A collection of campaigners' placards at a rally

How to get your story in the media

Local media coverage can do wonders for your campaign, help you widen your reach and engage with local people.

Getting your campaign out there

Local media coverage can be a great way to build momentum in support of an issue that affects people in your neighbourhood. Most elected representatives and local businesses keep an eye on local media and are keen to keep a good profile, so some local coverage can help swing their opinion in a campaign’s favour.
If you choose to highlight an issue through local media, make sure you can talk confidently about the campaign. Planning a series of media activities and gaining regular coverage across different types of media will give your campaign prominence, but only if you can convince people to take up the story in the first place.
Where possible, it’s best to balance positive messages, such as what will be saved, with the negatives, such as what will be lost, as knowing that they can make a positive difference appeals much more to people.
Stories that grab the editor’s attention tend to tap into people’s emotions. Such stories could be: about things that affect a lot of people; about something unusual or rare (ask yourself would this make a resident in the town next to yours gasp or say ‘wow’); about something with a really strong connection to a town’s identity; or with a link to a local beauty spot or beloved species.

Local newspapers

First off, find out what papers cover your area, including evening, daily or weekend versions and check what type of stories they cover before approaching them – this will help you to use your time more effectively.

When you’ve decided who to approach, you can usually find contact details for journalists or the news desk inside each copy of the paper or on their website. In general, there are two main ways to get your campaign published in a newspaper: press releases and letters pages. Using one or both effectively can really help to boost the profile of your campaign.

Contacts are really important to local newspapers. So, think about building a relationship of trust with a journalist who asks detailed, considerate questions. If you give lively, informative quotes that don’t exaggerate, the journalist will keep your number on file and may phone you with updates you wouldn’t otherwise have had access to, or to ask your opinion on local nature stories in the future.

Writing a press release

A press release is a great way to get your story taken up. However, you need to make sure it is clear and concise to get the attention of a busy journalist or news desk.

  • Try and grab the news editor’s attention in the first paragraph. You should aim to sum up your story in around 30 words and to answer the following questions: who, what, why, where, when?
  • Use a quote that can put across the concerns passionately and from an individual’s perspective, but don’t use formal language in a quote.
  • Create a headline to put at the top of the press release that is eye-catching and describes the story.
  • Include contact details at the end, including a daytime contact or email address and make sure you’re available to respond to enquiries.
  • Photos often sell a story. Bear in mind that any images for publication need to be digital and high resolution, 1MB or more.
  • Be topical and timely. The media often moves quickly on to the next big thing.

Getting your campaign on the letters page

Letters pages are one of the most read parts of a local newspaper and can be the easiest way to get a piece published about your campaign. What’s more, a letter can often be published at shorter notice than trying to arrange a full news story.
Read the letters page and pick up the style of the paper to enhance your chances of getting a letter printed. Keep your letter short (150 words maximum) and make your message clear and simple. However, you’ll also need to be aware of press deadlines – you will find these on the letters page of your local paper.

Local radio and TV

Local radio and TV can be an easy way to reach large numbers of people in your area. A direct approach is usually best, with a phone call to whoever controls the radio station’s news desk, supported by a press release that you can send through too. It’s best to email this and follow it up with a phone call.

TV requires good visual images or some activity element to your story, so the more you have to offer the programme, the more likely it is to feature you. It also requires more time and people to compile a report compared with radio or newspapers, so ensure you dedicate enough time to meet producers’ requirements.

Getting the most out of interviews

If you get an interview with the local media, here are a few pointers to help you get the most out of it:

  • Check beforehand if the interview is going to be live or pre-recorded.
  • Find out what questions you are likely to be asked.
  • Think about who will be the best person for the interview.
  • Rehearse in advance, including preparing your response to any potentially difficult questions.
  • Think about what your neighbour, friend, or the postman would find most interesting about the story and what you would say to convince them it’s an important issue.
  • Think about who opposes your campaign and why, and then think of a response to their concerns.
  • Plan your key messages (two or three maximum) and don’t allow the interviewer to deflect you from what you want to get across.
  • Think about the most interesting element of the story and talk about that first.
  • Answer questions directly. If you do get a difficult question, take a deep breath and a moment to gather your thoughts before you answer. Remember, it’s fine to say “I’m not sure”.
  • Always assume the microphone is on!
  • Keep your hands and papers still during the interview and make sure mobile phones are switched off.

Good luck!