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

It is important to take care of the details. Send invitations one to two weeks beforehand. Be brief and stir interest by detailing the reasons for the conference and why it should be attended. Send the invitees simple news kits containing a basic press release that summarizes the subject and participants of the conference, an agenda, any photographs related to the subject, and a data sheet if the subject is scientific or complicated. The news kit should identify a contact person reporters can follow up with. Have extra news kits on hand at the conference. Remind invitees about the conference by telephone one to two days before the event.

If possible, hold your news conference at a location with good photo opportunities. Make sure adequate parking is available. Have someone greet each member of the media, record their names and the media outlet they represent, and provide them with name tags.

Photographs and Opportunities

A good photograph or photo opportunity helps your communication efforts and heightens the impact of your story. It provides an important image of your organization or issue. Don’t rely on the newspaper for a photographer—if there is a strong visual component in your event, arrange for someone to capture it with a camera. You will have more success being assigned a photographer from the newspaper if you request one at least two weeks before the event. Work with the person taking the pictures; you know best who and what should be considered.

If you provide photographs to media outlets, they must be in focus and captioned. A caption should be brief and simple and identify the people and activity. The full name and title of people being identified should be provided from left to right. When taking photographs try to avoid the “grip and grin”—a pose where two people are shaking hands over an oversize check or some other object, often surrounded by dozens of unidentified people. Arrange for a scene where people are active or working. Take photographs close enough so that the frame is filled. Check to see if the media you’re working with have photo editors; if so, remember to send advisories and releases to them also.

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