One of the most important things for groups and networks to understand right at the start of their work is the importance of good communication and being media savvy. This helps spread the word fast in a world where messages are sent at the press of a button. It also connects one group with other campaigners, making them stronger. Here’s how to start an effective media campaign for your group.
Plan the Communications
If you have a campaign you want to get off the ground, the first thing to do is develop a plan. A great route to developing your plan is to create a media pack for your group. A media pack is a helpful resource for journalists and gives key details to help them write stories and develop angles on some of the features. A good media pack should include press releases, a summary of any specific developments, social media links, your website and contact details of a spokesperson. If you can provide photographs, do so. With photography, you will need to establish who has the copyright of each photo and that you have permission to use and share each photo. The dates and timings of key activities such as the launch, events and others should be documented. Any branding you have should be included in the communications pack. If you have someone in the group with specific expertise in this area, why not use them as your communications officer?
Writing a Strong Press Release
A press release is the key information you give to the media about a specific event or action. It’s the basis on which a journalist will develop a story so it has to quickly grab interest and be succinct. You’ll need a press release heading at the top followed by your headline. The first paragraph should have an outline of the issue you are raising and why. If you have statistics, include them, but remember, everything has to be accurate and credible. In the second paragraph, include a couple of quotes from people involved. The press may use them or may ask for more details. In the final paragraph, clarify any issues such as what the group is about and give contact details of someone who will answer questions. When you are ready, send it to your local media outlets. Some journalists take these press releases as read, while others will want to read around the subject and may challenge the work of your campaign. Be prepared for that, and be clear on why you are doing the work.
Build Your Networks
Successful groups have a strong contacts list they can use in media campaigns. This includes local journalists and media outlets, a Twitter and Facebook following, and other social media channels. Check out the journalists and specialist media that cover your subject area too. By building the list as they go and keeping it up to date, a strong group is ready to go when something needs to be publicized. Make sure you have hashtags for your campaigns and include them with media packs and your tweets. This will spread the work further and get you much needed support.
Spread the Word
Once you have released your communications pack to the media and started sharing your messaging, you’ll need to be ready for the response. Look at what worked well and what could be done differently on another campaign. Think about training group members in presentation skills or dealing with the media. Collect names of people who want to be kept updated with your projects, and enjoy the publicity.
A strong communications plan needs work upfront but will reap rewards when it goes live. Make sure your group has the know-how to put plans together to develop a campaign in the media. If no one has experience, that’s ok. This is a skill that’s quickly learned. A couple of classic books on publicity that will get you there quickly are The Publicity Handbook and Guerrilla Publicity.
Main image: Jopwell Collection