How to Work with the Media
Working with the media is a great way to draw attention to AAUW priority issues and events you are planning. Building relationships and knowing how to communicate with the media are the keys to success, whether you want to work with a print reporter, television reporter, radio reporter, or blogger. Once this happens, they may well call YOU rather than the other way around!
- Compile a media list. AAUW public policy staff can pull a basic list to help you get started; email firstname.lastname@example.org to request this list. Then you can supplement that list with your knowledge of your local community. Identify reporters, editors, and departments in your local newspapers and broadcast stations that focus on AAUW priority issues and are likely to be interested in AAUW’s news.
- Make sure the media list includes their phone and email addresses, if available. Additionally, most news and radio shows have a Facebook and/or Twitter page. Include the names and web addresses on the media list, and use this sheet to guide your media outreach.
- If you are having trouble identifying the right person to put on your list, call the media outlet and ask for the name and contact information of the reporters responsible for covering women’s issues, family issues, and education; the political reporter; the editorial page editor; the metro or city editor; and/or the photo editor.
- Keep your list current. Turnover can be high in the news business, and reporters covering the issues on your list may change frequently. Make calls quarterly to review and update your media list.
Contacting the Media
- Once you have developed your media list, use it wisely. Flooding reporters with calls and paper on anything and everything will decrease, rather than increase, your chances of being covered. Providing new, timely, accurate information on AAUW issues and events helps you build relationships with reporters, and can lead them to view you as a reliable resource on issues important to women and families.
- The two main tools used to communicate messages to the media are:
- Media advisories: Used to alert the media to an upcoming event. Media advisories should be sent three to five days in advance of the activity highlighted. Advisories should be no more than one page in length, and should include only the vital details of your event: who, what, when, where, why.
- News releases: Can be used to announce AAUW’s stand or action on an issue; to announce an AAUW event; to evaluate the work of public officials; to announce the appointment or election of a new leader; or to call for the passage or defeat of legislation.
- Sample media advisories and news releases are available for download. AAUW policy staff is also available to help proof a media advisory or news release if requested via email@example.com.
- Before contacting the media, designate a news media spokesperson. Make the spokesperson available to the news media by placing her or his name and contact information on all media advisories and news releases.
Earning Media Coverage for your Events
- Approximately three days prior to the event, email a media advisory to the appropriate reporters on your media list. Be sure to include the contact information for your designated media spokesperson in case reporters have questions.
- Call reporters the day after you send the media advisory to follow up the materials you sent. If they haven’t seen the materials, offer to send them again and ask what is the best way to send these materials.
- The day before the event, resend the media advisory.
- The morning of the event, send a news release to capture a reporter’s interest. Limit your release to one side of one typed page, and make it available at your event.
- Call reporters the day of the event and remind them to cover it. For example, you could say: “We’ve got giant signs and dozens of us will be gathering at the corner of Main Street and Second Street to tell Representative X to do Y. Can you make it?”
- During the event, prepare a press table with a sign-in list and media kits with the vital information a reporter will need to cover your event, such as an event agenda, copy of the press release, and background information on AAUW and other event co-sponsors.
- Help reporters write a complete story by talking with each reporter in attendance. Offer reporters a quick interview before or after the program. It’s a good idea to practice your talking points beforehand – even the experts practice before talking to reporters at events! Deliver your point and don’t get distracted by questions. No matter what question is asked, always bring the message back to your talking points using phrases like, “I’m not sure about that, but what really matters today is XXX,” or “The truth is…”
- Take digital photos (the higher the resolution, the better) of your events for the AAUW website and other AAUW communications vehicles. Put pictures of your event on AAUW’s Facebook page and email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Designate someone to post about what is going on at the event on Facebook and Twitter as it is happening.
- After the event, follow up with the media again. Contact reporters who covered the event to see if they need additional information or quotes to complete their stories. Call reporters who did not attend the event to offer additional information, including the media kit, in case they intend to publish an article on the event.
- Make a media contact list.
- Designate a news media spokesperson.
- Keep media advisories and news releases short and to the point.
- Follow up with media contacts to make sure they have what they need to cover your story.
- Develop a relationship with the media, instead of constantly asking them for things. Reach out before you need something, not only because you need something, and frame your outreach as, “How can we work together?”
Resources to guide activists in advocacy efforts.
Write letters to spur news editors to cover an issue or urge readers to support your cause.
More than 80 percent of newspaper op-eds are written by men. Use your voice to speak out on the issues you care about.