Involving the media is a great way to get your message out, reach concerned community members not yet involved, and influence key policy makers. The following suggestions will help you in dealing with reporters and others in the media.
Know Your Media Outlet Most traditional news media—newspaper, radio, and television—are geographically oriented.
Some are strictly local and are only interested in a particular town or area. Other media outlets are statewide, national, or international in scope. Know who you are talking to and focus your discussion accordingly. For example, an excellent way to get a national story (like one on federal abstinence-only-until-marriage funding) into a regional or local paper is to pitch a story on how the federal policy impacts your local community.
Read your local news regularly.
Take note of any reporters that tend to write about sexual health education.
Create a Media List and Update it Regularly Research and create a list of reporters in your area who cover local school board or health issues and how to contact them. Search online for listings of newspaper, radio, and television media outlets. Contact the assignment desk and ask which reporter covers schools or health issues. You can also contact organizations that you know support sexuality education. They may have media lists that they will share with you. Remember to update your list regularly as you learn information about what types of stories each reporter likes and how they prefer to be contacted.
Don’t underestimate simple outlets: podcasts, blogs, newsletters, community bulletins, flyers, etc. are also great ways of getting your message out.
Because reporters often write for multiple outlets, Twitter and Facebook are great tools to follow and keep in touch with reporters who write about sexuality education issues.
When a reporter writes a good story on your issue, let them know you appreciate the coverage by sharing the story on social media and send a thank you e-mail.
Give Them the Facts Facts speak for themselves. Always be prepared with three or four basic messages to support why young people need comprehensive sexuality education. Back up the messages with facts. For example, if your state participates in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you might want to tell a reporter what percentage of high school seniors in your state have already had sexual intercourse. Or, check your health department’s statistics on how many young people have sexually transmitted diseases.
Have current information and statistics at your fingertips.
NEVER LIE TO REPORTERS–You will get caught.
Maintain the High Ground Reporters need stories and are particularly interested in those that involve controversy and debate. They will always try to pit one side against the other, especially regarding sensitive social issues. Do not feel intimidated. Stick to your main messages and back them up with the facts. Never criticize the media or the groups on the other side of your issue.
Ask who else has been interviewed for a story; it will give you a good idea of who else is involved in your issue and what angle the reporter is taking.
Provide Local Stories Many reporters also seek out stories from a human interest perspective. It is important to have local stories to feed reporters.
If you’re telling the story of a local individual or agency, be sure to get their permission in advance or offer to change names to protect their privacy should they wish.
Write a Press Release A press release is a tool used to alert the media. You can use a press release to state a position, launch a campaign, or respond to recent political decisions or new body of research. Send the press release out to everyone on your press list.
“Pithy” quotes—ones that are substantive, but also cleverly or memorably phrased—often get the most attention. Spend time thinking about and crafting your quotations. The better they are the more likely they will appear verbatim in the story.
Always copy and paste your press release into the body of an e-mail when you send it in addition to sending it as a PDF attachment.
See Tips and Sample Press Release for more information.
Write a Press Advisory A press advisory is a specific kind of press release that announces an event (such as a community forum on sexuality education). These should place the emphasis on the time and location of the event.
Send advisories 2 or 3 days before the scheduled date.
Do not put quotations or extensive details in a press advisory announcing an event because it will deter reports from attending. Include just enough detail to “hook” them.
Keep in Touch It helps to develop personal relationships with reporters and keeping in touch is an important part of this. Contact a reporter to remind them of a press event, send an e-mail to reporters who didn’t attend telling them how successful it was, or thank a reporter for writing a good or balanced story on your issues.
The best time to contact a reporter is between 10am and 3pm—before they begin to push up against the day’s deadline, but after the first cup of coffee.
In general, reporters greatly prefer e-mail to phone calls. Call them only as a last resort.
In the subject lines of your e-mails to reporters, do not put phrases like “Thought you would think this is interesting” or “Great Story!” Reporters will not read these e-mails. Instead, put a short fact-filled phrase in the subject line that will let the reporter know exactly what the e-mail contains (e.g. Dallas School Board Approves Sex Ed Budget).
Social media helps amplify advocacy efforts by reaching more people, in more places, faster than ever before. To use social media effectively, you should have a clear plan in mind of who your audience is, which social media platforms are most suited to that audience, and what results you hope to gain from your efforts.
Platforms Whether you want contribute to the conversation, fundraise, or bring people together to make change, some of the most-used digital advocacy tools include Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and blogs. There are literally hundreds of social media applications, but to get started, spend your time and resources where your supporters are most likely to be.
Be Social Resist the urge to solely promote your cause. Instead, use social media to do just that — be social! Listen and monitor the activity of other users, allies, partners, and more just as you would do if you were walking into a room and speaking to people in person. Once you have a good sense of the ongoing conversation or interaction, begin to engage. Support and share their work, tag them in your posts and photos, provide feedback, join Twitter chats, like their photos, follow them on Twitter, and more. Likewise, as you begin to interact with others, develop a tone of voice that is authentically your own – avoid coming across as promotional, corporate, or bureaucratic.
Share your point of view in a way that is open, positive, and enthusiastic.
Be sure to credit others when repeating information.
Be Visual and Get Creative Social media posts that include images, graphics and/or video, rather than plain text, tend to get a higher numbers of shares and likes. So get creative and consider what content may be most engaging for your audience.
Hashtags Hashtags (marked with the # symbol) spread information while helping to organize it. The hashtag is a favorite tool of conferences and event organizers, but it's also a way for Twitter and Facebook users to organize themselves: If everyone agrees to use a certain hashtag to tweet about a topic, it becomes easier to find, and more likely for others to discover the conversation. You can track hashtags using various programs, such as Tag Sleuth (tracks hashtags across platforms), Tweet Archivist (Twitter-specific), and Topsy (free).
Commonly used hashtags for sexual health and education include:
Sex education: #SexEd #RealSexEd #SexEducation
Supporting pregnant and parenting teens: #NoTeenShame #J4YF
Analytics Keep in mind that like all technology, social media is constantly changing and growing, and you will need to keep evaluating your social media plan to make sure that you are maximizing your reach and meaningfully engaging your audience.