Working effectively with the media is critical to most successful campaigns. Some general rules follow to help you work effectively with the media:
- Understanding media bias to create stories and hold events that are tailored to specific media interests. The media is always biased and most media outlets have a point of view that is necessary to gain the loyalty of their readers. That perspective skews how stories are written, edited and published.
- Follow up all stories and interviews. All media is under-funded and almost no media outlet has the time and resources to investigate all the news it needs or wants to cover. Reporters rely on trusted sources to give them stories and information. Even the best reporters sometimes get their facts wrong.
- Build personal relationships with as many media outlets as possible. Trust and relationships are crucial to working with the media. Give them reliable and good information, help them do their job and avoid limiting your relationships to those who share your views; people with different views can be helpful too.
- Provide clear simple information to minimise the risk of your message being diluted. Most media forms require simple, clear messages. In the process of translating what you provide, journalists often dilute your message as they are often unable to carry your message in its entirety.
- Tell stories. Be sure to translate your information into something that is understandable to the general public.
- Be prepared: Ensure that you have the connections and contacts to back up your story. For example, if you are campaigning around the right of girls to go to school, anticipate that the media will want to interview some families whose sons go to school, but whose daughters do not. Know how to contact such families. Know who would be willing to speak to the media and who would be able to tell a good personal story. Make sure the people you select are accessible to the media, so that you can respond quickly to an opportunity.
Source: CIVICUS (2011) Campaigning Toolkit for Civil Society Organisations Engaged in the Millennium Development Goals: Chapter 4, p.5-8.