Campaigners and the media have a complex relationship. This section explores how to work positively with the media.
There is already lot of very useful information out there about working effectively with the media. So we’re going to keep this section brief, and just point you in the right direction.
It is worth saying, however, that campaigners and the media have a complex relationship. Some campaigners will actively seek media attention to further their cause; others will actively shun the media because they suspect they will be misrepresented. In working out your campaign strategy you will have to decide what kind of course you want to chart, if any, with the media.
Four very good resources for you to look at are:
1. Media Trust/Press Association Community Newswire
Media Trust works in partnership with the Press Association to provide Community Newswire - this is a free service helping charities and voluntary organisations gain valuable media coverage. Press releases are sent to the newswire, a Press Association journalist writes it up into a story and this goes out on The Press Association newswire reaching thousands of journalists. As part of the service they offer help and support with press release writing. Visit the Media Trust website for more information.
The Media Trust have also produced an excellent set of online guides about a wide range of media and communications issues.
2. The Battlefront Campaigner’s Handbook’s section on ‘The Press’.
While the Battlefront.co.uk website is targeted primarily at young campaigners, most of the information is relevant to all campaigners. It has an excellent section about the media. Some of the things you can find in this section of the website are:
A database of newspapers across the UK, searchable by county
A downloadable presentation about understanding Public Relations (PR)and how to write press releases;
Tips on how to deal with the press
A downloadable guide about effective public speaking specifically written for activists
3. People and Planet’s media guide.
This is a very succinct and practical guide to using the media. It includes information on how to get your campaign in the news. It looks at:
Which media is suited to your campaign
Finding the right angle, so that your campaign/story are attractive
Using press stunts and ‘hooks’
Interviews and phone-ins
Writing letters to the editors of newspapers
It also includes a handy downloadable press release template.
4. George Monbiot’s ‘An Activists Guide to Exploiting the Media’
You can find this excellent guide on various websites, including Urban75 or the Free Range Activism website. It contains information on:
How to get the press to come to your action
How to deal with journalists once they come to your action
This is summary of some of Monbiot’s tips for being interviewed:
It’s the answer that counts, not the questions (i.e. if you just answer the questions you are ask, you might not get to deliver the key messages you need to; so instead, always use questions as the springboard to say the things you need to say!)
Don’t try to make too many points
Finish your point (i.e. be assertive without being rude, if the interviewer tries to interrupt you)
Keep it simple
Respond to hostile questions positively – answer them quickly and then move on to what it is you need to say.
Leave your notes behind! (Everything you need to say should be in our head – if it’s not, you’re not ready for the interview!)
Don’t hate your opponent! You need to keep your cool, otherwise you might lose sympathy from (potential) supporters.