THE ROLE OF MEDIA.
Why should you use media in your campaign? An important question for groups to ask themselves before beginning a relationship with mainstream or alternative media outlets. The nedia is pervasive in modern life, where sounds and images via tv, radio, the internet, billboards, etc…bombard us everywhere we go.
But….attempting to use media in your campaign is like picking up a double edged sword. the media canmake or break a campaign andshould be approached with extreme caution and also with a clear and direct understanding or what you want to achieve form the relationship.
Think about what your group want ot achieve out of the media. Discuss this in your group and be very clear about your aims, which could be to….
Gain new members and participants for an action or for a specific event.
- Apply critical pressure on a specific issue through showing widespread opposition.
- Make more visible an issue or way of working that you criticise
- Send messages to those you are campaigning against.
Spend time as a group working out your ‘key messages’. Define them as carefully and concisely as possible. Write them down and make sure everyone in your group agrees with what you are setting out to achieve. Remember these are your public messages, so be as clear and direct and put them in a language everyone can understand. Think about how your target groups might receive these key messages, could your messages be made more attractive without losing power in their focus. Defining and agreeing on your message is useful because it can enable and empower more people in your group to communicate with the media. It eill make your communication more consistent, reinforce your position, and keep you focused.
TYPES OF COMMUNICATION.
There are many ways of communicating and engaging with the media. The imporatant thing to always remember is that in order to approach the media you must think like the media you are trying to reach. Ask yourself…What is newsworthy? What is interesting for others to read? What is currently in the news? But never lose focus on your intended message.
A good press relaes wil get picked up, see if there is anything currently in the news that relates to your cause or your campaign actions. For example if the government or a ‘Brand’ celebrity has made a statement about your general field, write a small press release the same day in response. You cans also use this opportunityto flag an event or action you have planned or a particular campaign strand you are currently working on. This might ramge from a petition to a local action. Be snappy, topical, clever and direct. Does your group have a recognised ‘media’ person within their ranks. If so this person should strive to have direct contact with the local newspapers either via e-mail, phone or whatever chosen contact the media specify suits them. Assign this role to a member of your group. This member must be proactive in collecting all contact details of local media platforms and also be responsible for desemminating the information once it has been ratified by the group. Quote facts and background and always be clear how you have come to the final message in your release.
Always make sure you have an identifiable cantact point for media. Get that group member contact details for the local media outlets. Always make sure they are well briefed and constantly watching the media coverage for any developments in your field so that you respond adequately to all new information. You must at all times keep your media person connected to all your movements while at the same time ensuring that they are safe from any frontline action.
Building good relationships with individuals journalists is possible. Always remember to provide good quality, fact based content, accurate information is a must. Make sure that what you say is what is taken down and that you are not misrepresented or misquoted.
If your group is high profile make sure that your releases are sent to all national press agencies. Sometimes the content of your release may not be used straight away but will surface when a similar story appears on the news. Call the agencies you have sent out your release to or better stil e-mail, to make sure they recieved it. Aks if they are going to use it. Make sure they know who you are and what you represent andalways offer to keep the information regular and current.
One good way of communicating your message to the general public is to have one or two people in your group but the local paper regularily and have them write letters about content in the newspapers which relates to their field. You can get a lot of letters published in this way and connect with other groups to do the same locally in their areas. Such visabilty helps make your campaign seem bigger, stronger and more engaged than it actually may be. Don’t always have the same people write the same letters, after a while the editors will notice!!
Your website is an important tool for communicating your messages, media persons may look to it for background information, male sure it is always updated. Consider creating a ‘media centre’ if it has the option to do so, for any press releases and any related media such as pictures, feedback, and good solid information including what is happening in other areas that is similar to your action plan. Enhance your community via your website and include direct links for all similar groups so that in a web search, those in other areas can find groups of similar standing in their areas. Always remember that anything put on the website is not retractable!! And always make sure that you are prepared for what you put out there to be reused by similar groups and also by those you are targeting, another possible double edged sword that needs careful consideration. Your website should have all direct contact details on it and if viable a 24 hour helpline number. A blog is also a way of spreading information and every member of the group can have their own blog to increase interest and scope on the web. Always make sure the information is consistent if you are going to adopt this approach. Don’t write things that you do not want the media to adopt or print.
WRITING FOR AND ENGAGING WITH ALTERNATIVE MEDIA.
Alternative media can also be an ally to your cause in gaining support. It may not be read by as big an audience but sites in the global indymedia network can help you communicate in a more open and direct way with a generally sympathetic audience. This is less likely to apply critical pressure or make your cause mainstream but it may howaever gain momentum and attact a few new activists for your cause. Be careful with this one as police and some other companies are monitoring this way of communicating constantly. Alternative media can also provide a space for disparate campaigns to identify with each other and work together to explore new ideas and old and see what works and what doesn’t based on a collective experience.
PLANNING A MEDIA CAMPAIGN.
So, here we have some practical ideas of practical methods of communicating your message but to get the most out of you effort you must invest some time planning a ‘media campaign’ This means figuring out how to communicate both effectively and strategically and must always be done with he consent and ratification of all members of your group. To get the most out of your media campaign though you must follow every interaction with a direct action within your community and realise that your media campaign is only a part of your overall strategy.
Try to buil;d effective and productive relationships with your local media. Always release to agencies nationally as well as locally as you never know when your message may become relevant in current climate. Always have a designated member on hand to deal with all media related interactions. Kepp press releases short and sweet. Stay focused. Go for local angles. Always stay connected to other campaigners, share knowledge, and always keep yourself trained and on point around what is current when planning your next move.