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Working with the Media: Maximizing News Coverage

Media coverage is an important tool for spreading alcohol and other drug misuse prevention messages throughout your community. It can boost participation, increase community awareness of alcohol and other drug misuse, and mobilize groups to work together on prevention.

An important element is timing. The following timeline covers the preparation of media lists, media advisories, pitching, press kits, and other materials that are the building blocks for a strong media strategy.

Before you put wheels in motion, be sure to assemble your media team of staff or volunteers. Recruit people willing to write, proofread, make calls, and/or track coverage.

Two to three weeks before activity

  • Develop 2 or 3 key messages you want to convey about alcohol and other drug misuse prevention, your Communities Talk activity, or both. Then identify who in your community needs to hear these messages. This will help you focus on the right media outlets when you start researching media contacts.
  • Create and maintain a media list. This is your database or spreadsheet of media contacts by type of outlet with names, emails, and phone numbers. Remember to refer back to this list often and make updates at every stage in this timeline to ensure your media list is current.
  • Conduct online searches for relevant news coverage to identify appropriate contacts. Look for local journalists who report on health and wellness, youth and family, parenting, traffic safety, and issues related to alcohol and other drug misuse in newspapers, magazines, blogs, TV, radio, podcasts, and neighborhood newsletters covering your community.
  • Explore media databases to identify local news outlets (some require subscriptions while others are free). See if you can access media directories at your library and/or a local press club.
  • Draft a press release, media advisory, or PSA (for radio or TV) to submit for calendar listings and community bulletins that public access stations could run.

Two weeks before

  • Send the media advisory by email to the journalists on your media list.
  • Send the radio and TV PSA (see tools section below) to radio and TV station public service directors (you can call a station’s main number to find the contact information for this person), along with a pitch that explains why the issue and the Communities Talk activity are important to the community.
  • Call to confirm receipt and be ready with your 30-second pitch. The best time to call is between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. For broadcast news stations, call the assignment desk‚ÄĒideally earlier in the day.
  • Identify your spokesperson(s) (those open and prepared to do interviews). Spokespersons usually are the presenters at your Communities Talk activity. They should be knowledgeable, confident, articulate yet succinct, and enthusiastic. As possible, prioritize youth spokespersons as part of your mix.
  • Continue monitoring news coverage and journalist add new contacts to your media list if needed.

One week before

  • Continue sending follow-up email pitches and making follow-up calls to media representatives. Ask if they are planning to participate in the activity or would like to arrange an interview about it. Limit your touchpoints to no more than three, then move on. Remember, too, that breaking news can disrupt a journalist’s plans to cover your activity.
  • Schedule interviews between spokespersons and interested media outlets.
  • Prepare an interview tip sheet for spokespersons. Set up a meeting with them to discuss and finalize key message points. Anticipate media questions and ask spokespersons to practice answering such questions out loud using the message points.
  • Have press materials prepared and email them to journalists based on their requests. These materials should include the media advisory, speaker bios, an alcohol and other drug misuse ¬†prevention fact sheet with both state and national statistics, a backgrounder, contact information, and any other relevant handouts.
  • Contact the local Associated Press Bureau if there’s one in your area and ask that your Communities Talk event or activity be included on the daybook (a calendar of local media events).

One to two days before

  • Send the media advisory to your media list again as a reminder.
  • Make sure you and any other spokesperson(s) are ready for interviews.
  • Arrange for a media desk or place for journalists to check-in if you are doing a large in-person activity.

Day of your Communities Talk activity

  • Send a media advisory the morning of your Communities Talk activity.
  • Have a sign-in sheet for attending journalists and hand out copies of the press kit if hosting an in-person event.
  • Offer to email them additional relevant information.
  • Ask if they would like assistance in setting up an interview.

One or two days after

  • Follow up with journalists who have not previously committed to write an article. Resend them the online press kit and ask if they are interested in an article. Offer to send them more information about your prevention program and future Communities Talk activities.
  • Offer to coordinate interviews.
  • Respond to media calls. Know that daily newspapers have noon or 4 p.m. deadlines, while many television stations prefer to have news footage back by 3 p.m. for the 6 p.m. news and by 8 p.m. for the 11 p.m. news.

One to two weeks after

  • Email the journalists who covered your story to thank them.
  • Share your media coverage with the Communities Talk team via email. (info@stopalcoholabuse.net). You can send links to online news articles, video clips, blog posts, social media content, or even your own online dropbox of collected media coverage (remember that large files may not come through via email).
  • Loop back with anyone who was interviewed to thank them and get feedback, such as how you could have made the experience better for them or more beneficial for your organization.
  • Cross check the contacts on your media list to see who covered your Communities Talk activity. These contacts should be the first people you reach out to for any future Communities Talk activities or other prevention-related stories.

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