DIY media at your event

The secrets to getting media to your action

What is the magic that has all the cameras turn up to a rally one day and then no one shows up to your next one?

How can I make it happen for me, my event and my community?

HOW TO get media to your event, action or protest?

** This article is about getting media to your event, protest or action. You'll need a different plan to get media to start talking about the subject your care. For help with your media email us or speak to your organiser.

If you want tips on how to take great photos & video, click on the 5 P's here.

There are number of critical elements that you need to have for a successful event if you want to attract media cover your story.

Some are in your control and others are not.

You control the time of your event and what images and sound you present for the media.

You control your spokespeople, how you train them, what you ask them to say and how well they communicate.

You control your message, the quality of your sound, vision and elements.

Media controls if they come to you or another event and if they do, whether they run your story.

What is the media

Broadly speaking, it’s any radio, TV, digital and print product that’s produced for an audience.

The media's audience could be general or a specific demographic (demo) such as the young, pensioners, families, location, members of an organisation or professional membership. The media now includes blogs and social media, as well as newsletters and magazines.

TOP TIP: If there’s time make a list of ‘short lead’ media like daily news briefings and ‘long lead’ media like member magazines or weekly local papers. Find out the deadlines for these publications.

How traditional media works

In the recent past we all had the same few TV and radio channels, local, state and national newspapers.

As we all watched / consumed this media you could be sure that if you were lucky and smart enough to get into any of these broadcast media publications everyone would find out about your event or action - including key government decision-makers, stakeholders and the general public.

In recent times, because of the internet and weakening regulations, broadcast media has shrunk dramatically. Lots of journalists, photographers and video producers have lost their jobs and now there’s a lot of sharing of resources - for instance only a single camera crew now goes to Brisbane events and shares that footage on weekends and at night.

However inside newsrooms media works the way it always has. Here's a great example of an editor's day in the life.

You ‘pitch’ your story to a journalist who then ‘pitches’ to an editor at regular editorial meetings. If you get into the diary then they’ll send reporters or call you for an interview. In some case you’ll be asked to supply images. Then the media will ‘run’ your story.

TOP TIP: It’s critical to have good quality images to share with media - either for them to use or to entice them to your event.

If they come - and be prepared for plans to change at the last minute - then you need to have spokespeople (who look & sound presentable) prepared and things that are good to photograph to help tell your story.

In the recent action at Prince Charles Hospital our vision were the protestors, the placards and the hospital formed a great backdrop.

Lights, camera, action - what’s the best time to organise an event?

You’ve got a team of working people or who have family or other commitments so it makes sense to book things on a weekend or evening when more people are available.

The media are at work too, so for them anything that’s outside traditional hours is harder to organise and your story needs to be that much more appealing to attract them enough to make an effort.You need to have clear, quality sound and vision.

TOP TIP: Daily news casts like TV and newspapers like to go to events and get the story early; so they have the day to work on editing and publishing. Scheduling your event between 7am and 11am on a weekday gives it the best chance to be chosen for coverage.

How do I invite media to my event or action?

Traditionally you would use a media release or a media alert to invite media to an event. You can find plenty of information on both and how to write them online. A media alert clearly lists the when / why / where / who and why and the release is a short version of a story.

TOP TIP: Your media release should have a clear headline that is a full sentence, not a giimmick, a pun or cryptic -- unless it makes sense to the story.

A release makes it easy to get your story together in a narrative format, get your messages down and also quote your spokespeople. However, a rambling, boring or unclear release without any ‘news’ will lose your coverage just as fast.

The other thing you can control is the headline and the high-level message that you're sending. You want to make it as simple and clickbaity and inflammatory as you can as it won’t be used in the story but will be seen by your target media.

The subject lines and headings for your release won’t get published, they're going to write their own, but you need to make it very clear why you're protest or event is important and why they can’t miss it (or else!)

Do I need a media release?

You’ll be emailing your press release to potential media. So think about what makes sense in that format.

Your media target will probably be getting hundreds of emails a day and everyone is pitching their important media story, just like you. So keep that competition in mind when you’re writing and sending your release.

Remember, that in the end the audience you're talking to is the public, not the media, so you need to make sure that you structure your headline and the content of your media alert with something that the media can see their audience wants to read about or see.

TOP TIP: Use your headline as the email subject line to journalists and make sure it’s short enough and punchy enough to catch their attention even on a tiny, mobile phone screen.

If nothing else, your media release is good to use for your website and share with your community to put up on their social media, newsletters and websites. The modern digital world is always hungry for content.

What’s a pitch?

Modern media practitioner often don’t use press releases but just pitches. A pitch is a paragraph that summarises the story and why the target media should cover it.

The pitch has the basic information consistent - what’s happening, why, where, when, who etc. but it’s tailored for the audience and readership of the target publication.

For instance, in the PCH story, the Courier Mail pitch was about struggling families (the hospital services families and sick kids) as well as the number of people that use the hospital - to show relevance for the audience. For the TV crews the pitch was around the vibrant protest - the signs, the people, the colour, the sound and the broad range of people attending. For the ABC radio the pitch was about supporting a common good as the ABC see itself as the public broadcaster.

TOT TIP: Tailor your pitch to the audience of your target media and keep it short and informative. No more than a paragraph.

What makes a good ‘story’

Everyone that’s read a fairytale can identify a good story. There’s a villain, a hero or heroine, a victim or a triumph. In addition a news story needs newsiness. There also needs to be a clear narrative - what happened before and how did this lead to what’s happening today, what do you want to happen next?

TOP TIP: Your key messages - 3 to 5 - need to include a ‘call to action’ - that is - what do you want? What change are you asking for?

What makes something ‘newsworthy’

There’s a few ways you can make your story newsworthy. The easiest are timeliness and numbers. Something timely is happening now or very soon and numbers is about having statistics such as 500,000 people using the Prince Charles Hospital and a new car park being built soon that will affect all those people, especially vulnerable families.

TOP TIP: Is this story important for the audience of your target media or just you and your community? That’s how you check for newsiness.

Target your media before your event / protest / action

You need to have a target list for your press release and alert. Not everyone is interested and in the end you’ve got a limit on your time as well. So pick wisely.

You’ll need an email and a phone number.

Get your list together at the time you’re organising your event so that they complement each other. The Alliance Founding had all the hallmarks of a great story but having the event late at night meant there wasn’t a crew available or willing to film it - especially as it happened after the nightly news aired. Your target is always to lead the news.

The next thing for a lot of people is the hard bit.

You need to start calling individual journalists and outlets and ‘pitch’ your story.

That means if you've got a phone number, which is rare since the media deliberately hide their phone number, you often need to ring the switchboard first and they’ll put you through.

Ask for the Chief of Staff, the newsroom or the specific journalist or producer.

TOP TIP: if you get a voicemail be ready to leave a message with your headline, something very punchy, and be very clear with your phone number, in fact say it twice.

What to do if you feel awkward or not confident?

It's ok to be naive, it's ok not to be a professional.

Journalists and media deal with all kinds of sneaky professionals and people who know their way around.

However, nothing beats an existing relationship - does anyone in your group know a journalist already? A school mum? A congregant, a neighbour?

Of course there is a lot of relationship building but if you're just Joe Average from XYZ Community Group and you have a great story to tell -- they want to hear your story because that's who their readers are too.

So don't be intimidated don't be afraid and just make a phone call like you would anywhere else.

TOP TIP: Remember that most of the media you speak to are just like you. They have families and communities and they have self-interest. Your story may impact them too.

When you make your call, be ready to do a 10 second or 30 second pitch. Practice before you call.

“Hi I'm just checking that you've got my event in the diary?”

Then be ready to pitch and send your release, alert or paragraph pitch with punchy headline and messages.

Then you need to ring maybe a day or two before, usually the night before or the morning of, to make sure that they're coming and then you’ve done everything you can control.

How to use social media to enhance any media coverage

Social media - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, What’sapp etc are all great ways to share your story to even more people.

You are your own media producer. So take photos, videos, tweets and social media posts for your own channels.

TOP TIP: Save all your media as PDFs so you have your stories permanently on record for sharing with communities and decision-makers. Publish all the links to any stories that were published, share them on social media and have your community like and share it as well.

Here’s our media page to show you how it’s done.

** This article is about getting media to your event, protest or action. You'll need a different plan to get media to start talking about the subject your care. For help with your media email us or speak to your organiser.

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