Media - Making Contact - Pinpoint the Right Person in the Media Organisation

When your community group or organisation has got something to shout to the media about, it is important they pinpoint the right people in the media to shout it to!

Hitting the target when trying to spread your message through the media is a vital component of successfully gaining newspaper, radio or television coverage for your group.

Working with the media can sometimes be a daunting or confusing experience for community groups. But building strong contacts in media organisations (refer to the help sheet Creating Your Media Contact Book) and knowing the right people to pinpoint in the media can go a long way towards making this task a little easier.

Pinpointing the Right Journalist or Right Section

Generally speaking, when your group is trying to pinpoint the right part of the media to target with your news, it is important you realise that:
  • Often – especially in metropolitan newspapers and major media organisations - different journalists cover different categories or types of news (known as "news rounds"), and.
  • There are many different sections and supplements in the newspaper, or different shows on talkback radio, each with a different focus on the news of the day or week.
Because of this, effectively getting your messages in the media means aiming for the right journalist or the right section/show.

Unfortunately a fax or email or phone call to the main contact at a newspaper may never get to the right person – or the reporter or section who is most likely to be interested in what you have to say.

Journalists and News Rounds

In many media organisations, coverage of the news is often split among journalists along the lines of the subjects or sources of the stories – known in the industry as "news rounds".

Some examples of these rounds are:
  • Politics
  • Health and Medicine
  • Social or Community Affairs
  • Science
  • Food and wine
  • Education
  • Travel
  • The Arts (theatre, music, visual arts)
  • Entertainment (TV, film, popular culture)
  • Police
  • Sport
  • Transport
  • Features
  • Environment
  • Gardening
  • Local Councils or Local Government (particularly in suburban newspapers)
Journalists guard and nurture their particular news rounds – and the contacts and stories that go along with them – with real intensity. This means they are keen not only to make the most of their existing contacts, but to propagate new ones.

Being aware of which round (or rounds) your group or its story falls under can help you better target a specific journalist – and increase your chances of getting media coverage.

For example:
  • If your community group is involved in an issue linked to children's health and welfare, then you should pinpoint the journalist/s covering community affairs, children's affairs or health.
  • If your organisation is working on a revegetation or major clean-up project, you should pinpoint the reporter covering the environment round.

News Sections/Shows

Another way the media and journalists use to divide up their news coverage is have different sections or shows divided by subject.

The most basic (and obvious) examples of this sort of division can be found in newspapers. Look through almost any newspaper and you will find sections like:
  • Early General News (or EGN, the "big stories" near the front of the paper).
  • Opinion/Letters to the Editor/Columns/Editorial
  • Sport (almost always up the back of the newspaper)
  • Entertainment (like TV guides and entertainment lift outs)
  • Finance
  • Education
Similar divisions and sections can be found in radio talkback shows – through studio guests or interviews – or in television news coverage; the most basic being "news, sport, weather".

The key differences between these types of divisions and those produced through news rounds can be:
  • Each news round does not necessarily have its own distinct section in the media – so, the stories written by the journalist covering the local government round or the environment round will most likely appear in the EGN section of the newspaper or among the top stories on radio and TV news.
  • Sections of newspaper, television or radio news coverage can have more than one journalist contributing stories towards them – for example, most major daily newspapers have a number of sports journalists.
On television, there will be a number of different shows that operate as separate entities. So rather than aiming at the news, your story may be better directed at a morning chat show or Bert Newton's Good Morning Australia or the travel show.

For your group or organisation, these sorts of divisions allow you to pinpoint certain sections of the newspaper when you contact them – "Can I speak to a sports reporter please," – rather than pinpointing an individual journalist.

Or sending a fax addressed to the Arts Reporters rather than as a general release that will be of little interest to the general news section.

A Note on Suburban Newspapers and Media

While the rules of "news rounds" and multiple journalists working on one section apply to most major media outlets, it is important for your community group to be aware that suburban newspapers and media are different.

Due to their smaller size, suburban and local media rarely have journalists solely dedicated to specific news rounds. These journalists are jacks and jills-of-all-trades, capable of compiling stories covering a wide range of topics.

In fact suburban newspapers can often have the same journalist covering local government, police, environment and politics rounds, as well as writing other EGN, arts and sport stories.

And while these media outlets still feature different news sections, there is very rarely, for example, a separate reporter for the arts section or the sports section – they are often the same journalist as the one writing the front page story or putting together the lead news item.

In fact, often the only real "round" a suburban journalist has is to cover any news that happens in a certain geographic or local government area!

When approaching your local media outlet, the best approach to pinpoint the right person is still pretty simple:
  • Ring the media outlet in question and quickly explain to whoever picks up the phone – usually the receptionist – who you are, who your group is and what you are ringing about.
    • This is where a modified "lift speech" can work wonders. For more information, refer to the Developing a Lift Speech help sheet.
  • Once they know this basic information, they should be able to pass you on to the right person to talk to – be it a journalist, editor or otherwise – about your story.
Keep in mind that once you know someone in a media organisation, it is often better starting with them and asking if they could refer you to the person they think is most likely to be interested in your story.

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