Make a Difference
Activist Toolkit — Skills Building Tools
Building a Relationship with the Media
To reach out to the media, you’ll need to build a media list. Getting started requires a little legwork. Once you’ve done that, you’ll have a media list that will be an enduring and invaluable tool. Here’s how to build a list. If you want help getting started, contact Jen Aulwes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Gather names of a few key reporters, editors, producers and local bloggers who cover health care, aging and caregiving in your city. You can do that in several ways. You can scan back issues of newspapers and monitor radio and television broadcasts to see who covers which stories. Most newspapers post their archives on the web, and many broadcast outlets post a list of stories and who reported them each day. You can also call local outlets and speak to someone on the news desk. Tell them you’re going to be sending a news release on the need to better coordinate care for older patients with multiple health problems, and would like to know which reporter should get it.
- Create a media list of the names, phone numbers, fax numbers and email addresses of relevant journalists. Don’t forget to include producers of “talking head” or “town hall”-style programs; local bloggers; editors at senior, community and ethnic outlets; editors at the newsletters of potentially friendly religious and community-based organizations; and local bloggers.
- Store your list in a simple Excel spreadsheet or computer database. Your list should be easy to transfer to mailing labels either through photocopying or by printing computer labels.
Then, monitor the news and begin reaching out with useful information and comment. If a reporter or producer does a story that you like, drop her/him an email commending the story and suggesting additional angles. If something is missing from a story, say so but in a way this is helpful and not hostile. Share fact sheets and other information that the journalist may find useful. If you submit an LTE about a story that reporter wrote, cc him or her when you submit it and include a note offering to meet to discuss the issue in person.
Once you have begun to establish a relationship, suggest a meeting over coffee. Come to that meeting with materials, and a few story ideas. Offer to connect the journalist to people with personal experience with a range of issues, who are willing to be interviewed.
Over time, track your contacts with reporters on your media list. If they cover your issues or related events, note that fact. Most computer databases allow you to include a field for such notes. Keep your list useful by updating contact information regularly. Especially in small- and mid-sized markets, you may find that your outreach pays off in more and better coverage very quickly.
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