When you’re working to change policy outcomes, media stories can make your message more powerful. Stories in newspapers, TV, radio, blogs and other earned media help you reach people outside your own network, engaging them with upcoming policy decisions. And when constituents start paying attention, elected leaders pay attention too.
Advocacy campaigns also create opportunities for media coverage that raises your profile in your community and leads to new connections. Here are some tips for getting good media coverage of your advocacy work.
Like so much of land trust work, media outreach is all about relationships. Get to know the journalists most likely to cover your issues and make sure they know what your land trust is working on. You can introduce yourselves by setting up a meeting for coffee or conversation — even when you don’t have an urgent issue to communicate.
To connect with journalists, follow their work. Read, watch, or listen to their stories, and interact. For example, you can circulate a worthwhile story on your social media, make comments on an online article or send an email thanking reporters for their coverage. If your land trust is on Twitter, be sure to follow journalists, retweet them when it makes sense and post tweets that can serve as news leads.
When you know what journalists are working on, you can send them relevant information — so you don’t get lost in their inbox. For priority journalists, make a short personal pitch for a story, instead of just including them on a press release.
Shape the story
There’s always more news out there than reporters can cover. With so much competition, how do you get a story in the media that will get people’s attention and influence decision-makers?
All politics is local — so tell a local story.
Most people don’t care about conservation policy in the abstract. But they do care how the policy will impact their community. Same goes for journalists. They’re more likely to pick up a story if you give it a local angle. You could give local examples, provide facts specific to your area, set up interviews with local people or hold a press event involving community leaders. Ultimately, elected officials focus on how policies impact their constituents — so local stories work best to get their attention.
Make yourself useful.
How can you help the reporter tell a great story? When you help set up interviews or provide resources like fact sheets, photos and maps, it leads to a better story and a stronger relationship with the reporter. The media may also draw from your website and social media — including direct quotes — so post with this in mind.
Use your own voice.
Supplement news stories by contributing content like guest columns or letters to the editor. That way, you get your issue in the public eye and you get to craft the message. Letters to the editor can be a particularly meaningful way to say thank you to an elected official who supports your cause, giving him or her credit in a public forum.
Be the circulation department.
Once a story is published, there’s a lot you can do to get it seen — like sharing it on social media, posting it to your website or linking to it from an email newsletters. Many Americans now get their news, in part, through social media — and journalists appreciate the extra exposure. You can call elected officials’ attention to the story by sending them the article, along with a note.