Give the media a reason to cover your actions!
Setting Your Action's Media Goals:
The message to the media must be directly related to the goal(s) of the campaign and of the action specifically.
Local campaign goal example: Organizing a Peace Economy event with 100 participants from diverse allied groups to teach participants peace economy fundamentals and work on a shared project.
Identify who can fulfill your campaign goals, for example:
- If your goal is to pass a local ordinance: Local supervisors
- If your goal is to get a big turnout at a local event: People in the area
What is news?
News is something new! New legislation, a new project, controversy and conflict. Other examples: In a small community, what’s news is something happening locally; in big cities, you may wish to piggyback on other events, such as a war criminal or presidential candidate coming to town.
Getting media attention
Give the media a reason to cover you by either creating news or piggybacking on another issue/news item
Monitor the media in your community and note what they’re interested in.
Find the hot issue, take on a different angle or up the ante and get creative!
Bring visuals, be pink, have signs at the event.
How do you work the press when you’re working in coalition with other groups?
Send out joint press releases, choose the best spokespeople to promote to the media, regardless of which group they belong to, and highlight the group that takes the lead role in the organizing. Discuss with your partners in other organizations who's doing what at the action or event, and work collaboratively for your common goal.
How do you respond to media inquiries at your event?
Bring press releases with you, ask reporters/photographers/bloggers to sign-in or give you their business cards, so you’ll have their contact info, and introduce them to your spokespeople. Thank them for covering your event and ask when and where the article/TV clip/blog/photo etc will be available. Follow up afterward as appropriate with thank yous and/or offers of future interviews.
Media Tools and Tactics
Writing a press release
The lead paragraph should grab a reporter's attention but should also concisely include key details. Often a quote from a spokesperson is also included.
End with ### to signal the end of the document.
Send releases with a date of release and a contact person's name and contact info at the top. It’s often good to have 2 contact persons, especially for big actions.
Email your press release to all your media outlets, usually 1-2 days in advance.
Call key media outlets to pitch your story.
Do press calls again on the day of the event (usually before noon is best).
Ask for the assignment desk or the news desk.
Make sure to include the when, where, and why it’s newsworthy.
Offer to (re) send them the press release.
Say that you’re calling from CODEPINK. Develop personal relationships with reporters so that they’ll get to know you over time.
Plan your media strategy before the event
Make sure you have identified a spokeswoman, or more than one for a bigger event. It needs to be someone who knows your groups' Bring visuals, be pink, have signs at the event. It needs to be someone comfortable with your group's talking points, and preferably be comfortable giving an interview.
Identify someone to do a media sign-in. Introduce yourself to the camera people and reporters. Hand them your press release/media advisory and let them know that you or your spokeswoman is available for an interview.
Write and practice short talking points.
Make sure the spokeswoman/women are able to respond to general questions about CODEPINK.
Other ways to get into the media
Letters to the Editor in print media: usually 150 words; relates to a current news story.
Op Eds: longer opinion pieces (600-800 words); don’t have to relate to a story in the newspaper, but do have to link to a current event. Call or email the newspaper to find out how to submit these.
Calendar Listings: Send a calendar listing to the local event listings, often at least three weeks in advance of the event.
Public Service Advisory (PSA): You can also get a PSA onto your local radio station.
Giving Video/Audio Interviews
Before the interview:
Prepare when possible.
Practice your talking points w/a friend or by yourself.
Control the “frame”: your analysis of the issue.
Know your audience and watch/listen to the show, research the reporter, read the publication (when possible).
Ask the reporter:
Find out what kind of a story the outlet is doing (how long, what angle, etc).
What topics will be discussed in the interview?
Who else is being interviewed?
Are you live?
When will it air?
Prepare for distractions and interruptions
Keep focused on the interview; let others be “in action”, deal with problems, etc.
Warm up your voice and use the music of your voice (tone, intonation, emphasis).
Have strong posture, bring relevant sign/button etc up near your face. ALL of you is the message, not just what you say!
During the interview (do’s and don’ts):
Remember that this is YOUR interview, the reporter needs you for the story.
Speak slowly and clearly.
When preparing to answer: Stop, Breathe, Relax, Think, Speak!
When answering: Listen, Respond, Expand (ONLY if necessary), STOP!
Ask the reporter to repeat the question if you did not hear/understand it.
Know where to look: at the interviewer, usually NOT at the camera. When in doubt, ASK where to look, and look at the same place throughout the interview.
Know how to hold yourself: stand or sit with strong posture and a quiet body presence.
Repeat the reporter’s questions or phrases.
Use pause words (‘um’ ‘like’ ‘uh’) - practice helps!
Fidget, use many hand motions, or touch/scratch your face/hair ( distracting on video).
Say “this is off the record or I want to speak off camera” - you cannot control that.
Argue with the reporter/interviewer; if the interview becomes hostile, simply conclude with dignity and walk away.
Feel that you HAVE to answer all questions; concentrate on your talking points.
After the interview:
Debrief with others; how do you feel about the interview? What did they think?
Watch yourself (request a copy or have someone record it!) and evaluate how it went: notice which bytes made it, did they ask the questions you were expecting, did you control the frame, did you stay on message?
Leverage the interview! Share links, quotes, photos, videos on social media!
Practice some more based on what you learned!
Send a thank you or follow up email to the reporter to continue building the relationship.