Media Outreach Essentials
Given the remarkable work your organization does, you have the opportunity to increase your reach and visibility through media coverage. Landing placements in “traditional media” (e.g., television, radio, newspapers and their websites) helps establish and/or reinforce your organization as a trusted, credible resource. As a local/national “expert” on either an education or solar energy platform, you are an important resource whom they can look to when they cover your topic area.
These are four core steps to media outreach:
1. Consider your story angle(s).
Media airtime and space are tight – you are competing against multiple news stories and media outlet priorities. So it’s important to develop compelling story angles to “pitch” to your media targets. Your proposed story should be simple, clear and stripped down to answer the following: So what, who cares and what’s in it for me (the media’s audience).
Media respond to story angles that include:
Real people, real stories
For example, is there a “before and after” personal story that a family is willing to share with media? Put a human face on your issue to inspire and capture attention.
Recalling childhood on the Picuris Pueblo with no running water or electricity and reflecting on current day utility bills in the
mountains of New Mexico, Rose All Runner shared what it meant to be the first of the Pueblo to go solar as part of APNF grantee GRID Alternatives’ national Tribal Program.
For example, this year’s high school dropout rate is expected to double; the interest in solar installation in homes has tripled.
For example, did your group find something unusual, new or surprising in its research or activity? Are you looking at an existing problem in a novel way? Is there something unique about your approach, method?
Serving low-income families, APNF grantee Citizen Schools had a strong story angle focused on an innovative approach to introducing STEM skills: The entire 7th grade class of Joseph Browne Middle School spent a semester creating their own robots with engineers and programmers in Microsoft’s offices.
For example, failure to mentor vulnerable middle school youth may lead to decreased interest in education.
For example, how many people in the education or energy arena are affected? Would your research or findings be helpful to a sizeable population that is particularly at risk?
Are there historical markers over time that makes this anniversary significant? Does it build on a landmark study? Is it tied to an anniversary celebration of another initiative?
Surpassing its fundraising goal, APNF grantee Everybody Solar announced its donation of a 15 kW solar array to a hands-on science museum, helping it save $1,700+/year on utilities while the system also became a feature of its interactive sustainability exhibit. More
Are there practical action steps or recommendations for the audience to take to address this issue or concern?
2. Put together your media pitch points as your internal roadmap.
Your media pitch points succinctly outline your approach to offering reporters your story ideas. Ideally, you will have multiple story angles (above) that you can combine into a robust media pitch that offers reporters a variety of ways to use your information and resources.
The following are key elements to include as you create your pitch to your media target(s):
Localize, localize, localize.
News outlets primarily want to know about the impact of your issue in your community. Share local facts and figures, offer interviews with community members who have been impacted.
Clearly define the problem.
Make sure it is audience-relevant and defined in public-friendly and easy-to-understand terms (e.g., X percent of middle schools in [your town or region] didn’t have access to [need that your funded project fills] – until now.).
Make the case for why this is important now.
Is it timely? Urgent? Immediate? Leading or part of a trend? Is there a certain population segment that is most at risk?
Put a human face on it.
Share personal stories and those individuals’ permission to share those stories (e.g., what their challenges were, how your work helped improve their lives) with the media.
Provide personal action steps for the viewer/reader.
Examples include: Sign the renewable energy savings pledge, exercise your right to safe places to extend education after school. Also importantly, provide a resource for more information, e.g., your website URL.
3. Develop your media materials.
Now that you have organized your pitch, you have a quick-reference roadmap to develop a handful of core materials that can help you in your media outreach. Because reporters have limited time and resources, it’s important to draft concise, creative and easily understandable materials that get – and keep – their attention, and that provide key information for their stories.
Below are descriptors and samples of core media materials, with tips to help you as you develop them.
A brief e-mail will likely be your point of entry to trigger your media contact’s interest. Using your media pitch points as a reference, pull key information – summarize the “what” and “why” components of your story and pick a compelling subject line to capture attention.
A key piece written to give to the media, your news release lays out your story for reporters. The lead-in should be succinct and summarize the news appeal with the five W’s (who, what, when, where and why). Include quotes from your organization’s leadership and, if possible, other credible sources to highlight important points. These quotes also can serve as very brief, key messages that your spokesperson delivers verbally during a media interview.
It’s helpful to maintain a pitch status chart to keep your media outreach organized, and to have a record to keep your manager or others updated on your progress. Try to capture news clips (scans or links) to send to APNF so that we can repost and link to your good news on our website.
Additionally, if you are holding an event, the following are very helpful to reporters:
If you are holding an event, a media advisory (also called a media alert) is an efficient way to notify the press. It should be a brief, one-page rundown of key information reporters need to cover the event/your event.
Photo cut lines
Cut lines are essentially captions you offer to go with photos you provide to the media. A photo cutline focuses on the action shown in the shot, written as a brief one-line description of the story the photo tells (e.g., the who, what, when, where, why).
4. Pitch your story to your media targets.
Send your pitch email to your contacts, tailoring each a little if possible. If you have time, it’s helpful to do a quick online search before you reach out to your media targets to see if they have covered your issue and how.
A few tips to keep in mind:
For all media pitches, give the reporter a few days before you follow up by telephone or email to see if they are interested in pursuing the story.
If you are pitching a specific special event, send your email pitch with the event media advisory one to two weeks before the event date.