Working with the Media

Working with the media may help you campaign more effectively in your borough. It can help to reach out to a new audience and build support for your campaigns and other activities.

But there are some important things you should bear in mind when you are preparing contact with the media and it's worth thinking carefully about your tactics and apporach. The full media guide will cover these but there is some information below.

Download the full Guide to working with local Media

PLANNING A MEDIA STRATEGY

Pro-active media relations involve actively putting your story to the media, creating news. With a little planning you'll have more success in getting your message across. Preparation gives you a chance to set the agenda, not just respond to events. 

  • First of all: you need a clear aim. Why contact the media? What message are you trying to convey? Generally an unclear aim results in an unclear message. Don't forget: however complicated the arguments for your campaign are you need to keep them simple when using the mainstream media.
  • Now decide who your target audience is. Who is your message aimed at? If you know this then you'll know which media to contact. You are likely to be coordinating campaigning at a borough level; therefore your media work will likely be focused on outlets such as local papers, magazines or radio stations. 
  • Finally, think about your tactics. What can you do to get the media to cover the story? You could publish a short report or hold a press stunt. Is there a symbolic date, event or location that will add weight to your message and make it more interesting to the media? 
  • Think about who is likely to run your story. Make a list of which newspapers, blogs, radio stations and TV channels cover your area. Are they sympathetic to your cause? Usually local and regional media are very likely to cover activities and news from the local area, and they can have high circulation. So they are worth dealing with. 

WRITING A PRESS RELEASE

A Press Release is a short written announcement of a story or event for example, which is sent to the news media, in the hope they'll print your story or ask you for an interview. It is a standardised way of communicating with journalists.

If written well it is more likely they will cover your issue. Journalists get hundreds of press releases every day so you need to make sure yours stands out from the crowd. 

PRESS RELEASES: THE BASICS

  • It should be between 250-500 words
  • It must have a clear subject line/headline
  • Explain as much as you can in the first sentence/paragraph
  • Give your story a human angle – who is affected? Who is demanding change? 
  • Include a quote giving your opinion or that of a local person
  • Make sure you include your contact details: name/mobile/email, plus contacts for any other people willing to speak to the media
  • 'Notes for Editors': add extra information or links in this section at the end of your press release
  • Include a link to the story on your website, including photos/video
  • Traditionally a press release fitted on one side of A4. –if the journalist needs more information, they’ll contact you. Less is often more!
  • Use the first paragraph to explain what’s happening, and then subsequent paragraphs to expand. 

TOP TIPS

  • Always explain the story straightaway. If the journalist can’t understand your story from the headline and first paragraph they often will delete it straightaway. Never hide the meat of your story in paragraph five!
  • Journalists want a human angle to their story. Do you know a local family or individual affected by the story? They could be LCC members or someone you’ve met whilst campaigning in the street with a petition or at an event. Get the person to agree to speak to the media, and then agree a quote and contact details for them.
  • Always include a quote from the local group, because this is where you get to have your say: e.g. Jane Smith of Deptford Cyclists said, “The council needs to do X, Y and Z in order to make cycling safe and inviting for everyone. If they don’t, local families and schoolchildren will suffer.” 
  • Email your news releases directly to your whole media contact list email, including bloggers, journalists known to cover this sort of news, and news desks.
  • Always fill in email contacts in the BCC field of your email software, so you don’t broadcast your list details to everyone. 
  • If you get bounce backs, replace or remove the offending email addresses to keep your list up to date.
  • When emailing your press release, attach a word document as this is much faster for journalists to edit, cut and paste into the paper.  If you write only as an e-mail, without the attachment, when they cut and paste it, it may have all sorts of formatting marks that will have to be laboriously removed.
  • If you're arranging a photo opportunity, send your press release to the picture desk or Picture Editor as well as to journalists. 
  • Don't forget that journalists have to plough their way through hundreds of news releases every day, so make sure yours stands out by having a clear subject line.
You can read the full guidance on writing an effective Press Release in the Working with Local Media Guide

JARGON BUSTER

Press Release or Media Release: (Sometimes called News Release) a short written announcement sent to the news media, in the hope they'll print your story or ask you for an interview.
Deadline: The time by which you have to get your news release to the media.
Embargo: A time you set before which journalists should not publish information from your news release.
Photo opportunity or photo shoot: A staged, visual scene set up for the media to photograph or film.
Notes to the Editor: A section at the end of the news release for non-essential details, e.g. about your group, technical details.
Soundbite: A phrase which sounds good on radio or TV - often containing three words or ideas grouped together.
Media Stunt: A stunt designed specifically for the media.
Picture Desk / Picture Editor: The staff that allocate photographers to stories. 

 

Download our full Guide to working with local Media