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If It Bleeds It Leads

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  1. If It Bleeds It Leads Why the news media covers what it covers and how to convince them to cover your issues Sharon Kayne New Mexico Voices for Children www.nmvoices.org Debbie Birkhauser New Mexico Alliance for School-Based Health Care www.nmasbhc.org

  2. Where do you get your news? • Daily newspaper • Television • Radio • Internet • Weekly or monthly news magazine • Friends and colleagues

  3. Understanding the media • Newsrooms are chaotic places • Coverage is often driven by deadline pressures • News outlets have a “hole” to fill

  4. Think of the newsroom as triage

  5. Understanding the media • Reporters strive for accuracy and balance • Reporters are not experts in every field • Reporters are also driven by deadline pressures

  6. Think of the reporter as a funnel

  7. Understanding news • Most news stories are based on events, not issues • Natural disasters • Accidents • Crime • Political activity

  8. Understanding news • Issues stories are almost always hooked to an event • Natural disasters: • Rescue response/preparedness • Accidents: • Safety/training • Crime: • Prevention/prosecution • Political activity: • Social implications/motivations

  9. Understanding news • Who covers what and why • Dailies like to cover events • Weeklies and monthlies like to cover issues

  10. What makes it news • New event, update of event, hooked to event

  11. What makes it news • Affects a lot of people

  12. What makes it news • Elements of drama/conflict

  13. What makes it news • Has an emotional appeal (tragic, bittersweet)

  14. What makes it news • Is weird or unexpected

  15. Tools of the trade • Story pitch • Media advisory • Press release • Statement • Press conference/press kit • Letters to the editor • Op eds/guest columns/blog posts

  16. Pitching a story • Tie to an event whenever possible • Local angle of national story • Provide interviewee • Provide background information

  17. Pitch stories to: • Beat reporters • Section editors/ producers • Columnists • Bloggers • Niche publications and sections

  18. Media advisories • Use to announce an event (like press conference) • Never more than one page • Make sure you address the 5 ‘W’s and 1 ‘H’ • Who, what, when, where, why and how

  19. Press releases • Use to announce new information or to follow a press conference/event • Keep to one page if possible • Spellcheck! • Embargo only when necessary

  20. Statements • Use to announce position on issue/ comment on event • Looks just like a press release • Keep it short

  21. How to submit • Email is preferable; fax as backup • Paste text into body of email and attach • Email to yourself first to check: • Tabs • ‘Smart’ quotes • Text boxes • Logo

  22. When to submit • Send media advisories 3-4 days in advance of event • Send press releases early in the week (when possible) • Follow up with phone calls

  23. Writing a press release • Put ‘new’ info in headline and lead • Write in an active voice • Use quotes for color • Include online links to the report (or background info) • Double check spelling of names, etc. • Spellcheck!

  24. Writing the headline • Headline needs to: • Tell reporter what story is about • Compel reporter to cover it • Short, declarative statement • Try to keep it to one line • Put less important info on second (smaller) line

  25. Writing a letter to the editor • Check the paper for their guidelines • Keep it short (300 words max) • Relate it to something that appeared in the paper recently • Double check spelling of names, etc. • Resist the temptation to be nasty

  26. Writing an op ed, etc. • Try to stay between 500-700 words • Give it a headline • Relate it to something that paper covered • Include your name, title, organization • Double check spelling of names, etc. • Blog: include links to pertinent info

  27. Writing tips • Lay out your argument logically (make an outline) • Never lead with a question • Avoid repetition • Attribute your sources • Offer a solution • Suggest a course of action the reader can take

  28. Press conferences • Hold only for big announcement or reaction to event • Have a visual other than talking heads • Have a built-in audience • Have a sign-in sheet for media • Put together press kits

  29. Press conferences • Limit the number of speakers (3-5) • Limit their speaking time (2-3 mins.) • Give them talking points • Best days: Tuesdays, Wednesday & Thursday • Best times: 10-11am, 1-2pm • Consider postponing if big story breaks

  30. Press kits • Plain, inexpensive folder is fine • Include: • press release • fact sheets • background information • copy of the report you’re releasing • a list of press conference speakers with their titles • organization’s brochure • business card

  31. Giving interviews: Before • Come up with possible questions • Come up with possible answers • Know your talking points • Have someone do a mock interview

  32. Giving interviews: During • Take a deep breath and relax • Take your time – the interview will be edited (unless it’s live) • Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you don’t understand a question • Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know an answer • Begin your answer by repeating the question

  33. Crisis communications • Don’t try to brush off issue or incident • Explain what precautions were in place • Explain that action is being taken • Never say ‘no comment’

  34. Final thoughts: Always… • Ask if reporter/editor is on deadline • Give accurate information • Double check your facts • Attribute your sources • Double check spelling of names • Correct your errors ASAP • Return their calls • Be available and helpful

  35. Final thoughts: Never… • Lie to a reporter • Ask to approve the story beforehand • Give information “off the record” • Assume an error or lousy headline is the reporter’s fault

  36. Final thoughts: You’ll want to… • Create a press list • Email groups • Create templates • Create communications protocol • Add ‘newsroom’ to your website • Track your coverage • Sign up for ‘Google Alerts’