Media events are an opportunity to bring coalition members and the media together. They are an excellent way to earn television coverage of coalition issues. When planning a media event, it is important to remember that the media -- especially local television -- receive multiple requests to cover events every day. As a result, media events must be of immediate news value to journalists. Below are several questions to ask when determining whether to host a media event:
- Do you have a specific, timely, newsworthy event or topic you wish to discuss? Will it be of interest to community and civic leaders, government officials, business, labor, special interest groups and/or a substantial number of citizens?
- Will a well-known local celebrity or group attend the event? (The "bigger" the name, the more likely it is to be covered by the media.)
- Is the location for the event conducive to television? Is there a good visual? Will you need to arrange for extra lighting and sound equipment?
If you determine that you have a newsworthy event, the following steps can help ensure successful coverage:
Media Tip: Plan for Rain
What happens if it rains? For outside events, you should always have a plan in place for bad weather. Have a back-up location and a plan to alert the media quickly to the location change.
1) Pick the Day, Time and Location:
While media will cover events in the middle of the night if they are newsworthy or late-breaking, it is best schedule events according to the following guidelines:
- Events held in the late morning or early afternoon are more likely to generate media coverage. If possible, do not hold media events before 10 a.m., because journalists will not yet have their daily assignments. Also, do not hold events after 4 p.m. This is when journalists are on deadline for the next day’s paper or that evening’s news.
- Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays are the best days for media events. (On Mondays, journalists are busy catching up on weekend developments and planning their assignments for the week. On Fridays, coverage can be uneven; even when stories are reported, coverage often goes unnoticed on Friday night or on Saturday.)
- Pay attention to the calendar. Do not hold events before or after long weekends and do not compete with well-known community fairs, festivals or celebrations. (Note: You may be able to make an annual community fair or festival a news hook)
- Journalists are more likely to cover events that are easily accessible. Do not plan events that require long commute times for the media.
2) Advance the Location:
Visit the location where you plan to hold the event a few days prior to the actual date to determine what preparations need to be made. Items you should consider include:
- Event Picture: Determine the picture you want the event to convey. Plan how to position all people, banners and other props to accommodate this picture. Imagine how the event will look on television.
- Chairs: Seating should be provided for the audience and media. The chairs should be arranged to provide television cameras with a clear, unimpeded view of the speakers. Provide bleachers or steps to help elevate the cameras above the crowd.
- Lighting/Sound Requirements: Work with the location staff to determine the sound and lighting needs for the event. Call the television stations to ask if they have any technical requirements that you will need to meet.
- Press Check-In Table: A small table should be placed at the event entrance to hold media kits and a press sign-in sheet. It is important to have a person at the entrance who can answer questions about the event and help direct journalists.
- Entrance and Exit: Determine how your main speakers will enter and exit the room. You may not want them to walk through the crowd and the media. This is especially important if a well-known person is attending the event. You may need to prepare a "holding" room to keep speakers away from the crowd prior to the event.
- Refreshments: Serve refreshments such as coffee, juice, soda, bagels, pastries, cookies, etc. You should order these items in advance or be prepared to bring them to the event. On hot days in outside locations, provide the camera operators and technical crews with bottled water.
3) Determine the Program:
Media events generally run no more than 30 minutes. If possible, you should limit the number of speakers and the time of their remarks to fit this schedule. At least one or two days in advance of the event, all participants should be pre-briefed on the speaking order and time of their remarks. It may be helpful to draft message points for the speakers to help guide their comments. You should make it your business always to know what an event participant plans to say before he or she reaches the microphone.
Aim for Quality Coverage
Quality beats quantity in media events. Hold media events only when you have a good story to tell, an excellent picture and the chance for lots of interest and good coverage from important media outlets in your area.
4) Alert Media to the Event:
Several days prior to the event, issue a short media advisory alerting reporters to the event. The advisory should be no more than one-half page to one-page in length, double-spaced, and it should include basic information such as "Who, What, When and Where." After the release is issued to your media list, call all media contacts to ensure they received the advisory and are aware of the event. On the day of the event, you should call media contacts again to remind them of the event and to encourage them to attend.
5) Press Release on the Event:
The day of the event, issue a press release about the event that includes why it was held, who attended and what was said and accomplished. The release should include quotes from key participants, along with the full names and titles of all participants. If some journalists are unable to attend the event, arrange to fax or e-mail the press release immediately following the event. If possible, prepare the release in advance and distribute it to reporters who attend the event as well; having written copies of statements will make it more likely that they quote participants and do so accurately.