Tips for Working with the Media

 

The news media can help us spread our message, and we need them. Stories in local newspapers and on radio and TV can inspire people to support our cause of ensuring all children grow up in the safe, stable, nurturing environments they need to thrive. Elected officials, business leaders, and community leaders also rely on the local media to learn what is happening in their community. These tips can help you raise awareness of your events, not only increasing the chance that news media will cover your event, but also increasing the likelihood that your message will be communicated the way you want it to be.

Who should be on my media list?

Every organization and business should have a list of editors, news directors, and reporters who are responsible for the local news in their area. You can probably find them in the publication's, TV or radio station's website's "Contact Us" section.

Local Daily and Community Newspapers

• Metro or local editors
• Metro or local reporters
• News editors
• Lifestyle editors

Special Interest Magazines and Newspapers (ex: parenting magazines and ethnic publications)

• Editor
• Reporter

Radio

• News Directors
• News Talk Show reporters

Television

• News Directors
• Local reporters

Media Kits: What are they and why do I need one?

You want to make things easy for reporters to write your story. Prepare a folder with information that reinforces your message.

A media kit for a Child Abuse Prevention Month event may include:

• Event flier or invitation
• Press Release about the event
• Fact sheets that contain information about the impact family strengthening programs are making in your community (number of families your organization serves, what parents are saying about your program, etc.)
• Program brochures about the family strengthening programs in your community
• Information about your organization (a brochure if you have one)
• Contact information of the person in your organization who can provide more information

Your Story

Reporters need stories – every day. Editors and reporters receive hundreds of story suggestions a day, and must narrow them down to the ones that will be of most interest to their audience. Before you contact the media, think about your message and compose your thoughts about why it is important —why it will make news. Think about what you would want to read about in your local paper to help you find a way to talk about your program or event in a way that will spark a reporter’s interest.

Here are some things editors look for when making a decision about whether or not to write a story:

Local Interest – Editors and Program Directors want to share news that is important to their local audience. Tell them what your event or project is doing for the community. For example, rather than just mentioning you are hosting an event to celebrate April, show how your event will give families a great way to spend fun time together and you might interest the lifestyles' editor.

Timely Tie-Ins – Connect your April project to recent events in your community, the state, or even on the national level. For example, tie it into national stories about studies or breaking stories highlighting the benefits of family strengthening programs. Local reporters are always looking for a local tie-in for breaking national news.

Unusual Alliances – If your event involves an unusual alliance – young and old working side by side, attendance by elected officials or other dignitaries, or a large local business is involved – be sure to let the media know.

Interesting Visuals – Pinwheel gardens are great visuals. Invite photographers and TV stations. News media will be particularly interested if you have a local dignitary or elected official planting pinwheels alongside children and families.

Your Message

Write down no more than 2 to 3 key talking points you want to convey before the event. Make sure you are comfortable and familiar with them – practice saying them different ways if you need to.

Key talking points for Child Abuse Prevention Month are:

• Child and youth development is the foundation for community and economic development.
• Child abuse and neglect and other unaddressed adverse experiences damage the architecture of the developing brain, resulting in poor outcomes for children and communities – from academic failure to violence to chronic health issues.
• Preventing child abuse and neglect means helping all parents have the knowledge, skills, resources, and social support they need to provide the safe, stable, nurturing environments all children need to thrive.

Your Spokesperson

Identify one person within your organization who will be the contact for all media. This person will be responsible for:

• coordinating the details and logistics for interviews
• contacting the spokesperson to prepare them and ensure they have all the information they need for the interview (reporter’s phone number and deadline, location of interview, talking points, etc.)
• greeting the reporter and introducing him/her to the spokesperson if the reporter attends your event or visits your program
• making sure the reporter gets the media kit or background information about your event if it is a phone interview
• following up with the reporter after the interview

Select your spokesperson and prepare them – identify one or two people who will speak with the reporter. Review the message talking points with them so they know them without reading them.

Ideal spokespeople include:
• Board members
• representatives from businesses that support you
• families who have benefited from services you provide
• highly visible community supporters and donors

Sparking a Reporter's Interest

Editors and reporters write about stories that are interesting to their readers.

Here are some things that will make your event more interesting to the news media:

• Have children and/or families plant the pinwheels
• Include elected officials and community leaders in the event (as speakers, handing out pinwheel stickers to attendees, helping plant the pinwheel garden, helping with children’s activities, etc.)
• Have your mayor read the April Proclamation at your event

Choose a prominent or unusual place in your community for planting the pinwheel garden:

• Your town square
• A local business
Along a major roadway

Invite groups that wouldn’t normally come together to join you in the event:

invite children from a local child care facility or elementary school to work side by side with a senior citizens' group to plant a pinwheel garden
invite teens from a local high school to work with a local business to hand out pinwheel stickers or plant a pinwheel garden at the business’ location

Contacting the Press About Your Story

The majority of editors and reporters want to have something in writing about your event. The most common way to notify news media about an event is to write a media advisory or press release.

• Media Advisory – alerts local media that an event is scheduled. It includes a brief description of the event, the date, time, location, key attendees, and contact information of the person who can provide more information. You will want to send this at least two weeks before the event so reporters can get it on their calendar, or earlier if you want them to write an article about the event before it occurs.
• Press Release – provides more detailed key information about a topic or event – the who, what, where, when, and why. You can also include quotes from key stakeholders or organization personnel.

After you send a media alert or press release, follow up with key editors and reporters to confirm that they received it and to ask them if they have any questions or need additional information. You might want to also ask a Board member or another supporter to call reporters, especially if they know them personally.

Don’t forget community calendars: Community calendars are a great way to spread the word about your event. Look in local newspapers and on other media sites’ web pages for calendars. Many of them allow you to sign up for a free account where you can post information about your events.

Other Ways to Engage the Media

Sending a press release or media alert is only one way to get your story in the media. You can also:

• Write and submit a letter to the editor
• Write and submit an op-ed
• Call in to a local radio show when they are talking about a topic related to child abuse and neglect prevention
• Submit photos from your event to the "eye on the community" section of your local paper and other local publications
• Post your photos in the community section of your local media – most TV, radio, and print media offer this service
• Write an article and submit it to your local media outlets
• Create a radio or TV public service announcement (PSA) and submit it to your local stations. All broadcast media are required to use a percentage of their air time for these messages.

Sample Letter to the Editor - *2016 version Coming Soon!

Sample PSA - *2016 version Coming Soon!

Be Ready for an Interview

Write down no more than 2 to 3 key talking points you want to convey before the event, and make sure you are comfortable with them.

Key talking points for Child Abuse Prevention Month are:

• Child and youth development is the foundation for community and economic development.
• Child abuse and neglect and other adverse experiences that are not addressed damage the architecture of the developing brain, resulting in poor outcomes for children and communities, from academic failure to violence to chronic health issues.
• Preventing child abuse and neglect means helping all parents have the knowledge, skills, resources, and social support they need to provide the safe, stable, nurturing environments children need to thrive.

Follow Up

If a reporter attends your event:

• Make sure you point out interesting visuals, such as children planting the pinwheels
• Make sure you let them know when key people will be speaking
• Make sure they know where dignitaries are (such as elected officials)
• Introduce them to the spokesperson in your organization who will have the key messages you want to convey

If a reporter is unable to attend your event, you can still help them write a story about your event:

• Send a press release immediately after the event describing the event
• Send interesting photos from the event to the local newspapers
• Submit photos from your event to the local community section of the newspaper

After Your Story Runs

After your story runs, contact the reporter and let them know you saw the story and enjoyed reading it. If any information is incorrect or was misunderstood by the reporter, use this time to clarify your story. Don’t be afraid to ask for a printed correction if it is necessary. Editors and reporters want to be seen as reliable sources of information and are willing to work with you to make sure your story is accurate.

Let them know if you forwarded it to any prominent Board members or other supporters. You can also send copies to special vendors or guests who attended your event to let them know they were part of something newsworthy. Reporters like to know that their work is being read and appreciated.

Share Your Success

Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina would love to post your media coverage on our website and share it with our supporters and other partners. Please send copies or links of stories where your program or organization is mentioned to Kristie Demers, Communications Coordinator at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

And, remember, media relations is all about building relationships with reporters. Get to know the reporters who cover your area. If they learn that you are a credible source for information on child abuse prevention and family strengthening practices, you won’t have to call them – they will be calling you.

Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina

A chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America

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