Be Helpful and Easy To Find
A key ingredient of obtaining publicity in any medium is to be accessible, flexible and accommodating. The media’s ability to reach you when they need to is critical to establishing yourself as a reliable, valuable media resource. It is important to keep in mind that as a spokesperson for the coalition, you are seeking to serve the journalist’s needs, not the other way around.
The following tips can help you establish and maintain positive working relations with journalists.
- Build rapport: Take advantage of opportunities to nurture a positive relationship with the media. Periodically send them new information or items of interest to remind them that the coalition is a good resource.
- Stay in touch: Compliment the media when they do an accurate, thorough story or positive editorial about a priority issue of yours. If a reporter has quoted you or a member of the coalition, send a note of appreciation for a job well done. Likewise, if stories contain inaccurate or misleading information, don’t hesitate to point this out to a reporter in a polite, objective manner and offer to provide specific information that will help prevent similar "misunderstandings" in future coverage.
- Be consistent: Develop key message points so that you always deliver consistent messages about the importance of public transportation. Update these messages regularly to remain relevant to emerging news stories. Identify coalition members who can serve as effective spokespersons so that the group can build a uniform presence with the media.
- Offer other contacts: You can demonstrate your value as a media resource by recommending other reliable contacts who will add credibility, reinforce your messages and complement your coalition’s mission and objectives.
- Help reporters do their job: Keep in mind that the media rely on people like you for story ideas, timely information and access to interview subjects, usually under tight deadlines. One of the best ways to establish productive relations is to help reporters accomplish their own objectives by providing them with information and other sources, respecting deadlines and anticipating questions so that you are prepared to answer on the spot.
Become a Reliable, Quotable Source
After the initial introduction to the media, you will need to work at building and maintaining personal relationships with journalists. These relationships will help get the coalition’s name in the news, spread key messages and make it more likely that events and activities gain media attention.
You should view your relationship with the media as a partnership. You want to reach decision-makers and the public, and the media provide access. The media want to report news and capture the public’s attention, and you have important information.
- Give the media a "heads up": Reporters appreciate receiving tips to develop their own stories, but they need advance notice of an event in order to do so. When you know of an anticipated announcement or event, give the media a "heads up" so reporters have adequate time to prepare. When appropriate, use embargo ground rules during telephone calls and on news releases to let reporters know that the information is being given first to them and cannot be released officially to the public until the specified date and time. (Print "embargoed until [date], [time]" at the top of materials. Be aware, however, that an "embargo" does not guarantee the media will hold the information. Therefore, be selective and careful with what you release early.)
- Become indispensable: When reporters recognize you as a valuable source for public transportation stories and commentary, they are more likely to pay attention to your suggestions and views. One way to become indispensable is to introduce yourself as an expert, knowledgeable resource or someone with access to a range of experts on key issues. You might compile the most compelling transit statistics and send them to reporters with a brief letter about the coalition. Another way is to keep on hand a list of informed speakers and commonly requested facts that can be provided quickly.