Getting your group’s name, activities, actions and aims out to your members, supporters, volunteers, donors and stakeholders – as well as the wider community – means you need an effective media strategy.
Your media strategy should make sure the public think about your group or organisation whenever your issues come up. But to make that media strategy work, your community group or organisation needs a media team.
Having a well-oiled media team will not only improve your interaction with the media, but will effectively hone and focus the messages and themes your group presents through the media to your members, volunteers, donors, supporters, helpers and stakeholders.
A media team has three “legs”:
i. A media coordinator.
ii. A writer, and.
iii. A spokesperson.
Now while in the best case scenario, there might be two or three people filling these roles, the reality is in most community groups, one person will do all three (as well as a number of other roles).
No matter how your group or organisation decides to divide up the work, each of these roles is crucial in effective media management and you should be aware of some of the different requirements for each.
The Media Coordinator
The media coordinator would organise and oversee a lot of the media work your group does.
Generally speaking they should be well organised, personable, have an ability to articulate the issues quickly and succinctly, and be willing to spend a good portion of time on the phone.
The media co-ordinator’s roles include:
i. Making sure your group or organisation’s press releases go out on time.
ii. Keeping the organisation’s media lists updated.
…For more information on contact lists or books, refer to the help sheet Creating Your Media Contact Book available at the Media & Marketing Centre of the Our Community website.
iii. Cultivating and maintaining relationships with media personnel at all levels.
iv. Working actively as a “media liaison” behind the scenes during special events or news conferences.
…They should ensure any information the media needs is supplied, any interview requests are catered for and any photo opportunities are planned and ready to go.
v. Working up story ideas that might appeal to different media organisations and proactively suggesting story ideas even when you don’t have a major event going on.
vi. Working within your group to develop ideas, but also to educate group members, volunteers and the board about finding and passing on information that could be the basis of a good news story for your group.
While your group’s spokesman must be someone who is articulate and well-spoken, they should be more than that.
They need to also be:
* A good listener with on-camera or photographic presence.
* Well-informed about your group’s issues, activities, events or aims.
* Able to think quickly on their feet.
* Credible and able to develop a good rapport with those in the media.
* Of good judgement, and able to exercise restraint when needed.
* Intuitive enough to know when a reporter has an axe to grind with them, and.
* Adept enough to know how to counteract that without looking defensive or ill-at-ease.
If you want to learn to be a good spokesperson, spend time listening to others who are good at the job. Also, research your issue until you know it inside and out and can hold your own in a conversation or debate.
Preparation is another important part of the spokesperson’s role in ensuring they present the organisation or the issue in the most advantageous light and cater to the reporter’s need for an interesting, entertaining interview.
Package your answers
Practice and perfect a sound bite or brief analysis and deliver it in an authoritative, entertaining way.
For more information on sound bites, refer to the help sheet Creating a Tasty Sound Bite at the Media & Marketing Centre at the Our Community website.
Know your interviewers
* Know who your interviewer is, who they work for and where they and their employer stand on certain issues.
* Do they have a reputation for honest reporting? Are they sympathetic to your issue or hostile to it. Are they fair, or are they overly aggressive? Are they looking for a hard news story or a human interest story?
Stay on message
* Develop and practice your ability to bring questions back to your central messages.
* If an interview doesn’t go well, review it and see what you can improve for next time.
* Alternatively, if you have an interview that went especially well, examine the reasons why and note them for future use.
The final part of your media team is the writer, who creates the “under-pinning” for all your media events.
The writer will:
a. Work to ensure consistent messages and themes come from your group across all media, as well as through speeches, presentations, etc.
b. Create good lines so your spokesperson can “stay on message”
c. Realise the strong lines your spokesperson has delivered and continue to use them so they become an integral part of your organisation’s message.
Even if you’ve got a good writer, have a good editor handy to “tighten up” your news releases
There should not be a single communications that goes out from your organisation that hasn’t been read by somebody else.
Finally, and importantly, your group’s policy should provide the framework for your writer’s efforts, not the other way around
The job of the writer is to communicate the messages decided on by your group. Everything your writer writes needs to accurately reflect the position of your organisation.