Behind a Big PR Win: How Relationship-Building Led World Vision to Rachael Ray

December 6, 2016

A five-minute segment on The Rachael Ray Show featuring your organization’s mission and inviting viewers to get involved: sound like a PR fantasy? Wilks Communications Group helped make it a reality for Global NGO World Vision, last week in a segment featuring celebrity spokesperson Patricia Heaton and an alpaca named Twist. Securing this opportunity took personal attention, good timing, and a long-term commitment to cultivating positive relationships. Here’s how these ingredients came into play with Rachael Ray and how they can provide a road map for ways to generate “soft news” coverage at high-profile media outlets.

Put time and interest into building media relationships and other connections.

World Vision, a long-term client for WCG, unveils its annual Gift Catalog each holiday season to support its work in addressing poverty around the globe. Nearly six months ago, we started talking with the producer of The Rachael Ray Show about a potential segment linked to the catalog. We’d originally connected with him almost three years earlier on another project. Our efforts to stay in close touch paved the way for an ongoing conversation.

Our client likewise had nurtured a relationship with actress Patricia Heaton and her family, as they have been long-term sponsors of children supported through the organization. Last year, World Vision invited Heaton on a trip to Zambia and approached her with the idea of acting as a celebrity ambassador for the upcoming holiday season.

Bring the right resources together at the right time.

WCG knew Rachael Ray was an animal-lover through our discussions with her staff and familiarity with her program. The World Vision catalog offers opportunities to sponsor the purchase of animals that can help lift families out of poverty. For example, one alpaca can produce up to 12 pounds of soft, warm wool each year for 25 years – enough to have a significant financial benefit to a family in Peru or Ecuador. We began speaking with the producer about bringing an alpaca onto the Rachael Ray set. When we learned of Patricia Heaton’s willingness to champion World Vision, we combined these resources into a compelling package, perfectly suited to the show and perfectly timed for holiday shopping.

Our team pursues long-term, productive relationships with numerous media contacts. Last summer, a flattering profile piece on Beth Nielsen, third generation co-owner of Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, appeared in The Huffington Post nearly a year after we first initiated discussions with the writer. A multi-year relationship with a writer for has also led to pieces featuring many of our clients across themes and seasons. These simple best practices contribute to our continued media success on behalf of our clients:

  • Make a point of building a relationship and learning a reporter’s interests and personal story.
  • Respond to media inquiries even when there’s no immediate client benefit.
  • Take time to send personal notes of thanks, recognition, or celebration.
  • Anticipate the reporter’s needs—for example, offer a high-resolution photo or b-roll before he or she asks.

When all goes well, positive media relationships lead to prime placements. In the case of World Vision and Rachael Ray, the happy ending included her personal encouragement to “help out” our client’s cause, along with a measurable boost in website traffic.


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