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ABOUT THIS TRAINING
This is a guide on media advisories, press releases, op-Ed’s, and how to interact with media to get coverage of real-world actions. This resource was initially made by 350.org and was modified for NooWorld.
This training is a 16-minute read.
IMPORTANT PRESS MATERIALS
Media advisories alert press of an upcoming event, whether it’s a march, a rally or a press briefing. Think of it as an invitation. The goal of the advisory is to grab the reader’s interest and make them want to come. Ask yourself: What’s the hook that makes it a do-not-miss event?
Don’t get caught up in long descriptions and keep it to one page. Follow up with phone calls to sell your event a few days beforehand to be sure journalists have enough time to include it in their schedule.
DAY OF STRIKE PRESS RELEASE
Press releases are what your ideal article for an event would look like. The goal is to give reporters all the information they would need to write a story, even if they didn’t show up.
Once it’s written, send a press release individually — or make sure to use “BCC.” When sending out a press release to your contacts via email, the subject line is your headline. Copy and paste the rest of your release into the body of the email, and bring print copies to your event to give to members of the press who attend.
Usually, your press release goes out immediately after your event but you can send it out before an event so you can get media that day.
PRESS OUTREACH AND PITCHING
Once you have a grasp on the story you want to tell, who’s going to tell it, and how you want to get it out in the world, you can start the work of reaching out and connecting with the press. This direct outreach is the initial step needed to insert our story into the current conversation.
As is true with organizing and movement work, relationship building is a top priority when working with reporters and the press.
At the onset of your campaign, focus on quality over quantity of press relationships. While we want to strive to get our stories across, it’s also key to find out what stories the reporter is actually interested in. This can be done through one-on-one conversations, meetings, and passing along additional information.
Ideally, you want to have a symbiotic relationship with reporters where you are providing stories they can cover, and they are covering the stories you want to tell.
Focus on a range of mediums, including print, online, TV, radio, blogs, and more. You want to build relationships with journalists across a range of platforms to reach the widest audience.
Find contact information by going to the news outlet website, search for twitter accounts, or calling up the newsdesk to ask who the best climate reporter is.
Track your press contacts in a spreadsheet with information including:
- First Name
- Last Name
- Social Media
When pitching to a reporter, be sharp, quick, and to the point. Before reaching out to the press, it’s useful to outline or draft your ideal 30 second pitch. I-P-S-U-A is a great tool in helping craft a press pitch:
- Introduction: 1 sentence; who you are, what group you’re with, why you’re reaching out;
- Problem: 1-2 sentences; the problem you’re faced with
- Solution: 1-2 sentences; the solutions you have, people power
- Urgency: 1 sentence; explains the timeliness and urgency of climate change, worsening impacts
- Action: 1 sentence; what’s happening and where is the action
If you are still having trouble with pitching to reporters, call them. When people are called, they are essentially forced to respond if they pick up the phone. To get the phone numbers, either call the general line for the newspaper or a division of the newspaper. Alternatively, you can search up the reporter online either on the media outlet’s page or on Google or Social Media.
IMPORTANCE OF WORKING WITH MEDIA
Stories move us, motivate us into action, and cause us to reflect on what issues need to change. When we tell our stories, we make our movement visible and catch the attention of the media and the general public. For many groups, bold and consistent media coverage has a powerful impact on the work they do.
Stories have a multiplier effect on the inspiring work groups are doing. If people know what you have achieved and what you do, they are more likely to support your group and join in. With more support, the larger impact you and us collectively can make.
Telling stories through the media allows you to reach audiences where you live and beyond, bring new people into your campaign, increase public support, and grow the movement at a scale with which the crisis requires.
It’s important to use the media as an opportunity to tell your story in your words.
JUSTICE, EQUITY, AND REPRESENTATION
As we continuously work to become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive in our organizing, here are some tips everyone should take into account in our media & communications work:
- Bring partners’ stories in their own words to the media: open up space for partners to write their own stories and speak for themselves. This ensures that their work is not filtered through our own biases.
- Ensure partners are central to the narrative-crafting process: have a partner be involved in the media work not just as spokespeople, but as strategic allies. This allows us to build authentic relationships, collaboration, inclusion and trust.
- Invest in local media networks, trainings and partnerships: justice & equity starts with recognizing that not all of us are starting out with the same resources. This includes a consistent practice of and openness to sharing press relationships, investing in various types and levels of media and spokesperson training, and supporting the work of groups across movements for justice.
- Find speaking opportunities for partners: support and amplify partners’ voices instead of speaking for them.
- Think about your own personal storytelling: talk to your networks and other volunteers about ethical storytelling so they feel trained and supported on how to do this work ethically.
- Empowerment & Resilience; NOT tokenizing poverty: emphasize resilience and the communities’ agency over solving climate related problems when addressing issues of poverty and climate change. Don’t just focus on the negative; address how partners are seeking and implementing solutions to the challenges they face. Emphasize human resilience in general.
- Invest in authentic and quality content partnerships: investing in strong partnerships and collaborative media outreach leads to incredible joint work and growth for our partners and ourselves.
OTHER PRESS RELEASES
If there is time before the event and you plan on it being a big strike, it may be helpful to create press releases that pre-announce strikes. It is an extended form of the media advisory getting deeper into the core reasons why your group is striking. It can also serve as a place where you can talk about your demands and linking back the strikes to your local community.
You can use quotes, facts, and emotions to build an argument of the importance of the strike and what is going to happen at the strike.
TYPES OF INTERVIEWS
- On the ground - This is generally when you’re being interviewed by a presenter at the site of, or close to, the news story (eg. interviews outside a town hall or at a protest).
- Down the line - A down the line interview (for broadcast) means when you are in a remote location doing an interview to camera or on the radio whilst the presenter is in the studio somewhere else.
- In studio - An in studio style interview that takes place in the studio with the presenter, generally in a one-on-one scenario.
How to tackle each:
On the ground:
- Try and stand relaxed, with your hands rested in front of you.
- Look at the presenter when responding to their questions, don’t look at the camera (unless it’s ‘down the line’)
- Don’t use too many big gestures or hand movements, it’s possible only the top half of you will be on-screen
- Don’t get up until you’re told to once the interview has finished.
Down the line:
- Maintain focus. Always look directly into the camera.
- Remember to smile, or at least look friendly!
- Don’t use too many big gestures or hand movements, only the top half of you will be on-screen.
- Stay in your seat, looking straight at the camera until you are told the interview is finished.
- Try and appear relaxed, legs crossed at the ankle, hands loose in your lap, shoulders back and smiling (if appropriate).
- Look at the presenter when responding to their questions, don’t look at the cameras.
- Try not to move around too much in your seat.
- Don’t get up until you’re told to once the interview has finished.
With all of them: take a deep breath, speak more slowly than you normally would, and remember what your message is.
DEALING WITH TRICKY QUESTIONS
Sometimes reporters will pose a question a certain way attempting to evoke a certain (perhaps not desirable) answer: When that happens the best thing to do is try a tactic called ABC: ‘Acknowledge, Bridge, Communicate’.
Essentially you acknowledge their point, bridge away from it, and communicate what you want to say. Politicians do this a lot which can be annoying, but in our case, it can be necessary at times. You can do this using some basic phrases like the ones listed below:
- I see that, but … (key message)
- People have said that but…
- I think the real question most people are asking is …
- I think the real question we should be asking is …
- I’d also like to add that …
- What’s important to remember is …
- To put this in perspective …
Come up with questions that you might get asked during an interview. Some initial ideas:
- Why are you here?
- What do you hope to achieve?
- Who do you want to listen to you?
- What are you going to do next?
- What do you want to happen next?
- Do you think there’s a better way than skipping your education?
- The stats show we’ve cut our carbon massively, doesn’t that show we’re doing pretty well?
- There’s not many people here, does that show there’s not much interest amongst other young people?
- Do you really think politicians will listen?
- Shouldn’t you be in school?
- Are you being made to do this by your parents?
OP-EDS AND LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Opinion-Editorials (op-eds) and Letters to the Editor (LTEs) are great ways for us to create our own content and tell our stories in the media.
News outlets publish these public debates or to discuss issues missed by the regular news. They need to be written with a clear opinion and are published at the editor’s discretion.
Before you begin writing:
- Pay attention to submission requirements (word length, how to submit, etc). You can find this information on the news outlets’ website.
- Read other opinions/LTEs in that news outlet to get a sense of the pieces they publish and the criteria they use.
- If you have a relationship, call or discuss the opinion piece with the editor before submitting. For example, sometimes editors feel a story or particular angle has been exhausted and may indicate the need for a fresh angle
How to write an attractive letter to the editor/op-ed
- Connect it with something that is already happening in the news. Reference an article that the newspaper wrote or a community event. Then link it to what you want to talk about.
- Keep your key message at the top. This allows readers to understand your position early on, and sometimes editors may cut out the last part of your letter.
- Make sure each sentence has its own purpose. Since we don’t have all the space in the world to explain ourselves, make sure every sentence makes its own statement and avoids being repetitive.
- Make sure you know your message. Know what you want to say, and use clear and simple language—short words and sentences go a long way!
- If you have a strong personal story, include it! A compelling human story helps to hook editors and readers.
Letters To the Editor (LTEs)
- Typically short piece (< 300 words)
- Can be used as a comment on a piece the outlet already published.
- Might be longer than an LTE; 700 - 1000 words
- Used to give a unique perspective
EDITORIAL BOARD MEMOS
Editorial Board Memos (Ed-Board Memo), unlike LTEs and op-eds, are meant to convince a writer at a media outlet to cover a specific issue, rather than a specific pre-written piece. This generally means that a ed-board memo is more similar to an argumentative essay than a op-ed and LTE. You are trying to convince a group of people in a media’s editorial board to cover more about the issue of climate or a specific subsection of climate.
- Typically 200-500 Words
- Used to suggest the editorial board of a paper to report on an issue.
ON THE DAY
This is someone who, during an action, handles the press, connects them to sources, and provides background information. This does not have to be the spokesperson, but someone who is willing to seek press during actions and make sure they are getting the information they need.
1) Make sure you assign roles
- Communications Lead
- Media wrangler(s)
- Spokespeople wrangler(s)
2) Know which reporters you’re looking for
3) Bring printed press releases and/or be ready to forward it from your phone
4) Connect press with appropriate spokespeople
5) Chat with them about the campaign, be friendly, get them on your side
6) Get updated press contact info
7) If appropriate, send follow up answers to questions
Make sure there is someone committed to taking photographs and videos. The media often need a couple of photos fairly quickly if they are going to run the story.
Think about how to make the photo interesting, what’s in the background? Does it convey the message? Is it high enough resolution for print media (300 pixels for inch) Have you checked that everyone is happy to be in the photo?
MESSAGES AND TALKING POINTS
When dealing with the media, the first step should be to make a list of key messages and talking points. This way, we can tell our stories while aiming to get the right messages out there.
When thinking about your key messages, these five principles can help you present them:
- Speak to people’s best self - Appeal to the good, compassionate sides of people and respect each journey on the issue. The audience/public isn’t your villain.
- Create common ground - Find identity and values you share with the audience (e.g. young people in our lives who we care about and want the best for). This helps to meet people where they’re at and avoid isolating people.
- Talk about change - explain the problem, and stress your solutions. Naming the problem helps to bring people along, and offering demands springs people into action with a bold vision.
- Offer facts within stories - Offer facts and figures, but don’t rely on them to win the narrative. Appeal to people emotionally rather than rationally by centering humanity within an issue.
- Avoid responding directly to your opponents claims - Use your frames, with your values, your vision. This is a good way to pivot away from their arguments, and offer our shared vision(s).
Good Messages are also:
- Concise: Focus on 3-5 key messages; write 1-3 sentences for each key message; these should be read or spoken in 30 seconds or less.
- Strategic: Define, differentiate, and address benefits.
- Relevant: Balance what you need to communicate with what your audience needs to know.
- Simple: Use easy-to-understand language; avoid jargon and acronyms.
- Memorable: Ensure that messages are easy to recall and repeat; avoid long, run-on sentences.
- Real: Use active voice, not passive; do not use advertising slogans.
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