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Tips and Resources

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Working with the Media: Tips and Tools

Inviting local news reporters to cover your Communities Talk activity is a great way to increase awareness about substance use and misuse prevention and improve participation in your activity.

Media Contact Lists

Start with local media outlets in your community and state. To find out who is covering mental health and substance use and misuse topics, set up real-time media alerts, such as Google Alerts, which will notify you when news on a certain topic or keyword that you designate is published. Review these articles to collect information on the reporter who wrote, produced, or covered the story.

Don't overlook community and campus newspapers, local online news sites, or newsletters of faith-based organizations and other outlets that have direct contact with your target audience. The communications teams at local hospitals, school districts, and other organizations also may be a good fit. For greater outreach, collaborate with your partners and have them reach out to their media connections as well.

Media Engagement Tips

The following tips and tools will help you build and sustain media interest in your prevention efforts, even beyond your Communities Talk activity.

  • News reporters are interested in new or interesting information about a topic. When reaching out to media, frame your message around something new and compelling about substance use and misuse prevention and your Communities Talk activity. Are you releasing new data? Did underage drinking, for example, decrease or increase in your local community? Will a local or national celebrity or influencer be a speaker?
  • Reporters are frequently on deadline and may not return messages quickly. Be patient but persistent in drawing their attention to your activity. Follow up if needed by sending a second email or calling them directly about your request. Consider changing your subject line in the follow-up email to grab their attention.
  • Be prepared to help write the story by creating a press kit prior to your activity. A press kit typically includes a media advisory or a press release, talking points, an agenda if applicable, speaker bios, pictures, and videos (you must state they have permission to use any pictures and videos you provide), and other information useful to a reporter to cover your story or event accurately. For reporters providing on-site coverage (when possible), consider adding a map and parking information to make their attendance easier. Always thank reporters for their time, even if they are unable to respond to your request. Substance use and misuse prevention is an ongoing process that is aided by media partnerships built over time, and a reporter may be interested in supporting the next activity.
  • Reporters are more responsive to requests when they receive information in a ready-to-use format and style. For example, copy and paste your media advisory and a link to your online press kit directly into an email so a reporter doesn't need to open additional attachments. If you must send attachments, try to send PDFs.
  • Make it easy for reporters to contact you. Include your name, office phone number or cell phone number, and email address in all communications, including at the top of any media advisories.
  • Use a letterhead and boilerplate language to identify your organization in any print communications. This step will allow reporters to easily identify the source of the information so that you can focus the content on your activity.

Media Engagement Tools

Remember that any information shared with media about substance use and misuse prevention should be based on facts. Local statistics about the prevalence and consequences of substance use and misuse in your community will have the greatest impact on your target audience and are most likely to grab the attention of local journalists.

To access the latest data in your state, check out the state resources page, which has specific information about underage drinking prevalence, consequences, and prevention efforts from communities across the country. You can also obtain current statistics from your county health department’s alcohol and drug services unit or a local substance misuse prevention organization. These statistics provide useful comparisons between a community and a state or between states, and also provide relevance for your Communities Talk activity. If you're looking for national data, check out the latest Report to Congress on the Prevention and Reduction of Underage Drinking and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).

Other tools include:

  • Media advisory: A document that alerts the media to your upcoming Communities Talk activity, providing just enough information to encourage reporters to cover it.
  • 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.

For more information about working with media, check the "promotion" box on the Tips and Resources page.