Successful Media Relations
Once your strategy and plan are clear, you’re ready to go.
1. Build a media list.
Determine which media outlets will be most effective. Identify the media representatives that you plan to contact most often and keep it up to date. Don’t forget online publications.
Your media list should include information about the beats for which the representatives are responsible (what stories they usually cover, and/or what regions they cover). Include all contact information and if possible, find out and note which contact method(s) the representatives prefer.
Tip: Be aware that many newsrooms will not open emailed attachments. Instead, incorporate your news release into the body of the email, or provide a Web link to it online if you have that capability.
2. Develop talking points and stick to them.
Determine the three to five main messages you want to convey on each topic and prepare talking points for them. These are very brief, affirmative sentences that are intended to persuade your audiences to understand your point of view. Keep your talking points free of jargon – for example, stay away from acronyms, and use simple terms like “fire engine” instead of “apparatus,” and “fire escape” instead of “evacuation.” Avoid negative or critical language, and don’t use too many statistics.
Make sure everyone involved in your media relations campaign has the talking points you prepare and understands the importance of consistency. If you have a departmental public information officer, make sure they understand the prevention concept and the importance of taking advantage of every teachable moment on real incidents. For example, following a major fire loss, point out that fire sprinklers would have controlled the fire and dramatically limited damage. This Word document Guide contains sample talking points that you can tailor for your community.
3. When you have something newsworthy to share, craft a brief (no more than two pages) news release to announce it.
Your spokesperson’s name, affiliation and contact information should appear at the top, along with the date of release. Write a short headline that succinctly summarizes your news. The lead paragraph should grab the attention of the readers so they continue reading the release. The body of the release will build on the lead with additional details of your news. End the release with a brief description of your organization, known as the “boilerplate.” This Word document Guide contains a sample news release that you can tailor for your community.
Tip: Have a few helpful writers’ tools at hand, including a good dictionary and a style guide. These can be found online. Here are some examples:
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary
The Merriam-Webster Online Pronunciation Guide
The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook
4. Sometimes it is useful to provide the media with fact sheets.
Unlike a news release, these are not used to announce news. They provide information and data, which saves research time for the media representatives. By providing these facts, you also help ensure that the media has accurate information. This Word document Guide contains a sample fact sheet that you can tailor for your community.