Volunteer Publicists Launch New Community Service Program to Provide "PR For The People"

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Corporations have PR people; celebrities have publicists. How do you get your story in the news if you are an everyday person or small charitable organization? A group of volunteer publicists and public relations professionals from across the United States have formed a new national community service program called "I Should Be In The News." Known as ISBITN for short, the program seeks to help share the stories of the public with news organizations. People who have a story they'd like to share with media can visit the ISBITN website (http://www.ishouldbeinthenews.com) and submit it. The stories are reviewed and, if deemed newsworthy, forwarded to an ISBITN volunteer in the area who will work to share it with local media.

In 2005, Joe Cockrell used his public relations skills to help raise money for the family of a 6-year-old leukemia patient. Cockrell met the family while going through chemotherapy himself for a rare thyroid cancer. That wasn't the first time the former journalist, now a cancer survivor, volunteered his services for a good cause.

"I've found it deeply fulfilling to use my expertise in public relations to help people in the community," Cockrell said. "I thought maybe other PR people might share that philosophy." So he sought to create a way for them to do that.

Cockrell's idea has become the new national community service program called "I Should Be In The News." Known as ISBITN for short, the program seeks to help share stories of the public with news organizations. Cockrell turned to his friend and fellow cancer survivor, Jason Moore for help in building a website and launching the program. Moore, 29 and Cockrell, 33, work together at Inhouse Assist, a firm specializing in healthcare recruitment and advertising.

In less than a month the duo created a website and gathered some 100 public relations volunteers from across the country. ISBITN seeks to help everyday people, small charitable organizations, schools, and academic researchers share their stories with media. It has gained momentum and drawn volunteers from around the nation through online networking on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

People who have a story they'd like to share with media can visit the ISBITN website (http://www.ishouldbeinthenews.com) and submit it. The stories are reviewed and, if deemed newsworthy, forwarded to an ISBITN volunteer in the area who will work to share it with local media. ISBITN also seeks to collect personal stories relating to timely news topics (such as the economic crisis, people loosing their job or home, etc.) for reporters who need to find local people for news stories on the subject.

"News organizations face the daunting task of filtering a world full of stories into the news," Cockrell said. "The reality is many newsworthy stories don't get covered simply because media don't know about them--that's where ISBITN comes in." The program has been created entirely by volunteers, who Cockrell refers to as "PR Heroes."

"Our volunteers bring a wealth of expertise and experience to ISBITN. I'm humbled by the wonderful response from the PR community," he said. "These PR Heroes are waiting to hear stories from across the country-no matter where you live- and I look forward to the people and communities we'll help with this program."

"We still need a lot of volunteers," Cockrell said. "The great thing about ISBITN is it gives PR and communication professionals the opportunity to volunteer at times when their schedule will allow; there's never been an easier way for them to do so."

In its first month, ISBITN has received some 30 story submissions, four of which were sent on to volunteers who are sharing them with local media. ISBITN volunteers hope public awareness of the service will generate story submissions from across the country as well as more volunteers. Cockrell is forming a national advisory board to guide development of the program and the ISBITN website. For more information, to submit a story, or to sign up as a volunteer visit http://www.ishouldbeinthenews.com.

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Nancy Chapman

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