Media is an important tool to communicate with the public. Local media concentrates on local people and local issues and so resonates strongly with its readership. Its capacity to engage with large numbers of people powerfully and quickly makes it a vital tool to any successful campaign.
The media will cover almost anything that is topical and relevant to your local area. The media love colourful stories about communities coming together for a good cause.
Working with the media can be intimidating, but with a little practice you will be calling up journos and sending off press releases like a pro! Here are a few simple steps to get you started:
So how does it work?
The most common way to communicate with the media is via press release or media alert. This is a standardised way of letting the media the details of your event, usually a couple of quotes from the campaign coordinator (you!) and if you are hosting an event, then any details they need to know in order to attend.
You need to be proactive. It’s up to you to contact your local paper and local radio stations usually via email and then followed up with a phone call. Most of the time you can find local media contacts online. Local papers usually need 3 or 4 days lead time before covering a story. So if you want them to cover you handing the petition over to your local member of parliament, give them a bit of notice so they can attend!
Local radio are a lot more flexible. They tend to process information almost instantaneously. Still send them a press release at the same time as you contact your local paper, but do not expect to hear from them until the day of your event. They may call on the day and schedule an interview, or they might call and want an interview on the spot! So be prepared for anything.
THE NUTS AND BOLTS
Contacting the media is a three step process:
- Write and send out a media alert
- Write and send out a media release
- Follow up with a phone call
What is a media alert?
A media alert is just a couple of paragraphs letting the media know what’s going on. It lets them know the who, what, when, where, photo opportunities and the contact details for your event’s spokesperson.
Make sure it’s punchy and info-packed!
What is a media release?
A media release is a page long document that explains the who, what, when, where in the first paragraph and then goes on to paint a picture of the entire campaign. It should contain all the information you would want included in a local paper story. It normally includes a couple of quotes from you to give the story a strong local focus.
For both media alerts and releases, make sure you copy the text into the body of your email and make your subject line ‘Media alert: [title of alert]’ or ‘Media release: [title of release]. Attach the release as a word document and PDF file.
REMEMBER: Journos leave everything last minute. So, if a journalist calls you – make sure you get back to them ASAP. Chances are, they have a deadline to meet!
WHAT DO I SAY?
Remember: KISS! Keep it Simple, Stupid.
You should develop a list of five or six key messages. These are the most important points that you want to make sure your readers or listeners absolutely understand. If you’re running a campaign to save a local park your key messages might be along the lines of “The [name] park is home to wildlife, a playground for our community’s children, and a sanctuary in our over-developed neighbourhood.’
They are also the messages you keep coming back to if you get thrown a hard question or get stuck for words – key messages, key messages, key messages!
Create your own media
Don’t wait for the media to come to you – create your own media. Start a blog, upload videos to youtube and circulate them on social media sites, and keep a flickr account of all your campaign photos!