Guide to Media Outreach

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Mainstream Media Outreach

This short guide will help you to spread your local activism far and wide, and also give you tips on how to build successful relationships with reporters to support your future efforts. We’ve structured this guide around the steps that you will take if you’re organizing a local event, rally, or protest. There are lots of other ways to create change, but no matter what sort of activism you’re engaged in, these steps are a great place to start. Steps 1 – 4 can be done in one group meeting, Steps 5 & 6 require a little ‘legwork’, Step 7 should be easy, and Step 8 is just some follow up.

1. Create an exciting event idea!

First step is to for your group to come up with ways to make your event unique and creative so that it will get the attention of the media. The more unique an event, the more likely the media will cover it (no one wants to read about something that’s happened a 100 times before). Remember, you don’t necessarily need to have 1,000 people to get coverage — sometimes the most creative events are also the simplest to organize.

2. Media buzz plan

Your group wants to try get some media attention before the event to ‘build the buzz’ (and this may get more people to attend your event too). You can do this through traditional media such as radio and newspapers, as well as through new media by blitzing out twitter and facebook messages. See if you can get in touch with a few sympathetic reporters, bloggers, or show hosts and see if they will help cover the lead-up to your event. Think about what announcement you could make before your event to make some news (like announcing someone important who is attending).

3. Target the media

This next step won’t take too long. Identify what local/regional media outlets (newspapers, radio and tv stations, etc) might be interested in your event. Your group might discuss what shows, stations, or papers are most relevant to your event or might be most supportive (such as a certain DJ known for his community interest). Then contact these outlets to collect updated contact information for journalists, DJs, TV show producers, etc. This is your “media list”. (Be aware that on weekends, different reporters/media crew are often on duty instead of the weekday people, so as your event will take place on a Saturday, make sure to get the right contacts!)

4. Develop your message/story

Having the following information together will make you better prepared to work with reporters and talk to the press about your event:

  • Be organized: not all journalists have a good understanding of climate change, so prepare some information to help reporters do better coverage of your event (it can be specific info on your group, climate impacts, or materials available on or other web sites). You may want to create a one-page document that you can email to journalists, and also to print and hand out on the day. Also decide who in your group will be the main spokesperson, and have some back up people ready too.
  • Develop talking points: list 3 to 4 key messages that you’d like to get out on that day.
  • Share stories: while figures and facts are important when trying to demonstrate the urgency of climate change and convince your audience, a good story can really help get the message across (reporters are also always looking for a good narrative for their piece). For your events, see what personal story you can share — maybe it’s what motivated you to care about climate change or how you (or someone at the event) has been personally impacted by climate change. A farmer who lost half his herd in a drought is more compelling than a statistic about lack of rainfall.
  • Relevant hooks: As you are developing your messages and stories, make sure that you have ‘hooks’ that makes it particularly interesting and relevant right now (what make this event special, worth of attention, what are the implications of climate change on community members, businesses, environment, etc).
  • Practice! Have fun doing role play interviews! It can be scary having a TV camera or radio microphone thrust into your face, so some practice will help you find your rhythm and calm your nerves.

5. Build relationships with the media

Right, now to get to work:

  • Call your media list. The first contact with a specific journalist or DJ is very important. Introduce yourself politely, tell him/her about your event, and try your best to convince him/her that the event deserves media coverage (be careful not to exaggerate, journalists hate it when they show up to something that doesn’t live up to what was promised and will probably not cover your next event). Offer to follow up with them (usually by email) to share more info about the event.
  • Be a resource for the media: Journalists need you just as badly as you need them. You need them to cover your issue and carry your message, they need the fresh information and real stories you can provide. Develop a reputation as someone who has accurate information, meets deadlines, can provide additional contacts and sources, and is always good for a clever quote or a much-needed fact.
  • Meet them physically if possible: Meeting a journalist face-to-face is a great opportunity to get to know him/her much better and find common areas of interest. Keep your message brief, exciting and relevant. Reporters won’t listen to you just because you’re right; they pay attention when you’re relevant. Your meeting is fruitful if you manage to get the reporter interested and excited about your action.
  • Follow up accordingly: Journalists don’t have much time but you can always follow up with a phone call, text message or short email to ensure they remember about your action. Be polite and don’t harass them. They are dealing with many other ‘compelling’ stories.
  • Paying reporters: In some countries, reporters do request payment when covering events such as global days of action. This payment generally covers their transport costs to and from the event venue. This is something organisers need to keep in mind while planning their events and if possible raise/collect funds to cover this cost. You may also find that once the reporter has attended your event and thus knows your group to be reliable and your events to be media-worthy, they may lower or discontinue their fees for future events.

6. Media advisory and press releases

Here is what you should be doing with a media advisory and press release:

  • 3-4 days before the event, write a media advisory that answers the questions: who, what, when, where and why, and then send it out to your media list. Follow up with a reminder phone call and let them know that there are spokespeople available for interviews. Make sure to get the news out on your social media networks too!
  • Here is a template media advisory that we developed for a previous international climate day of action, Climate Impacts Day. Some of the information and formatting won’t apply to your local campaign, but it should still be a helpful template: Media Advisory Template (.doc)
  • 1 day before the event, send out a press release with more detailed info on the event and quotes from your key spokespeople, and call the reporters to pitch the news and remind them about the event. Tweet and facebook like crazy! Press Release Template (.doc)
  • On the day of the event, make a final round of calls and individual emails to the media to confirm who is coming.
  • Print out your media document and press release and have one or two people among the organising team assigned to distribute these to visiting journalists. Make sure to collect contact info for any reporters who show up.
  • Make sure everyone speaking or being interviewed by media remembers the key messages you’ve planned to send out that day, including those who are tweeting live!
  • As soon as possible after your event, send out a follow-up release with info on how many people attended the event, what the outcomes were, quotes from key spokespeople, and links to any photos and videos that you have.

7. Photos

We have found at that the event photos are incredibly powerful ways of telling stories, particularly the story of the growing movement of people around the world who are taking action to solve the climate crisis. These photos get used in many different situations for months and even years after the event itself to help open people’s minds and hearts. So, even if journalists come to your event with professional photographers, make sure to have someone in your group assigned to be your ‘official’ photographer. Here are great tips for taking a good photo and remember to send your best one to us!

8. Follow up, follow up, follow up

Here are some important tips for follow up after your event:

  • After the event, send out your photos and the event story on blogs and other social media to create the afterbuzz!
  • Your relationships with journalists don’t stop at the end of the event. That’s a common mistake that organizers should avoid! So remember to follow up after the event and thank them for coming.
  • Then over time, keep the journalists updated on your current and future actions so they can continue covering your events.
  • Collect newspaper articles and any other coverage that you receive, as this is very useful for documenting your efforts and possibly for attract funding support for future plans.
  • Lastly, many mainstream media outlets are struggling to keep in business, so they have less time to cover all that’s happening in their communities. Work hard, but don’t get downhearted if you don’t get any good media coverage. Make your own through social media, learn from any mistakes, and get better prepared for next time!

Making Your Own Media

Don’t just rely on the mainstream media to tell your story, make your own! Here are three great ways to spread the word about your work party:

1. Blog about it

We’ve found that a great event blog post is usually 3-4 paragraphs that describe what happened at your event, include some description of how the event felt (maybe a quote from someone who attended), talk about what’s next for you and your fellow organizers, and include a picture or a video. If you publish a blog post, make sure to share it with us at:

2. Take a great action photo

Creating a great photograph of your event is very important! A great photo allows you to share your event with the world, helps tell the story of this global movement, and serves as a visual petition to our world leaders to join us in taking action. Here’s a Flickr slide show of some of our favorite photos from last October 24′s day of climate action (notice that not all of them are big crowds — sometimes a great photo of a small event can make it have a huge impact). Click here for a more extensive guide to taking a great photo.

3. Make a video

Video is another great way to share your event with the world. Good videos can also help build up excitement for your event, so think about making a before and after video if you have the time. We’ve found that the best videos are often:

  • Short: 1-3 minutes
  • Visually interesting (don’t just go for the talking head)
  • Emotional (convey your excitement, conviction, or anger, just don’t be boring!)
  • Accessible (make sure to get your video up on YouTube or Vimeo where the world can see it)