Working with the Media: A Guide for Volunteer Organizations and Commissions

Don’t be afraid to be forceful, clever, or use humor in your writing. Imagine you are writing an important letter to a friend. Be conversational. If you are working hard on an op-ed piece for a paper but don’t know the editor in charge of the editorial page, you’re not working hard enough. Contact, discuss, and cultivate you ideas with editors and work with them on drafts of the piece if they prefer.

Television and Radio

Television and radio reach more people than the print media, and also can be used to provide a visual and audio impression of your issue or project. Contact television and radio stations for events by using a news release or media advisory and follow-up phone calls, as you would for newspapers. Also, it is important to get to know the local news directors, reporters, and people responsible for public affairs coverage and public service announcements. Use the community calendar available on most cable television systems to announce meetings and events.

When working with television, choose either action-oriented, visually engaging events or a human interest story. If your organization’s work has provided significant benefits (such as increased public safety, increased beauty, volunteer and educational opportunities, increased quality of life, or increased tourism and visitation), a feature story could highlight these and your organization.

Radio stations are often looking for material and news. They can be used to announce upcoming events and meetings and to engage in conversation and debate. When working with radio stations, offer engaging speakers and topics. When using radio to announce upcoming stories and events, use four-sentence introductions placed on separate sheets for each event. These sheets are called “reader sheets.”

Preparing for News Interviews

Find out how long the interview is expected to last. You can assume that the interview will be taped and edited, but ask to make sure. Occasionally reporters will line you up for a live interview.

Research your topic. Find out if there have been other stories on this issue and be aware of what was printed and who was quoted. Understand that the television and radio reporters are looking for a 10- to 20-second sound bite, so have one or two ready, but don’t expect to read them from a script.

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