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Organizer and Activist Resources: Working With the Media

Using the media is one of the most effective ways of raising public awareness about your project. However, most media outlets get much more information every day than they can possibly use. Therefore, it is important to make your information concise, interesting, well-organized and visually appealing and consistent in its recurring appearances. Here are some general steps to take when implementing a media campaign. (Source: Earth Day Canada, Earth Day Ontario, and Environmental Partners Program.)

Step One - Make Contact

First, create a media file or a record keeping system. Your media file should contain:
  • Media outlets in your region, including the content and style of programs, columns, etc., and their deadlines
  • Up-to-date list of reporters and editors

Knowing contact names is very important. Find this information by 1) calling local newsrooms, 2) writing down names of media who have contacted you or your project in the past, and 3) keeping a clipping file of environmental stories. Also, ask your fellow project participants if they have contacts in the media. Another important aspect of media contact is to keep your media file current. Contacts may change as often as every two to three months.

Step Two - Establish a Relationship

Get to know the media. Once you establish which reporters cover the environment, introduce yourself with a phone call or a get-to-know-you meeting.

Prepare a media kit for reporters including a calendar of events, press releases for projects, fact sheets on your group, and any other relevant information or matters of interest (like why Earth Day is important!). Consider always including some small educational environmental tidbit with each written contact. (You're in the business of educating the public. By educating your media contact, you can help them help you in your educational campaign.)

Step Three - Maintain the Flow

Once you have made contact, maintaining the relationship with the media should be a priority. Ongoing contact can be ensured by following these suggestions:
  • Be as helpful and accessible as possible.
  • Provide background information when a news story breaks about which you or your group is knowledgeable.
  • Participate in editorial board meetings or round-table discussions when media are looking for representatives from the community involved in the environment.
  • Conduct background briefings for reporters, especially when you are about to make an announcement or hold an event.

Step Four - Follow-up

Be sure to follow-up with a phone call any materials that you have sent to the media by mail.

What to Give the Media

Materials that you present to the media can come in many forms. Outlined below are some of the most common and effective ways of informing the media about your project. Combining these materials and Steps 1-4 from the previous page can result in a very effective media campaign.

The Press Release

A press release is a short description of your event designed to attract media attention to cover it. Always be sure to have your contact name, organization name, address and phone number on every press release. If you don't have stationery with a logo, consider having a volunteer design one for you and then use that for every press release. This will help your releases have a distinctive look.
  • Make it short - 1 page, double-spaced.
  • Make it clear - what, where, why, when
  • Get to the point at the beginning - remember, your media person may have 200 things to read and yours may only get 5 seconds or less of attention.
  • Triple-check all your facts (very important if you want to keep your credibility.
  • Include contact name and phone number - it will not be printed if you don't.
  • Type "News Release"at the top of the page and "-30-"at the bottom, signifying the end.
  • Try to establish a contact at the newspaper, TV or radio station who may feel a personal connection to your event.

Public Service Announcement (PSA.)

Radio and television stations are required by law to provide a certain amount of programming time for PSAs. PSAs provide clear, concise answers to the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of your event. Call the station and ask how long, in number of words and in time, your PSA can be. There are generally four different lengths:
  • 10 seconds (25 words)
  • 20 seconds (50 words)
  • 30 seconds (75 words)
  • 60 seconds (150 words)
Provide all four versions and the station can decide which one to use. Have the PSA in the hands of the Public Affairs Director at least two weeks before you even and include some detailed back-up information. Say the name, address and telephone number of your group twice!

Letters to the Editor

Contact the newspaper to find out length and time restrictions. Remember that letters must be signed and include an address. Letters to the editor provide a wide public forum that can be used to your advantage, before and after your event.

Feature Stories

The media is always looking for a good story. Prepare a story proposal. A written story proposal is typically a one-page letter with a hook, which explains the angle, why the story is of interest and to whom. The more support you can provide in putting the story together, the better its chances of running, so be sure to suggest how you might be of assistance (e.g., by providing photographs, interviews, information, contacts). Major news media can get between 100 and 200 news releases a day! Therefore, your phone call may cause them to print or announce your story and not another. When they do print your story, be sure to call them to THANK THEM and give them feedback (I liked the way you spread the story across two pages, or I appreciate your mentioning our sponsor, or...)
  • Be thorough
  • Generate interest
  • Answer questions
  • Provide further information

Regional Events Calendar

The media is receptive to placing calendar information of interest to their readers. By assembling a regional calendar of Earth Day oriented events and activities, you can provide a service to the media and save them the time of collecting the information.

Day-of-Event Coverage

Advance publicity for your event is only one of the uses for the media. You also want them to cover your event, showing video footage and photographs as part of the news of the day .

Getting reporters to your event requires identifying who will be assigned on that day. It is critical to establish a relationship with the day-of-event reporters so that you have a chance of them 'covering your story' and not theirs. Sometimes, you may not know until the week before, but find out and "get to work"with them.

After you identify who will be "on-duty"for the day and time of the event, send them their own event-oriented media kit. Keep them informed via FAX or phone, of late-breaking, news-worthy developments at the event. If they are non-commital about covering it, build your case and do your best to get a commitment. Call the morning of the event to confirm. Give them instructions on where and when to find your media representatives at the event. Provide them a VIP parking pass if you have them.

At your event, set up a media-hospitality area. Have press materials, a place to sit and write, coffee, snacks if you can. Have one volunteer whose only job is to find and escort media representatives. Make sure you know when and where your spokepeople will be available. Get the cards of everyone you see shooting professional video or photographs at your event.

Remember to have fun and be gracious while you are getting your message across! It will greatly help the coverage you get.

Back to Earth Day Home | Next File: Earth Day Event Ideas.

This information was supplied courtesy of the Earth Day Network.

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