How to Work with the Media
Working with the media provides a rewarding and cost-effective tool for promoting AAUW’s policy priorities and events. Your efforts can lead to new members, access to key stakeholders and decision makers, and increased visibility in your community. Communication chairs, public policy leaders, and programming leaders can use the media to publicize newsworthy stories about your mission-based programs and events that are relevant to your local community and even a national audience. Read on to learn how to build relationships with reporters and earn media coverage for your events.
1. Compile a media contact list.
Identify the appropriate reporters, editors, producers, news directors, 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. Editors (bureau chief, news/executive/associate/deputy editor, or editorial page editor) assign the stories and can be the pivotal voice on whether your topics get covered! Also include photo editors on your list for events that could yield good photos. Have a few general lists that you can use at a second’s notice, so you don’t have to remake them every time you plan media outreach. AAUW public policy staff can pull a basic list to help you get started.
Identifying contacts. Check on newspaper websites to see who has written on your initial topic most recently. Call the media outlet and ask for the name and contact information of the reporters responsible for covering the topic you’re wanting to pitch on. When putting together a list or thinking of contacts, keep in mind the following reporter beats (topics): women’s issues, family issues, economic/consumer affairs/business issues, education (K–12 and higher education), and politics (state government/legislature, local government, etc.).
Updating your list. 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. Keep track of any returned e-mails you get when you send e-mails to certain reporters. This helps you to track who is interested, who is available, and who isn’t. It takes time, but it is worth it!
2. Set a time frame with clear goals.
Is your outreach on legislative action? Take into account session terms. Is outreach leading up to an event? Make sure your media strategy reflects the amount of time available and feasible.
3. Determine your key message.
What do you want the takeaway to be from the potential story about your issue or event? Make sure to factor in your intended audience in that message as well. Is it state legislators? Members of the community? This will also affect which reporters you reach out to and what your story pitch will be.
4. Tailor your pitch.
Knowing specifics about a reporter and outlet help you to tailor your initial pitch. Make sure you know key information about the reporter like beat (what she or he reports on), title, phone number, and e-mail Also keep in mind that a newspaper pitch and a radio/TV pitch should be entirely different. They have different goals and audiences, and your pitch should reflect that. Additionally, most news and radio shows have a Facebook and/or Twitter page, which you can also include to get to know more about what catches the reporter’s interest. Include the outlets, names, contact information, and web addresses on the media list, and use this sheet to guide and track your media outreach.
Contacting the Media
Once you have developed your media list and your message, use it wisely. Designate one branch member to be the 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. This person should also be involved in planning the media outreach.
Develop a relationship with the media, instead of just asking them for coverage. Reach out before you need something, not only because you need something, and frame your outreach as, “How can we work together?”
Flooding reporters with calls and e-mails 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.
Use these two main tools to communicate messages to the media:
Media advisory. Media advisories alert the media to an upcoming event. Media advisories should be sent three to five days in advance of the activity highlighted. The best time to send your advisory is in the morning, when news teams are meeting to plan out the day’s stories. Advisories should be no more than one page in length, and they should include only the vital details of your event (also known as the five W’s): who, what, when, where, why.
News release. 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. They include more information than advisories and should also include direct quotes from a representative of your branch.
AAUW policy staff is also available to help proof a media advisory or news release if requested via email@example.com.Download a sample media advisory Download a sample news release
Earning Media Coverage for Your Events
Before the Event:
- Approximately three days before the event, e-mail a media advisory to the appropriate reporters on your media list. Include the advisory in the body of the e-mail, never as an attachment! Be sure to include the contact information for your designated media spokesperson in case reporters have questions.
- Call reporters the day you send the media advisory to follow up on the materials you sent. If they haven’t seen the materials, offer to resend them and ask if they are the appropriate person to receive the information. If not, ask who the best contact would be and how you can reach them.
- The day before the event, resend the media advisory. Call reporters you didn’t reach the day before.
During the Event:
- At the start time of the event, send a news release that provides more detailed information. 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 the event. 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?”
- 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. This also helps you establish a relationship with that reporter that can be used for future press opportunities! 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 …” or “The truth of the matter is …”.
- Take digital photos (the higher the resolution, the better) of your events for the AAUW website and other AAUW communications vehicles. Try to include the AAUW logo in pictures when possible. Put pictures of your event on AAUW’s Facebook page or AAUW Policy Twitter and e-mail 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. This will attract the attention of individuals who may not consume traditional media.
After the Event:
- Follow up! 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.
AAUW media staff can help you with your media engagement! Reach out using email@example.com for any questions you may have on media outreach or AAUW issue messaging.
Resources to guide activists in advocacy efforts.
Use your local media to spur news editors to cover an issue or urge readers to support your cause.
Make the most of your social media channels by using it to attract advocates and supporters.