Working with the media
Reporters want newsworthy stories. Generally, this means that they are looking for controversy. Lobbyists and politicians on the other hand generally are trying to build consensus. Controversy and consensus work against one-another. The best way to manage the opposing forces is to build relationships with reporters and share with them the stories you can in plain terms. The benefit is hopefully that you can build support for your issues in a positive way and move your lobbying agenda forward.
Identifying Media Contacts:
You need to find the right reporters for the right stories. Contact different media outlets that you think would be useful and find out who the best reporter is for your issue. Unfortunately, there is a lot of turnover in the media so you need to keep you contacts updated every few months. Make sure that you are aware of deadlines and the reporter's preferred method for receiving information. For example, a reporter may prefer a fax to an email. You have to ask.
Building Relationships with Reporters:
Keep people in the media on your good side. They have the power to set lobbying and advocacy campaigns back months. Get to you the people who report on your issues. Meet with them, plan site visits for them, etc. If possible, always do interviews face-to-face and know the angle the reporter is taking with respect to the story he or she is writing. You can and should ask. Everything you say to a reporter is on-the-record. You must be honest and you must know what you are talking about. You can and should tell a reported that you need to track down an answer rather than shoot from the hip. Keep the story simple and always thank the reporter for their time.
Traditional Communication Vehicles:
Information packets and fact sheets
Individual briefings with reporters or editors
Op-ed articles and letters to the editor
Radio and television appearances
Press releases are factual statements. They need to clearly state who, what, where, when, and why accurately, professionally and succinctly.
Op-ed articles and letters to the editor are statements of your point of view on a topic. Op-eds get placed opposite the editorial page and are move visible, but both are useful tools. They are persuasive writings. You want the reader to agree with you. Op-eds combine a newsworthy event topic with your opinion about it. Write the piece in simple, interesting terms and support your opinion with specifics.Letters to the editor are direct responses to news or events. They must be written within a day of the news or event. They should be written in the same way as an op-ed.
Preparing for an Interview or Media Appearance
A reporter will call you and ask for an interview about a topic. You should respond as soon as you can or risk that they will contact someone else. Check the reporter's deadline and try to meet face-to-face. Be friendly. Make sure you have good simple talking points and be relaxed. Remember that you are speaking to the public and if you don't know the answer it is acceptable to say so.