Using local media can be an effective tool to garner wider support and push out your side’s narrative, but it’s tricky. As we all know, the media, in general, doesn’t tend to like our causes.
A media list, complete with names, phone, and email addresses, will help you more easily keep track of reporters and editors. Your list should include daily and weekly newspapers, magazines, newsletters, talk radio programs, and television stations (including local and cable stations), as well as the names of reporters or columnists who write about your area/s of interest. You can find the names of these media outlets by checking their websites. Look for reporters who cover both sides of issues. And most importantly, identify local conservative talk radio hosts – they have a great and loyal social media following. Writing a Press Release
Press releases are the simplest and most commonly used technique for getting your message across to the media. They can be used to announce breaking news, upcoming events, or your coalition’s response or position on recently introduced legislation/policy or late-breaking events.
When writing a press release, it is critical to put the most important information at the beginning of the release. Stating the most critical information at the beginning of the text will ensure that all major points are made early on, should an editor decide to cut the text to save space. Critical information includes “the five W’s”: who, what, where, when, and why, as well as “how.” Editors receive a multitude of press releases on any given day. Make sure yours is short, simple, newsworthy, and visually appealing so that it stands out. Also make sure that a second, or even a third pair of eyes review your press release for errors.
The Basics of How To Talk to a Reporter
Talking to reporters can be intimidating, but it is important to remember that the reporter is just another person who is trying to write a story that will be of interest to readers. When you are talking with a reporter, remember that unless you inform the reporter that you are speaking “on background” or “off the record” that anything you say can be used as a quote. Most reporters aren’t trying to trick you into saying something you don’t want to, but it is important to be aware of the words that you use. It’s best to just assume that whatever you say will make it into the story.
Here are some basic tips:
Important Background Information
The following is general background information that might be useful to remember when you talk with a reporter, other community members, and/or elected officials.
What is your mission?
Your local community coalition’s mission is to unite, energize, and mobilize citizen leaders who are committed to protecting individual liberty against endless, irresponsible government growth. United together, we can push back on a government that favors lobbyists, special interest groups, and the progressive liberal agenda instead of representing the best interests of its citizens.
Why must citizens unite?
For too long, citizens who actually live in the community have been a forgotten group at our local school boards, city councils, and county boards. Within these groups, there are hundreds of lobbyists representing various forms of special interest groups. But what about the average citizens? Who is working to defend and protect the interest of us– the hard-working individuals, families, senior citizens, and small business owners – the taxpayers, who must pay the tab for the elected officials’ never-ending thirst for new government programs? Your local coalition will fill this role and lead the effort to defend the citizens of your community’s best interests.
How Does Your PERSONAL Story Fit in with your Mission?
It’s important for you to remember how your personal story fits into the bigger picture of the coalition’s mission. A reporter who has chosen to ask you a question wants to know your story – why are you becoming involved in the coalition’s mission? It’s important that you personalize your story since you represent potentially thousands of other people across the school district, municipality, and/or county (state and the country) who share your opinion on government. Give the reporter – and the reader – a personal, individual story to which they can relate.
Working with the Media
A Few Do’s and Don’ts of Effective Media Relations
- Ask the reporter in advance what topics will be discussed and what kind of general questions he or she will be asking.
- Ask the reporter what other individuals or groups he or she has talked to on-the-record (or plans to) for the story. Feel free to suggest other like-minded sources if you think the story might be tilted in the wrong direction.
- Do your homework: learn as much about the issue you’ll be discussing and go online to search for a few recent pieces done by the reporter.
- Draft 2-3 main message points and try to work them into the interview as often as possible.
- Assume that anything you say can be used in the final article or broadcast.
- Be accurate and honest at all times.
- Use your position as a community leader to lend credibility to your views.
- Talk about your issue(s) in terms that the average person can understand. Eliminate jargon when possible. Focus on how the issue will affect businesses, employees, and the community.
- Alter your message – but not your main theme – to fit different audiences.
- Localize and personalize your story.
- Keep your message simple, newsworthy, and clear.
- Cultivate relationships with reporters and editors and keep a list of their names, addresses, and phone numbers handy.
- Design/produce a press kit.[JA1]
- Lie. If you lose a reporter’s trust, you’ll probably never get it back.
- Go “off the record.”
- Answer hypothetical “What if…” questions.
- Answer any question you don’t know the answer to. It’s ok to tell a reporter you’ll check into it or refer him to somebody else for an answer.
- Let a reporter get you off message. No matter what question a reporter asks, try to build a bridge back to your 2-3 main message points.
- Preach or ramble.
- Use jargon that the average person doesn’t understand.
- Be demanding or hostile toward reporters or editors. Don’t threaten them.
- Assume that everything your organization does or says is newsworthy.