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Using the local media

Using the local media

Raising profile locally is a great way of increasing influence on policy decisions towards improving and protecting the countryside and attracting public interest in what you are campaigning on.

Councillors will respond

Councillors are generally responsive to public attitudes, so build support for your case through the local newspaper or radio.

Make an issue out of a planning application. This will help secure greater interest amongst councillors.

The letters page of a local newspaper and radio phone-in programmes provide useful opportunities to air your concerns. If you are part of an organised group, you should consider issuing a media release and contacting local journalists.

You can get your message across in the following ways:

  • Articles and interviews in local and regional papers
  • Interviews on TV and radio
  • Letters published on the letters page of local newspapers or magazines
  • Photo stories, usually an attention-grabbing picture with a short caption
  • Columns, features and event listings

How to get good coverage

Journalists rely on being told about a story and being supplied information.

If the story captures their imagination and if the information is accurate, timely and factual, it is likely to be covered.

Identify 'hooks' on which to hang media coverage:

  • Human interest stories, usually a big hit with local journalists
  • Key dates and decisions
  • Your successes
  • Local people, concerns and places
  • Threats or opportunities with local facts and figures

Tips for using the local media

Local journalists work under pressure to meet tight deadlines, because local and regional newspapers go to print on a certain day of the week.

  • Find out the day of print and ring the news desk for copy deadlines and deadlines for letters, articles and media releases, so you can work around them.
  • Give as much notice as possible, you can provide an early tip-off by phone, post or email.
  • Keep an up-to-date list of contacts for every newspaper, magazine, TV and radio station in your area.
  • Build a rapport with local journalists. This will increase chances of success with the local media.
  • Don't be afraid to call and introduce yourself and your group and don't forget to be friendly!

You may find it helpful to prepare a press pack, with fact sheets, any campaign publications you've produced, media releases and contact details

Regular, interesting and concise media releases will help establish your reputation as well as flag up your story.

Say what you feel as well as what you know, illustrate points with examples where possible.

Make the most of the letters page, which is said to be the second most widely read part of a newspaper or magazine. You can initiate and also respond to letters.

How to write a media release

A media release is a way of communicating your message/issue to journalists through a newsworthy story and, in effect, writes their story for them. A good media release should:

  • Be concise, punchy, quotable and factually correct
  • Set out your story clearly and grab attention in as few words as possible, and without jargon
  • Be as well timed as possible, especially if you are launching an event or initiative.
  • Make use of any hooks, for example other events or current issues that are of local media interest

Before writing a media release, study the publication/radio station etc you are sending it to, to see what sorts of stories it is interested in. That way, you can create a media release with a slant the newspaper/radio station etc is interested in.

Media release contents

Dates

Always date your media release and provide an embargo date, if required, which gives journalists time to research a story and requires them to not publish information until the date specified.

Title

You need an attention-grabbing headline that will give an accurate summary of the story

First two paragraphs

These should answer the questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? and aim to include all the highlights of the story, with the remaining information in later paragraphs.

The first paragraph should contain the essence of the main story, and the first sentence should be eye-catching, punchy and possibly a quote.

Quotes

Most media releases should contain quotations from your spokesperson. They can be in more direct, heartfelt language than the rest of the text and make the media release more personal and interesting.

Notes for editors

Include notes for editors at the end of the media release text, including background information to the issue and any details, facts and figures that are too technical to be included in the body of the media release.

Contact names and phone numbers

At the very end, give the names and telephone numbers - both daytime and early evening - of your media contacts.

Tips for radio and TV interviews

Radio and TV interviews can reach a large audience, so are always worthwhile. You may find your first radio or TV interview to be nerve-wracking, especially if the interview is live rather than pre-recorded. But practice and preparation will make you more effective and less nervous. Find out beforehand:

  • How long the interview will be
  • Whether it will be live or recorded
  • If anyone else will be interviewed
  • The line of questioning, or the first question at least
  • Exactly where you're going, if the interview is external, so you won't be late

The following steps will help you:

  • Decide on and stick to three key points you want to make
  • Think of likely questions, including the worst or most challenging you might be asked, and prepare for them
  • Be sure of your facts, but don't be afraid to say what you feel about something
  • Keep things simple, stick to your agenda and be enthusiastic
  • Try to give local examples, names and places to illustrate your points
  • If you are attending a TV interview, dress comfortably, because you will be in a hot studio, and avoid overly patterned clothing

Further Reading

Case study: Blackdown hills.