news stories in Alaska news outlets with 35 of these media placements quoting TCC spokespeople on Indigenous advocacy issues within one year. The campaign was implemented from February 1, 2021 to January 8, 2022.
Exceeded objectives by more than 200% with 29 original top-tier media placements and 120 positive news stories in Alaska print and broadcast outlets, including two editorials praising TCC. Top-tier coverage included The New York Times, Reuters, Voice of America, Politico, NBC, Scripps National News: The Race, Native America Calling, National Native News, and four stories in the Associated Press, two of which were highlighted on their homepage. The largest newspaper in Switzerland ran a story about challenges facing Alaska Native people. The 29 top-tier placements don’t include stories Reuters and the AP that were picked up by other prominent news outlets like The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and ABC News Online.
I exceeded objectives by more than 200% with 28 national top-tier media placements and 121 positive news stories in Alaska print and broadcast outlets, including two editorials praising TCC; 71 news advocacy stories positioning TCC spokespeople as thought leaders on key advocacy issues, more than any other competing Alaska Native organization. Watch the top-tier TV news stories on YouTube here.
Highlights of top-tier national coverage included stories in The New York Times, Reuters, Voice of America, Politico, NBC News and four stories in the Associated Press, two of which were highlighted on the Associated Press homepage. One of those featured AP stories was an “Editor’s Pick” on Oct. 3 and received honorable mention for Best of the AP on Oct. 8. We even scored an international placement in Neue Zürcher Zeitung; the largest newspaper in Switzerland ran a story about challenges facing Alaska Native people.
U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) mentioned the NBC News stories in his address at TCC’s annual convention and thanked TCC for sharing their rural vaccination success stories with a national audience. The Biden administration invited the TCC chairman to speak on a panel at the 2021 White House Tribal Nations Summit, the thought leadership/advocacy objective’s coup de grâce.
Leona Long has won national and statewide awards for her work on behalf of Alaska Native and rural Alaska issues. She is a results-driven public relations professional with a unique skillset stack of political and legislative communications, rural Alaska outreach, and proactive media relations.
Leona has a decade of experience designing and implementing communication and media relations strategies that advocate for Alaska issues including:
Leona's public relations campaigns and press materials recognized with statewide and national awards from the Public Relations Society of America and the National Federation of Press Women.
Contact Leona Long at firstname.lastname@example.org
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