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
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
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.
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