Communicate with the media and build relationships with reporters and editors

Here are some simple guidelines that will give you a better shot a getting your story in the headlines.

Be a Resource for Journalists

Reporters are busy people who work on tight deadlines. Hand your story to them on a plate by fleshing out the “Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How” of your issue/event. Send the information directly to a reporter who covers related issues or include it in a press release. You will increase your chances of getting coverage if your story is pre-packaged and ready for the reporter to use.

Remember to be clear and concise, especially since many media outlets do not have a full-time environmental beat reporter and therefore will not be up-to-date on your issue.

  • Be available
  • Be ready to be quoted
  • Know your issue
  • Know your facts
  • Know where to find information fast
  • Know their deadlines
  • Avoid overdoing it—only call when you have something to say.
  • Respond to factual errors

Make Your Story Newsworthy

Note: The following information is taken primarily from The Institute for Media, Policy and Civil Society
Reporters will more likely bite the bait if there is, for example, new relevant research, a new political development, or new community concerns at the heart of your story. If you are staging an event, consider using the tips below in order to pique a reporter’s (and a photographer’s) interest.

Be sure to give your story “legs” (i.e., there is enough there for a reporter to continue covering developments and different angles of the same issue). By doing so, you will ensure further coverage and increase the likelihood of people following your issue.

Characteristics of a newsworthy event

  • Novelty
  • Shock
  • Conflict
  • Simplicity
  • Kids
  • Social issues or prominent public figure involved
  • Humor
  • Outdoors
  • Action
  • Bright props and images
  • News stories about the event published in advance
  • Local impact
Frame Your Issue

Decide the focus of your story (health issues, pollution, or community integrity for example). Trying to make too many points will be confusing and not make good news. Stick to one simple and concise point.

Localize your story

Remember that readers are always more interested in a story when it has a direct impact on their everyday lives.

Feature community members in your story

(i.e., Mr. Green whose health has deteriorated since the construction of a factory farm down the road) in addition to the usual characters (politicians, and “experts,” for example).

“Piggy-backing”

Consider piggy-backing your issue to other political events, like elections or previous campaign promises. What are the financial issues? Is taxpayers’ money being wasted? Are jobs being lost? Are the environmentally sound alternatives better for the economy? (They usually are.) Make it interesting to someone who “doesn’t give a hydro-electric dam” .

Collaborate

Consider teaming up with other local community groups. Showing collaboration between groups helps to reinforce the importance of the issue to the community and will give your group more legitimacy.

Prepare Spokespeople

Make sure your spokespeople are available!

  • Select two people to be media spokespeople. Having two will ensure that there is always someone available to speak with reporters.
  • Leave more than one method of contacting spokespeople: cell phone numbers, office numbers, home numbers, email addresses and pagers. Keep ringers turned on!
Be engaging

Those representing your issue should be well-versed and comfortable speaking in front of cameras and in high pressure situations.

Not every question has to be answered

Repeat the message you want to be heard if an irrelevant question is asked.

Be comfortable saying “no.”

If the story is potentially damaging to your organization then politely decline.

Be on the ball!

Be sure to always call reporters back, especially to follow up, correct misquotes, or fill in missing information.

  • If you are unable to talk to reporters when they call, ask for their story deadline and get back to them before that date or time.
  • Refer them to someone else for more information or a quote if that proves helpful for both you and them.