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Tips and Resources

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Working With the News Media: Tips and Tools

Reporters work to fill their publications or newscasts with information that is important and interesting to the community. Inviting local news reporters to cover your Communities Talk event is a great addition to your promotion plan to increase awareness and drive attendance to your event. Engaging the media also gives them a story that helps them fulfil their public service role within the community.

Building Your Media Contact List

Start with media outlets in your community. To find out who has covered mental health and substance misuse topics, set up Google Alerts which will notify you when news on a certain topic is published. Don't overlook community and campus newspapers, local online news sites, or newsletters of faith-based organizations and others with direct contact with your target audience. The communications teams at local hospitals, school districts, and other organizations that would benefit from underage drinking prevention may contribute to your outreach efforts. For greater outreach, collaborate with your partners and have them activate their media connections.

Media Engagement Tips

The following tips and tools will help you build and sustain the media’s interest in your prevention efforts.

  • News reporters are interested in what is new about a topic. When reaching out to the media, frame your message around something new and compelling about underage drinking prevention and your Communities Talk event. Is there a current news hook? Will a local or national celebrity be a speaker?
  • Reporters are frequently on deadline and may not return messages quickly. Be patient but persistent in drawing their attention to an issue that concerns the community. Follow up with reporters if needed by sending a second email or calling them directly to chat about your request.
  • Reporters are more responsive to requests for space or airtime when they receive information about a local issue in a ready-to-use format and style. For example, before pitching a public service announcement (PSA) to local press, radio, and television contacts (and even school news programs), call ahead to find out if PSAs are welcome and what format(s) are preferred (e.g., DVD vs. digital file).
  • Make it easy for reporters to contact you. Include your name, phone number, and email address in all communications.
  • Use a letterhead and boilerplate language about your organization to identify your organization in any print communications. This step will allow reporters to easily identify the source of the information, so you can focus the content on your event.
  • Be prepared to help write the story by creating a press kit prior to your event to give to a reporter who has agreed to cover the event. A press kit typically includes a media alert, a press release, talking points, an agenda, speaker bios, and other information useful to a reporter. For reporters providing on-site coverage, consider adding a map and parking information to make their attendance easier.Thank reporters for their time, even if they are unable to respond to your request. Underage drinking prevention is an ongoing process that is aided by media partnerships built over time, and they may be interested in supporting the next event.

Media Engagement Tools

The tools below will help you collect and organize important information to support your event. Remember that any information shared with the media about underage drinking prevention should be based on fact. Local statistics about the prevalence and consequences of underage drinking in your community will have the greatest impact on your target audiences. You can obtain this information from your county's health department's alcohol and drug services unit or your community's substance misuse prevention organization.

To collect the latest data and statistics for use in your media outreach, check out the state resources page for information about underage drinking prevalence, consequences, and prevention efforts for your state. These statistics provide useful comparisons between a community and a state or between states. If you're looking for national data, check out the latest Report to Congress on the Prevention and Reduction of Underage Drinking. A collection of media outreach tools are described below. Each tool contains tips on its use and a customizable template that can be used for your event.

  • Opinion editorial (op-ed): An article that promotes activities and programs in response to specific community challenges. An op-ed should make one key point and be supported by well-chosen facts.
  • Media advisory: A document that alerts the media to your upcoming Communities Talk event, providing just enough information to encourage reporters to cover the event.
  • Pitch email: An email that gives a reporter a story idea and the information needed to get started. The pitch email is more informal than a press release and more substantial than a media advisory.
  • Press release: A 1- to 2-page document that provides complete information for reporters to use in writing an article about your event.
  • Thank you note: An email or letter to members of the media or partner organization who supported your Communities Talk event promotion.