Checklist of Media Do's and Don'ts

Do’s

Know how to reach them: Keep your press lists updated with current phone, fax and e-mail information.

Be accurate: Contact the right reporter or writer at the appropriate publication or station.

Always clearly identify yourself and the coalition: Journalists talk to many people every day. It helps to reinforce your organization and issues.

Be brief: News stories require concise, succinct messages that can easily be converted into sound bites, headlines and short quotes.

Be direct: If you have a request (i.e., you want a journalist to write a story about a particular issue), ask directly.

Make it personal and local: Journalists often seek ways to humanize their stories by using real-life anecdotes. They also want to add local facts, figures and connections.

Respect deadlines: Always respond quickly and accurately to journalists’ requests. If possible, respond within the hour.

Be accessible: Provide all media contacts with business cards that can be added to their Rolodex. Include cell phone number, e-mail addresses and other ways to reach you at home or work.

Be flexible and accommodating: By working with journalists’ busy schedules, you can help improve or increase coverage for your issues.

Be honest: If you don’t know an answer, say so and offer to find out. If you can’t find the answer, say so.

Be prepared: Be prepared to provide complete information and to answer questions once you have a reporter’s interest.

Say "Thank You": Send thank you notes. Thank journalists for their time, even if they choose not to cover your story or run your commentary.

Don’ts

Don’t offer stale news: Avoid weak story ideas and issues that are considered "old hat."

Don’t say something you do not want to see in print or on the air: Assume nothing is "off the record" -- even when talking casually before or after answering specific questions.

Respect journalists’ work schedules: Don’t call in the late afternoon (when many journalists are writing stories) or immediately before a news broadcast. Learn when to call your media contacts.

Don’t badger: If a story idea does not attract the media’s attention, no amount of encouragement will change their minds. But…

Don’t be discouraged: Journalists are asked to cover a wide range of stories every day. Persistence pays off. If your story, offer to be interviewed or op-ed is rejected, take the opportunity to ask the journalists what type of information they would find helpful and worthwhile to pursue.

How to Work With Different Types of Media

Because each medium has its own format and requirements for what is timely and what is news, a story, event or commentary may not be equally appropriate for print, television, radio and the Internet. Be aware that each media outlet has a defined audience. A particular message might not appeal to every target audience.

The following section provides the basics for working with print and electronic media, but do not hesitate to ask questions when dealing with journalists to learn more about their specific requirements.

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