Media relations are important because they provide a successful method of reaching your target audiences, thus affecting policy and practice and altering public opinion. This section discusses proactive and reactive media relations including fielding press calls, preparing a media kit, and interview dos and don’ts. You will also learn how to develop and maintain relationships with national, regional, specialist and broadcast media. This section will also teach you how to prepare and evaluate a media relations campaign and how to get free, positive coverage.
Based upon the specialized goals of the Clean Cities Learning Program, it is generally best to establish relationships with one or two specialist journalists instead of taking a scattered approach. If you do this, the journalists are more likely to become accustomed with your topics and to report on them accurately. They may also view you as an expert, which will improve your and your organization’s reputation.
This section will teach you how to identify your key media contacts while also providing tips on maintaining good relationships with members of the media.
A good media relations campaign will positively affect your organization’s reputation. A program of promotional activities intended to accomplish a specific objective, a media relations campaign focuses on developing relationships with reporters, producers, or editors who can tell your story to your targeted audiences. Media relations coverage often resonates more with target audiences than advertising does, so when used regularly, media relations can be an essential element of your organization’s communications strategy.
Your media relations campaign does not need to be complicated, but it does need to identify:
•Target audiences – for example, if you are preparing to host a First Responder Safety Training, your audiences are likely mayors, county commissioners, fire chiefs, police chiefs, and code officials.
•Key media – for example, local, regional, national, specialist, or trade press and professional organizations covering the issue.
•Key messages – ensuring your media work carries key messages relating to your overall objectives.
•Resources – budget and staff available.
•Communication methods – required, including feature placement, photo opportunities, drafting news releases, briefing journalists etc.
•Timescales and deadlines – allows you to coordinate and meet goals in a timely manner, especially if there are future events that relate to your campaign.
Like any other service or product, it is impossible to determine the effectiveness of a media relations campaign without evaluation and monitoring, which not only helps to focus the activity and resources, but also shows tangible results of success. Clip books, statistics, and achievements can be circulated to key people (stakeholders, government officials, academics, etc.) on a regular basis to help keep the issue in the spotlight.
Ongoing monitoring and evaluating may include:
•Number of press releases issued and take-up rates – take-up rates show how many media organizations actually “picked up” your press releases. These can be broken down by media (local, national, and trade press; broadcast media, etc.).
•Press clippings – it is often worth it to subscribe to a press cuttings service to ensure that all coverage of your research can be monitored. The press clipping provided by these services will help illustrate how effective you have been in getting your key messages across or by how positive, negative, or neutral the coverage has been.
As with any other part of your business, dealing successfully with the media requires planning, strategy, hard work, and allocation of resources. This section will help you learn how the media works; how to respond to a reporter’s initial queries; how to “direct the interview” where you want it to go; and how to prepare a communications agenda that includes memorable sound bites that will successfully deliver your message in a clear, concise, authoritative manner.
It is critical to be prepared for a media interview. The following information provides realistic techniques and proven tactics for handling interview questions while under the demands of the media spotlight. Some general tips for effective media interviews include:
• Know your role.
• Say what you mean but don’t use jargon.
• Be informative, not conversational.
• Be brief.
• Don’t go off the record.
• Tell the truth.
• Be patient.
• Don’t lose your temper.
• Don’t answer a question with a question.
• Don’t say “No comment.”
• Don’t answer when you shouldn’t.
• Don’t guess.
• Be prepared to repeat yourself.
• Be confident but not defensive.
• Avoid reading from prepared statements.
Media attention during an emergency can be extremely intrusive, but remember that the public will know virtually nothing except what they are told by the press, so it is imperative that you work with the media efficiently and effectively.
Reporters are mostly concerned with telling the story honestly and accurately and getting the story first. A few are openly biased or flagrantly antagonistic – reporters who try to make you lose your cool and say something you’ll regret. Reporters may use interviewing techniques that are difficult to handle.
Because the Clean Cities Learning Program covers biofuels and biofuel vehicles, gaseous fuels and gaseous fuel vehicles, hydrogen and hydrogen-powered vehicles, and electric drive vehicles, you need to be able to respond appropriately to fuel-specific questions. Use role-playing activities and the example questions and possible answers for scenarios involving all the various fuels and vehicles.
A media kit serves as a “resume” for your organization. Sometimes called a “press kit,” a media kit is a folder of materials that describes your organization and answers questions the media may have. Your media should contain a backgrounder, fact sheets, press releases, and clippings.
•Backgrounder: : Sometimes called a profile, the backgrounder is a brief but detailed look at your organization, its mission and history, what it does, who it serves, who works there, and any other interesting facts. A backgrounder should be kept short, about a page or a little longer. Include the five Ws and one H: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. Point out the good your organization does and highlight the ways you’re different from similar organizations.
•Fact sheets: Take the highlights of your backgrounder and break it up on a sheet of bullet points. A document meant to be scanned by a busy editor or reporter, the fact sheet should direct the media to your profile. Include compelling facts about your organization, its members, history, or target market.
•Press releases: If you’re handing out a media kit at an event to which you invited the media, include a press release specifically for that occasion. Also include releases spotlighting noteworthy awards or recent events.
•Clippings: Incorporate recent publicity and include the name of the publication and print/air date. Clips reassure the media that you’re official and boost your status.
When packaging your media kit, utilize a two-pocket folder, preferably one that has a business card slit. If your organization does not have a customized folder, select a store-bought version and use a label on the cover to identify your organization. All materials should be printed on your organization’s letterhead. If you’re printing the information in house, make color copies on high quality paper.
If you can afford to hire a professional printer, consider doing it. Presentation plays a major role in whether your story will receive good coverage. Stuff the left pocket with fact sheets on top of the backgrounder. The right folder pocket should contain clippings and releases, with the event-specific release on top. Finally, enclose your business card and a small promotional item, such as a pen or magnet, if your organization has them.
Print media outlets, specifically newspapers, supply the simplest ways of gaining free publicity. Letters to the editor and op-eds are written by people who do not work for the newspaper, while editorials express the views of the newspaper’s publisher and/or owner. Another way to get free publicity is through feature stories, which can appear in print or through broadcast media outlets