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

The print media consists of more than daily newspapers. It includes nondaily press, such as county, neighborhood, or ethnic papers; magazines and newsletters, such as those published by the borough and township organizations; and trade publications, such as the newsletter for the Pennsylvania Planning Association. Be sure to identify and use media opportunities both large and small. Local weekly newspapers are generally well-read in most areas.

Gaining the attention of one medium is an achievement, but your message will be more effective if carried by others, too. You can use orchestration—pitching a story effectively to a variety of media outlets—to increase the likelihood of your story being picked up by newspapers, television, and radio. When orchestrating information it is important to understand the deadlines of the different media you are using and to provide news advisories and releases (see examples below) so that each type of news organization has ample time to cover your story. To help increase coverage when pitching your story to television stations, always let them know that their competition and local newspapers are interested.

What Is Newsworthy?

  • New information that affects the public interest (new legislation, proposed tree removals).
  • Local leaders’ or officials’ involvement.
  • Material that deals with a current issue or offers distinct perspective or unique solution.
  • Events connected to nationally recognized days like Arbor Day or Earth Day.
  • Events with good photo opportunities, like volunteer work (tree planting other volunteer efforts).
  • Unique agreements between groups, including public-private or conflicting interest groups.
  • Situations and conflicts and methods of solution. People—and the media—are typically more interested in conflict than harmony.
  • Human interest.

Get To Know Editors and Reporters

  1. Visit with them face-to-face.
  2. Hand-deliver important stories.
  3. Provide tips, ideas, and stories that are of interest to specific editors and reporters.
  4. Provide detailed information, such as the people who are involved and affected, people who are willing to be interviewed, and residents who are willing to provide an opinion.
  5. Provide knowledgeable and reliable information.

Communications Tools

Public Relations or Communications Plan

It is important to think ahead and develop an annual communications plan based on the activities and issues that will be important in the next year, your personal relationships with editors and reporters, and your knowledge of the requirements and interests of the media you want to work with. Successful municipal commissions and volunteer organizations plan to place at least two positive pieces of publicity in the local media each year. The following steps are critical to producing an effective communications plan:

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