Reaching out to journalists and media

This free online course (comprising of 3 chapters namely Easy steps to grassroots action, Fundraising ideas and Media relations) are excerpted from** Bible of Organizing with some modifications, and are part of the Diploma in Organizational Management and Planning course, conducted by the Human Development Institute.

To reach a wider audience through coverage in mass media and e-zines, a grassroots activist has to be armored with the art of pleasing and attraction to the journalists and editors of on-line newspapers.

First of all, prepare a list of the media (newspapers, magazines, radio, television and on-line publications) in your region with the specific names, e-mail and snail-mail addresses, fax and contact numbers of the chief editor, feature editor, letters editor and disk jockeys, television anchors etc.

There are four easiest ways to approach media to draw their attention to the issues that you're toiling for.

1. Send out a press release

A press release is a short statement which you send to the media to encourage them to write a story about an issue or something you are doing.

The key to press release is that it can be read very quickly and that it includes just enough information to interest a busy journalist. If you succeed in interesting them they will contact you for further information about the subject or event.

A good rule when writing a press release is to think about your subject and answer the 5 Ws and 1H—What, Where, When, Who, Why and How. The release should fit onto one side of a A4 size paper and should not exceed 3 paras—the first para should answer the first four Ws, second the Why question and the last para the last How. The release should be easy to read with good-sized and well-spaced type.

If your press release is designed to encourage journalist to attend an event, it is a good idea to “hint” at something which they will be able to witness or enjoy at the event. The press release must be well-timed so that journalists have time to make their arrangements.

You might want to issue a press release which provides enough information for journalists to write an article without attending an event or needing to do any further research. In this case write a press release to interest them in the subject and add further information on a separate piece of paper titled “Notes for the Press”. In our case, enclose a copy of this action guide. These notes should provide enough information for journalists to write and informed article. They should be short, precise and interesting. Make your point but don't try to push readers to agree with you. Provide information which leads them to their own conclusions. Think of human interest angles—ask yourself: Why is this issue so important that we can't ignore it? What benefits can people get from the message?

When you write a press release, always;

2. Writing an article for a newspaper, magazine or e-zine

Writing an article for a newspaper or magazine is a very good way to raise awareness of a subject, rather than an event.

If you want to write an article, it is best if you write an outline first and then contact the features editor of the publication to find out if they would be interested in printing the article and if so, how long they want the article to be. Ask for writer's guidelines. This is more likely to get a positive result than sending in a completed article “cold”.

To contact the paper or magazine:

When writing an article, there are some key things to remember:

3. Writing letters to newspapers, magazines, TV or radio programs

This is a very easy way to get your point across to the media, especially to newspapers. It is usually easier to get a letter printed—especially in a national newspaper or magazine—than it to get an article accepted.

You can write a letter to a newspaper or magazine in response to an article they have published or in response to an event which is in the news and which you want to comment on.

Writing to a television or radio program helps you widely heard through their letters programs. You can even suggest them to air specific programs, featuring the action-oriented themes of Movement Millennium.

4. Getting onto television and radio

The easiest way to do this is to call chat shows or discussion programs which invite comments and participation, or to get tickets so you can be in the audience of this kind of the show.

Remember, journalists are too busy people. So, feed journalists with information moderately in a way that they feel neither thirsty nor drunken.