How to work with reporters

10 Tips for Speaking with Reporters

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In the advocacy space, there are many opportunities to chat with the local, state and national media about your movement, topic or subject area you know about. Having news articles, television interviews, and other media opportunities is a great way to broadcast your message and broaden your scope of interested people.  

Just as exciting of a chance it is to interview with local reporters, it’s important to remember things to keep you on track to get across your messaging. Here are 10 tips and tricks to remember when speaking with members of the media when getting interviewed.  

1. Focus on key messaging   

The created messages are a great place to start to think about what you want to say. Having some key phrases and talking points is always a good idea when preparing for an interview.  

2. Keep it brief and to the point.   

Sign-post: signal to your audience what is important.   

Bridge message: if you get lost, return to your messaging.   

Preempt criticism: use words like “fair,” “truth,” “common sense.”  

3. If you don’t know, don’t make it up.   

It is essential to be honest, and truthful about what you say. You may be representing a school district or local organization and want to be sure you are as accurate as possible.  

4. Don’t repeat the opposition’s points.  

Repeating the opposition’s points will only reinforce the opposition’s messaging, and the purpose of the interview is about your cause, issue, or program you are promoting.   

5. Practice, practice, practice.  

Practice is a good tip for a successful interview. Practicing will help you remember key phrases or essential stats you’d like to bring up while being interviewed.   

6. If the conversation is not going in your favor, pivot back to the key messaging and/or key phrases.   

These are instances where the conversation is getting too negative or off-topic, be sure to remember your key messaging and divert back to that.   

7. Use medium language  

Choose words and language that will be easier to understand since your audience may be broad depending on the media type.  

8. Answer the question you were asked  

Pivoting is helpful in some cases, but it is crucial to do so when faced with a question that you can give an accurate response to.   

9. Don’t assume anything is “off the record.”  

The term “off the record” refers to saying something that will not be published and is supposed to be confidential. It should be agreed to ahead of time. But some reporters will publish things you say “off the record,” so it is best practice to assume that nothing is off the record, and all your responses may be used.   

10. Have fun and keep things positive  

The last tip is to keep things light and enjoy the interview process. Whether for your organization or representing a cause you are passionate about, it is a great experience to broadcast your message.   

How to Get Media Coverage for Advocacy

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Media coverage is an integral part of advocacy work. Since most of us are not journalists, pitching to the media and knowing what to say to reporters may feel challenging. Do I email or call them, what do I say, and how do I know if something is newsworthy?  

Here are some tips to get a journalist’s attention and reach a wider audience.  

Build relationships

Developing relationships with reporters are crucial to finding out who is responsible for reporting on the cause you are focused on in your area. Having that built-in relationship will only help your cause when trying to get your story picked up.     

  • Know who’s who – Monitor coverage of your issues and who is reporting regularly about it. Share their stories on social media. Make a list of reporters who cover their subject area.  
  • Be organized – Reporters will appreciate an organized contact person. Be available for phone calls and interviews. Have quotes, facts, and other hard data ready when they ask for it.
  • Follow up – Reporters receive hundreds of emails every week. Stand out from the crowd by following up. This will keep your story fresh in the reporter’s mind and simultaneously allow you to gauge the reporter’s level of interest.
  • Use Twitter – Twitter is a great way to see what a reporter is writing and covering recently. Follow them and begin with a general introduction so they are aware of who you are.

Use soundbites

Sound bites are super short statements that convey your message in a memorable way. Your group will benefit from them because they can serve as a perfect delivery vehicle for your messages.

  • Similes, metaphors, and analogies – Using phrases to relate them to something else is a great way to get your point across while using a relatable phrase to compare it to. For example: “Being president is like running a cemetery; you’ve got a lot of people under you, and nobody’s listening.”

Pitch your story

A “pitch” is a short message to entice a reporter or editor to cover your story. Below are elements your pitch should include.

  • Something unanticipated  
  • Make it relevant
  • Give details 
  • Use emotional appeal
  • Describe the visual

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