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Media: Preparing a Winning Strategy - Using your media contact book

The help sheet Creating your media contact book, aimed to get your community group to develop its own media contact book to help improve its relations with the media.

Working with the media is an important aspect of your group's activities and should be factored into most things you do. It should also be the result of planning – like developing a contact book - and not something that is just done at the last minute.

The benefit of a good media contact book is that it leads to good media relations and that in turn leads to a stronger media profile.  Having your group in the media spotlight as a "leader", "innovator" or "doer" in your field, has benefits that should not be under-estimated.

You've got your book – Now use it!

Steps to effectively use your contact book

Now that you've made the effort to develop media contacts you have to stay in touch with them. If you don't, all the work you've put in to developing your contact book will be for nought.
  • Regularly contact those on your list and built up a relationship.
    • Using a contact book is about creating relationships and building on them over time by staying in touch with the contacts you make.
    • A quick phone call to update them on something it is worth the effort. Don't just contact them when your group wants something.
  • Collect ideas for those who ask "What's happening?"
    • Keep a list of story ideas or interesting happenings in and around your organisation. It might be a great example of your work, some research results, milestones etc. If someone asks, you have options for them to choose from.
  • Build credibility.
    • The difference between getting a one-off run and being a person the media turns to constantly is credibility.
    • It takes time, but it can be built by being seen as a trusted source with good ideas and someone who is honest in your dealings.
  • Contribute meaningful news tips.
    • Media outlets love getting news tips from contacts, especially those who ring in with a story that is unrelated to their own group or cause.
    • This type of attitude builds up "credit points" for the next time your group gets in touch to ask for something that IS related to you.
  • Invite media to visit your organisation.
    • You may not always see you have a story but sometimes by inviting media people to look through your organisation or watch your group in action, they see a story you don't. Also helps to build stronger relationships between the media and the key players in your group.
  • Be persistent but don't pester.
    • If someone doesn't want to do a story on your suggested angle, ask if you can call back with other story ideas at another time. Remember: not every approach will end in success.
  • Don't rub your contacts the wrong way.
    • Media outlets are always on the lookout for a good story but sometimes they are prepared to sacrifice one if it means not having to deal with someone who is rubs them the wrong way.
    • A group that is aggressive, rude or doesn't 'take-no-for-an-answer' will quickly lose many of its media contacts.
    • Don't try threatening media to get your story covered.  If they're not interested, by all means contact other media organisations, but don't play games.

Studying the media

Learning more about when and how to best use your contact book

If you want to start working with the media to publicise your group's activities, attitudes, fundraisers, membership drives and campaigns it's a good idea to become an avid studier of media.

Working with the media to get your messages out to the public is a learning process. The media can often be a strange beast and to assist your learning process you need to study its behaviour.

Work out why, for example, another group got a story run, when it was similar (or inferior) to one you offered up the previous week but it didn't get a run?

Maybe it was:
  • Your approach – were you too pushy or not assertive enough to "sell your story."
  • If this is the case, revisit your technique and refine it.
  • Content – maybe your story was simply not interesting enough, or not able to offer as strong a photo opportunity as the other one.
  • Next time it might be smart to think about some sort of photo opportunity. Remember – "pictures say 1000 words".
  • Timing – Maybe your story was dropped because of a big headline grabber the previous week – a natural disaster or scandal, for example.
This sort of analysis can be made easier by having a good media contact list and through it, maintaining relationships across all sections and levels of a media outlet.

It is also good to have a relationship where someone "in the know" will freely offer their advice as to whether they think your idea is good or bad, or how you could make it more it more attractive in order to gain media coverage.

A good media contact list, that is frequently used, means that you rarely have a problem getting someone to take your phone call and hear you out.

The information contained on this site is subject to change. Our Community will not be liable for any loss or damage whatsoever coming from reliance placed on all or part of its contents.

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