Getting Out the News
Section 1: What
a media relations plan will and will not do
2: Developing a media relations strategy
3: What do the media do?
4: Understanding the news media
5: What to know about news gathering
6: Free publicity
Out the News: Suggested Activities
To many, the news media are the people we
love to hate. Several studies measuring the publicís perception of trustworthiness
in the job force have found we do not like or trust journalists. So if that is
the case, why do you want to learn to effectively relate to an industry
that people do not hold in high regard?
The reason is that the news media
Ė radio, television, newspapers, magazines, and other outlets Ė
are one of your best ways of getting news and information about your environmental
education program to the public, to consumers. You might not like the media,
but you need them. And they also need you; good stories they receive from
you help them stay in business.
Section 1: What a media relations
plan will and will not do
Developing an effective news media relations
plan can accomplish the following:
However, media relations can't:
Enhance the publicís knowledge and understanding
of your program. It keeps your
message in front of leaders and decision-makers.
Build credibility in your program,
since people think that what they see in the media is important.
Extend the reach and increase the frequency
of your message. Using the media may mean your message reaches people
in your community, the state, or around the world. The extended reach helps
build self-confidence and pride in your program.
Eliminate the competition. Other organizations
may do what you do. You wonít be able to get rid of competitors.
Control the media or the mediaís message.
You do not own the television station; you donít have editorial control
of what the station says.
Eliminate negatives. Media relations
will not be a "quick fix" if something has put your program in a bad light.
Media relations wonít eliminate negatives; however, it can help accentuate
2: Developing a media relations strategy
You must develop a strategy in order to
build an effective relationship with the media. The relationship doesnít
happen just by itself. You have to be proactive: go to the media, instead
of having the media come to you first. Here are suggestions as you map
out your plan:
Set goals. Itís probably unrealistic
to expect that every news release you send out will result in a front-page
story. But what do you expect? Set realistic goals.
Maybe one story a month? Maybe being placed on the community calendar?
Decide on your approach to get your
goals accomplished. How will your goals be accomplished? Through news
releases? Personal visits to reporters? On-air interviews?
Decide who is responsible for fielding
media calls. This may be one person or several. In either case, you
must decide how media contacts will be routed. And all persons in your
office must know this routing system.
Become a reputable and dependable expert
source. Get to be recognized in your community as the
expert in your field. If reporters trust you and know that you are an expert,
you will be called on time after time for comments.
Develop a source book of subject-matter
experts in your geographic region.
Keep track of other experts and sources in the area to whom you could direct
reporters if the need arose. You also may wish to supply reporters with
this source book.
Develop a news media source book for your
office. Maintain a directory of reporters in your area. Find
out what the "rules" are for submitting materials to the local news media,
and enter that information in your news media source book. Update this
information at least once a year.
On a regular basis, provide informational
materials to reporters. Examples include news releases, public service
announcements (PSAs), photographs, and letters to the editor.
Get to know the reporters in your geographic
region, and know the "beat" assignments of reporters. Who covers your
"beat"? Depending on the story topic, it might be covered by an education
reporter, a business reporter, or a science reporter. Contact the reporters
personally, and follow-up with phone calls, faxes, letters, and personal
3: What do the media do?
At this point, maybe it would be good
to describe what the news media do. The media pass information to
target audiences. They act as filters. They decide whatís important
and what is actually reported. You also must keep in mind that media are
in business for profit. They stay in business by selling newspapers and
advertisement space, and these sales are generated by filling newspapers
and newscasts with information their audiences want. And where do they
get this "good content"? Some of it comes from people like you who have
developed an effective media relations strategy.
Section 4: Understanding the newsmedia
One of the components to an effective
media relations strategy is to become a reputable, expert source. This
also means that you should contribute news items to the media to let them
know whatís going on in your program. However, what you may consider
to be news may not be what news directors consider news.
Following are the criteria many news directors use to determine newsworthiness:
With these criteria in mind, you may wonder
what story ideas you might have that would be of interest to a news outlet.
If you want a reporter to cover a meeting you are conducting, you first
should ask, "Why would a reporter cover this meeting?" If
it is a regular meeting and nothing new or exciting is happening,
the chances are slim that the reporter would be interested in covering
the meeting. If, however, you have invited a special speaker or are doing
something out of the ordinary, it is very likely a reporter would
come. But notice that the slant of the story would be to cover the "newness"
of the event in the meeting, not the meeting itself. News Ė not
Ė gets attention.
Is the information significant?
How many readers/viewers could benefit
Is the story timely?
Is it local or does it have local impact?
Is the information accurate?
Is the information new or different?
Different media approach stories a little
differently. Newspaper reporters want lots of quotations, hard-core
facts (numbers), and photo opportunities. You should schedule stories with
newspaper reporters no later than early afternoon, because the deadline
for newspaper reporters to complete their stories is early evening to be
included in the next morningís paper. Radio reporters want short
quotations (also called soundbites) of 10 to 20 seconds in length
and natural (or background) sound. Interviews with radio reporters can
be scheduled at any time, because radio news programs air many times during
the day. Television reporters also want short soundbites (10-20
seconds) and moving visuals. TV stories can not be as detailed as newspaper
stories; TV stories are shorter, usually 90 seconds or less. Schedule TV
interviews for early to mid-morning for the noon or 5 p.m. newscasts or
early afternoon for the 5, 6, and 11 p.m. newscasts.
Section 5: What to know about news
As you can see, one way to establish successful
media relations is to think like a reporter. Following are some ideas you
must keep in mind when working with reporters:
Lastly, here are a few suggestions on how
you can help reporters do their jobs better. Remember, if you want to develop
good media relations, try to accommodate the news media as much as possible.
Scheduling: Other events are happening;
make YOURS count! If you know one of the most popular and longest-running
events in the county is going to happen next weekend, donít schedule your
activity at the same time as this "sure-fire" news coverage event.
Know the reportersí deadlines: Remember
that reporters have deadlines to get stories in by. Arrange your news events
so they can be covered well in advance of a reporterís deadline.
Reporters are generalists, not specialists.
Reporters may not know much about your area of expertise. Therefore, reporters
need a lot of help when developing a story. They need facts presented clearly
and concisely, without unfamiliar acronyms, jargon, or technical talk.
Avoid calling news conferences. News
conferences should be held only when new and important information needs
to get to many media outlets at the same time.
Determine that the event you want covered
by a reporter really is "news." Keep in mind the criteria for newsworthiness
detailed in the previous section.
Reporters are good observers. Anything
reporters see or hear is fair game for the story. In other words, do not
go "off the record."
Media like to personalize a story.
Submit story ideas that emphasize people.
Make sure the facts you provide the reporter
are correct. If you donít know if something is right or not, donít
guess. Check it out before you give it to a reporter.
Follow trends. Keep up with the events
in your own field, and pitch story ideas that are "trendy" or timely.
Written materials, such as tip sheets,
news releases, brochures, and organizational reports can help reporters
tremendously when they write the story.
Setting: Provide tips on where interviews
should be conducted. What visuals and audio would improve a TV story? Most
reporters appreciate any tips to enhance a story.
Directions/travel: Provide explicit
directions to an event, assistance with camera gear, and help with getting
from place to place.
Several sources/resources: Reporters
like to have more than one person to interview. If you know someone who
would add to a reporterís story, suggest the personís name. And make sure
are the best person to be interviewed. If youíre not, try to help
the reporter find the best person.
Understandable terms: No jargon or
6: Free publicity
You may be on a tight budget but would
like to stretch your "publicity dollars" as much as you can. In addition
to providing media outlets with news releases and tip sheets, here are
a few ways to get some free publicity:
Explain your need to local media personally,
especially if you need a good deal of exposure in a short time. However,
remember that youíre asking for free time. Anytime that is
given to you is better than no time at all.
Send information about your event to the
public relations person, public affairs director or promotions director
(after youíve made personal contact with that person, of course). Many
TV and radio stations have a calendar of events, which is aired
once a day. Newspapers tend to list community events once a week.
Be ready to go on the air early. Many
TV and radio stations invite guests to discuss their upcoming events. However,
these interviews usually are early in the day. Be ready and willing
to appear during early morning hours if youíre asked.
Develop public service announcements (PSAs).
This section presented some steps for
you to take in order to develop effective relations with media. To summarize,
get to know reporters in your community, and know their "beat" assignments.
Write tip sheets, news releases, and PSAs on a regular basis. And most
importantly, become a dependable and reputable source. If you accomplish
this, youíll find that media relations is not difficult at all. You may
even get to like this group of people everyone loves to hate.
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