How to Get Media Attention
There are many ways to get media attention for your campaign. We suggest that at the very least, you email a press advisory about your petition to your local media. MoveOn will provide you will a sample press advisory and a local media list. You can also write letters to the editor of your local newspaper, visit with editorial boards, write an op-ed, or hold a news conference when you deliver your petition.
Why earn media coverage?
Generating local media on progressive issues is a major part of how MoveOn Councils put pressure on public officials and demonstrate widespread support for our issues. Here’s why generating local media on your issue is so important:
- Influence decision makers — Public pressure will often create the context for a politician to act. They really don’t like negative press! They also like the opportunity to shine in the spotlight for supporting an issue.
- Persuade the public — It is the most efficient way to do so. You can educate the whole area with an event that gets your message into the media.
- Provide legitimacy — Earning media gives the issue and MoveOn legitimacy. Media outlets receive dozens of calls each day to report on something. Yours made the cut and was a priority.
- Develop leadership — Pulling off a good media event is hard work. It is an opportunity to train members to learn key tactical and leadership skills.
How we earn good media coverage:
- Clear and Compelling: Tell your story in a way that excites and engages people. You want people to want to become a part of the story. Do this by talking about the problem, solution and action. The most compelling stories have a hero, a villain and a victim.
- Concise: Reporters don’t have a lot of time. The general public does not have a lot of time. Make sure your message is simple, jargon-free, and can be said in 15-30 seconds. There is a reason why commercials are only 30 seconds long. In 1968 the average sound bite was 41 seconds. Today it is 7 seconds.
- Consistent: When advertisers sell their product, they know that people need to hear or see their message nine times before it sinks in. Saying something once is not enough.
- Control The Message Frame: When talking about your campaign, you need to make sure that you are staying within the basic framework of your concise and compelling message. Make sure you respond to questions with what we want to talk about and not necessarily switch to their frame and answer the question. This is known as framing the debate or controlling the issue. When a voter goes in the voting booth, what do we want them to think about? A great example is the “death tax” vs the “inheritance tax” or “living wage” vs. “minimum wage.”
Nuts and bolts of earning media coverage:
- Build your media list
- Search the Internet for lists of media contacts. There are lots of sites that maintain contact lists, but click here, here, and here for a few good places to start.
- Ask local progressive organizations working on your issue if they can share their list.
- Read the newspaper and keep an eye out for which reporters are most likely to write the story
- Send out the advisory 2-3 days before the event
- Localize it for your city
- Find good messengers to quote in the advisory
- Most folks use email, but some still prefer fax. Just ask.
- Contact reporters
- Follow-up after you’ve sent the advisory. Make it clear why it’s incredibly important that they cover your event. This call is the most important part of earning media coverage.
- Call reporters on the day of the event. Give them a quick update (like how many people you’re expecting) and then pitch them on coming again. Make sure they still have your advisory and re-send it if they don’t.
- Look for reporters at your event
- Greet them and answer any questions they have.
- If they have cameras, help them get the shots they’re looking for
- If you have any good volunteers with powerful stories, introduce them to reporters
- If the media was present at your event, it’s a great idea to follow up with them and send them any photos or other information from your event, and ask them when they plan to publish their story. It’s also helpful to ask them if they need any other information to write a great story.
- If the media wasn’t present at your event, give them a call to let them know how it went, and send in or drop off photos and a summary of the outcome of the event.
Tips on getting reporters to your event:
- Talk to the reporter or editor–don’t settle for leaving voicemails or messages with the receptionist. Your pitch calls are you best weapon– make sure you’re using them.
- Be relentless with media. Call from the event if they don’t show. This works particularly well with TV. Don’t be afraid to call them back again if they didn’t show to a previous event.
- Keep a great media list. Make sure you have all the emails and phone numbers, update it to show who comes, and what angles they like to cover (i.e. likes politics or likes local stories)
- Build relationships. Reporters are people too. If they know and trust you, they’re more likely to come. Refer to stories they’ve done recently. Ask them if they have a minute. Call after the event and tell them how it went.
Tips on talking with reporters at your event
- Always bring the message back — no matter what question is asked. Phrases like, “what’s really important here is XXX” or “I’m not sure about that, but what really matters today is XX.” You’re there to deliver a message, not answer questions.
- Remember that you’re always on the record
- If on television or radio (not live) — ask for do-overs. Just stop in the middle of your quote and say, “I’m going to say that again”.