Making Noise: Engaging the Media

 

Making Noise: Engaging the Media

Engaging the media is a great way to raise the profile of your event and frame the conversation on your issue.

Event Publicity

  • Use event-based media to improve attendance at your special events and get the word out on your issue.
  • Is My Event Newsworthy? And To Whom?
  • Before reaching out to media outlets, you should determine if your event is likely to be considered news.
  • What makes an event newsworthy?
  • Timing. The story, issue or event is relevant, urgent and/or already in the news;
    Consequence. It has an immediate impact on readers;
    Proximity. It has an effect on people living in the area;
    Prominence. It relates to a local or national public figure or organization;
    Human Interest. It uses emotion to reveal something about a person, group or humanity and/or the story, issue or event is a novelty.
  • A newsworthy event will have several of these factors. Using these criteria, you may find that your event is unlikely to attract media attention. That is okay! A successful event can raise awareness and attract new activists, even without media coverage.
  • To whom is this newsworthy?
  • If you think your event has media potential, it is important to assess which media outlets would be most interested in the story. Local events have more local significance, so city and county newspapers are a good place to start. Faith-led events might be of interest to the Jewish or other religious press. To find a newspaper in your area, visit: newspapers.com
  • Getting Media Attention for Your Event
  • Contact your local community newspapers and radio and TV stations and ask that your event be included in any community events calendar. Reach out to specific reporters who have covered the topic in the past.
  • Tips:
  • • Be familiar with the news outlets you contact and know which reporters cover your issue or local events.
    • Find out exactly to whom you should send a media advisory and the reporter’s preferred method of correspondence (i.e., e-mail, fax, mail). It is best to send the advisory one week to 10 days before the event. (See: “Writing a Media Advisory”)
    • Do not forget the photo desk! If your event will have “good visuals,” such as a public figure participating in an act of civil disobedience, call the local paper and ask to speak to the photo desk. Include information on the photo opportunities in your media advisory.
  • Contacting Television and Radio Outlets
  • Call the television or radio station and ask for the newsroom. Ask the newsroom to whom and in what format to send a media advisory about your event. (See: “Writing a Media Advisory”)
  • • Ask radio stations to broadcast a public service announcement (PSA) about your cause/group. Find out how long the PSA should be and write a concise description of who your group is and what you are doing.
    • Convince a show to talk about your cause and what others can do to help. It may be useful to contact local stations that cover topics that might lend them to talking about your issue or their audience to be interested.
    • Local NPR affiliates can be found easily at www.npr.org/stations.
  • Writing a Media Advisory
  • A media advisory is an invitation or notification for specific members of the press to attend an event. The advisory should cover the details of the event: what is taking place, who is hosting, where and when the event is taking place, and if any notable guests/speakers will be attending.
  • For tips on how to write a media advisory, click here.
    For a media advisory template, click here.
  • Ensuring Success
  • Follow-up. After you send the media advisory, follow up with a phone call a day later and again right before the event.
  • Advertise your success. Even if a reporter did not attend your event, it is not too late to get coverage. If the program is successful, send out a press release describing the event’s outcomes. Make sure to use new language and provide new updates.
  • Writing a Press Release
  • The content of a press release is similar to a media advisory, but is usually distributed at or after the event. Whereas a media advisory encourages journalists to attend an event, a press release summarizes the outcomes of the event to be used for a follow-up story.
  • Tips:
  • • Include a clear summary of the “who, what, where, when, why and how” of the event. Think of it as a condensed article.
    • Make sure your event is newsworthy by focusing on a unique aspect of the event, such as a special speaker. If there is a particular “sound bite” or quote that you would like the journalist to pick up on, include it in the press release.
    • Provide hard facts and statistics. If you had impressive numbers: i.e., the number of attendees or the amount of money raised, include these as well.
  • For a sample press release, click here.
  • Interviews
  • If you are successful in getting reporters to your event, you or a designated spokesman should be ready for an interview.
  • Tips:
  • Be prepared! Have a list of “talking points” ready and know your facts and figures.
  • For more tips on getting interviewed, click here.

Shaping the Conversation

  • Media is an important tool for raising awareness on your issue and influencing the conversation. Use your own voice and opinion to give dimension and a face to the issue.
  • Writing a Letter to the Editor
  • Since “Opinions” is the most widely read section of the newspaper, your elected officials regularly monitor letters to the editor in their local papers to determine what issues are important to their constituents.
  • Tips:
  • Keep it short. Limit the length of your letter to 250 words or less. Make sure to follow the local paper’s guidelines -these are often found online.
    Be timely. If you can, respond to a recently published article in the newspaper. In your opening sentence, reference the title, date and author of the original article. Your letter must also be able to stand on its own, as not all readers will have read the original article. Write and submit your letter as quickly as possible, preferably the same day the article runs.
    Start strong, end strong. Make your main point in the first few of sentences. Close your letter with the thought that you want your readers to take away.
    Localize the letter. Explain why your local community should care about your issue. If it is relevant, refer to points made in an article recently written in the newspaper.
    • Include your full name, address and phone number at the end of the letter, as well as any relevant credentials, e.g., you are a professor who teaches in this field. This information is not for publishing, but editors frequently call for confirmation before publishing letters.
    • If your letter is printed, be sure to send a copy to your representative's and senators’ offices and to AJWS at action@ajws.org.
  • For a sample letter to the editor, click here.
    For a letter to the editor template, click here.
  • Writing an Op-Ed
  • Op-eds are a way to persuade readers by providing them with more information and examples. An op-ed is slightly different than a letter to the editor in that it is not necessarily in response to a specific article and is typically longer. Make sure to support your arguments with relevant sources.
  • Along with the text, make sure to include a suggested title and a brief bio that bolsters your credibility on the issue. Include your full name, address, phone number and email address so that the publication can verify your identity. Make sure to check the newspaper website for submission guidelines.
  • Tips:
  • Call before you write. Gauge interest by calling the “Opinions” editor.
    Keep it brief. Editors will not generally publish op-eds that are too long.
    Make it timely. Your piece has a greater chance of being published if it is related to an issue in the news, an upcoming important date or holiday, etc.
    • If you are submitting your article through e-mail, avoid using attachments; instead, include web-links to additional information.
  • For a sample op-ed, click here.
    For an op-ed template, click here.
  • Write a Blog
  • Writing a blog or being a guest blogger on an established blog that covers your issues or related issues is a good way to get your message out. Blog posts tend to be more casual, conversational and personable.
  • Stories are the most persuasive blogging element; they allow you to present a problem, solution and results. A blog is also a good place to react to what others have written by linking to and responding to articles on your issue that have come out in the mainstream media.
  • Tips:
  • Use links to broaden the conversation. Use links to direct people to other blogs or organizations that contextualize your post within a larger conversation on the issue.
    Grab your reader’s attention. Pull readers in with provoking or interesting hooks and keep them interested by making your post concise and fresh.
    Think about your audience and its knowledge of the issue. Your blog must provide value to the reader by addressing a problem, concern, desire or need that the reader already has.
    Make your posts easy to read and digestible. If you are calling upon your audience to take an action, make sure to give coherent and comprehensive steps on how to do so.
  • For inspiration, check out the AJWS Global Voices blog.
  • Social Media
  • Social media is an efficient way to get widespread attention, promote your cause/organization and build support.
  • Facebook. Consider creating a page or group on your issue and of using Facebook to invite people to your events. Use your status updates to talk about and link to information on your issue and post pictures from any events you have organized. See the Facebook Page Insiders Guide for more details.
  • Twitter- Click here to learn more about how to cover and promote your event using Twitter.
  • YouTube- With iMovie and Flip Cams, it’s easy to create videos. Create a YouTube channel or post your videos. For more on how to use Youtube for advocacy, see the How to YouTube.

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