Attached is a media list of Austin. Update this every year, to find out the new contacts. Try to keep profiles of your media contacts- whether they are sympathetic or hostile, what their deadlines are, what pieces they did in the past. If you are occupying the tower, you don't want to waste a valuable phone call on some schmuck that doesn't know you.
Your goal is to be a media contact on your "issue." You can do this by letting the media know you exist and cultivating sources. For example, members of the UT Radical Action Network often get calls related to nearly anything "progressive" on campus. This can be annoying, and sometimes humorous, but it's what we want. Make a name for yourself.
Start by sending letters to your media contacts, introducing yourself and your group. Include your group's factsheet and letterhead.
Reporters work against deadline. If you call reporters when they are rushing to meet a deadline, they will not like you. You're story won't get in (it just can't).
The best time to call morning papers is between 9:30 and 10 am. Don't call broadcast stations after 2:00 pm if you expect to be on the 5:00 news.
At the same time, remember to return calls promptly. Not doing so can lose a good contact.
Reporters need an "angle" for a story. An angle is something new, something different, something interesting. If your group has an on-going campaign, an angle could be a recent victory or new development.
So, what makes something news?
Pick someone who fits your audience or target population.
Pick someone with experience, someone articulate
Train people if necessary
Speaking with Reporters
1. Never, ever speak off the record. This is a complicated issue, but there
is ultimately no such thing. Realize that everything you say could be used to
represent your organization. Don't joke around about how it would be funny to
blow up corporate establishments on campus.
2. Think of a couple of good points to make. Reporters usually start
interviews with, "Why are you out here today?" Think about how you would answer
that question. Try to make your point in two or three sentences (it's best not
to memorize). They will follow up with more questions about what you just said.
If they do this, be prepared to expand on your points.
3. Don't get bullied into giving simple, one word responses. Explain your
issue how you feel is adequate. It helps to write out responses to possible
questions before an interview.
4. Keep it short and simple. If the reporter asks stupid questions, keep
repeating what you think is the important information. Say, "I don't think
that's the issue. Here's what I think is important about our event."
5. Don't be rude or sarcastic.
6. Remember who the common viewer is. Make your point in a way that they find
familiar. Even if they aren't likely to agree, make your point in a way they can
7. If during the interview you stumble or mess up, ask to start over. They
will usually go along to get a good sound bite.
A news release is a short announcement of a newsworthy occurrence. News directors literally receive hundreds each day. If yours isn't concise and professional, it won't be read.
Writing a News Release
Write a concise, catchy headline that summarizes the story. It should be
written in the style of newspaper headline, using active verbs.
Use the "inverted pyramid." This means putting the most important facts in the first paragraph, and supporting information in descending order, so that the least important information is last.
The first paragraph should answer the five W's: who, what, when, where,
Underline or bold the text that gives the location, time and date of the
The time you tell the media should be the time you want them to show up.
If the demo is at noon, tell them a little later so they don't show up to
activists dawdling around and making signs.
Never editorialize. Use quotations for opinions (quotes should be from
individuals, not the whole group).
The final paragraph should describe your group, and possibly give a
Proofread! Eliminate redundancies, use short words and phrases. Simplify complex ideas.
Remember: It's virtually impossible to correct a release once it goes
Formatting a News Release
1. Use 8.5 x 11 inch regular white paper
Who to Send Them To:
Send the release to all TV, radio, daily papers, wire services, minority papers and alternative media outlets. See the attached list of Austin media. Update this list each year. If you do not have a media list, go to the library and ask for the Gale Directory of Broadcast Media and Outlets and make a list from this.
When to Send Out a Release:
What do you want to accomplish? Do you want coverage before the event, or do you want media to attend as it takes place? Film screenings, meetings and fundraisers generally fall in the "before category." Mail these releases ASAP. The more notice you give the media, the better your chances of getting covered.
If you are having a demo be sure to fax, email or hand deliver news releases the day before. Try to get a copy to a reporter and an editor.
The morning of the event:
1. Call all media outlets that you sent out releases to and remind them of
During the event:
When media arrive:
1. Introduce yourself as the media spokesperson
After the event:
1. After the demo, assign volunteers to get the coverage.
Making a Media Kit
A media kit is a packet of info. to give reporters who come to your demonstration, event or news conference. Journalists are often pressed for time (and sometimes lazy) and it helps to have all your info. in one place, so they can reference it when writing. It also makes you look more professional. Media kits often include:
A news release
Black and white photographs (if you have them). Attach a sticky to the
back that has what the photo is of, where it is, when it was taken, and who
Background/history on the issue.
Copies of relevant documents (including fliers, leaflets)
Biographies of key individuals and a "mug shot" photo with an identifying
label on back. Don't laugh: they sometimes use these, and it helps people see
that you don't look like the Unabomber (or if you do look like him, then,
well, ha ha).
Background on the organization.
Put this all in a two-pocket folder. Put a label on the front with the group's name (and logo).
Working with Wire Services
Wire services are news-gathering agencies that sell stories to papers and radio stations (Press, Reuters). If a story gets on the wire, it goes out to all subscribing papers. This is very important, because many newspapers decide what is "newsworthy" based upon what is on the wire.
Find the number for the local AP bureau, and send the bureau manager a letter describing your group. Supply the names, addresses and telephone numbers of contact people. Offer to supply information or the local angle on whatever you campaign for.
Always give two news releases to the wire services: one for the "daybook" and one for the editor. The daybook is a listing of scheduled events for the day. Assignments editors use this to decide how to assign reporters and camera crew. Send a release to the daybook about a week before.
You may be able to get a photo on the wire. If you had a large demo, take your roll of undeveloped black and white film to the bureau and offer it to them with a news release.
Doing Radio and Television Interviews
Call the station to learn who the assignments editor is. Find out her name and the best time to call. Send a release a few days before the event. If you call to remind them, be polite and don't call late in the afternoon. You'll get coverage if the event involves conflict or visual imagery.
Offer to be the guest on talk shows. You can reach tons of people this way.
KVRX (student radio at UT) is required to broadcast a designated amount of
"community programming." These are talk shows on a variety of issues. Look up
the broadcast schedule, and give some of the deejays a call about their show.
For student activists, this is a NECESSITY. People listen to KVRX, especially
people in the dorms.
If you are bringing a guest speaker or "expert" to campus, call radio and TV stations and offer interviews. Contact the stations several weeks in advance. Give a bio of their credentials, and list what they'd like to discuss. Give a list of people for "the other side" that they would be willing to debate.
Once you get booked on a show, listen and watch to prepare. Do the
Study the issue.
Practice being interviewed. Tape yourself.
Anticipate difficult questions and plan your answers.
Memorize good anecdotes and facts.
Have a friend ask hostile, aggressive questions to prepare you.
Decide on five main points you want to make. Memorize a fact or an example
for each one.
Try to make these five points even if you aren't asked the right
questions. Don't feel limited to answering the question they ask. Practice
saying, "the real question here is…" and "that relates to a larger issues,
If you're doing a TV show, dress carefully. No black, white or bright red.
Wear plain solids: blue and green photograph well. Don't fidget or touch your
Make your point in 20 seconds or less. TV news shows look for sound bites-
statements that can plug into a 60-second story.
Speak slowly and carefully (without being too slow) and give yourself time
to think before you answer.
Don't say anything you wouldn't want edited out and aired separately.
Don't worry about repeating yourself, but don't ramble.
If the reporter is hostile, don't raise your voice or get flustered. Stay
calm, and concentrate on making your five points. The reporter isn't your
Talk directly to the INTERVIEWER not the audience or camera. If you steal
side glances at the camera, you'll look nervous or shifty.
Public Service Announcements
PSAs are 10- to-60-second notices that radio and TV stations are required to air (to balance advertisements, and present balanced coverage of issues). They are free to nonprofit and community groups. Campus radio and television stations are often thrilled to receive PSAs from campus groups.
The four standard lengths for PSAs are 10 seconds (25 to 30 words), 20 seconds (45-50 words), 30 seconds (60 to 75 words) and 60 seconds (120 to 150 words).
Here's an example:
Stations also air meeting announcements for a community calendar.
Send several copies of your PSA with a typed, double-spaced cover letter to the public service director of the station. Explain the purpose of your organization and your activities, and state why the station should use the PSA.
On the top left side, type the beginning date, the "kill date," and the length of the announcement in seconds and words.
Find out the deadline for PSA's- it may be two or three weeks in advance. Make a follow-up call to confirm they received it.
How to Get Free Press, by Toni Delacorte, Avon, New York,
Get to know your student media PERSONALLY. Go into the Daily Texan and
meet the editor. What would it take to get her support?
Ask for a regular column, or radio show, or TV show. Write regular letters
to the editor.
Find out who assigns the stories and talk to them.
Deliver press releases in person.
Special thanks to Ernest and Bob for media advice.
(SAMPLE NEWS RELEASE)
Dec. 15, 2000
UT OFFICIALS AGREE TO STUDENTS' DEMANDS:
AUSTIN- Student activists have successfully negotiated the release and
adoption of Stampy, a Beagle housed at the UT Animal Resources Center, and
forced a private corporation to end their contract with the University.
Cedra, an Austin corporation, has paid the UT center to house and kill 29
Beagles over 4 years for their organs. Cedra then made these organs into cell
cultures, and sold them for considerable profit. Stampy, the last of the
Beagles, was scheduled to die by the new year.
But because of the work of Students Against Cruelty to Animals, Cedra will
release Stampy at a loss of profit, and UT officials have agreed.
"This is a major victory for the animals and for UT students," said Will
Potter, a UT junior and SACA representative. "Not only have we saved Stampy's
life, but we showed the University that we will not accept killing in our name."
Members of SACA visited the Beagles regularly throughout the semester,
developing a personal relationship with the dogs.
Because of SACA's campaign, Student Government overwhelmingly passed a
resolution calling on UT administrators to save Stampy, and encourage
alternatives to animal research.
The UT Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee will vote this month on SACA's proposal to ban the use of dogs for all research purposes at the University.