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The Media Butter-up
Environmental organizations frequently have to interact with members of the media - whether it is newspapers, or radio and TV personnel or other electronic and online media. It may be necessary to highlight an issue that they are advocating, or bring media focus to a controversy etc.
The key to courting the media is the message - of packaging the issue or blight or action in a way that will attract the attention of the media, and as an extention, its readers, listeners and viewers.
Here is a quick set of guidelines that help in grabing the attention. It is very braod based, and of course, depends on the actual message being transmitted - but it gives an idea of the direction that has to be taken:
- Use word pictures that describe the situation. For example, use comparative ratios like 'three times around the earth' or 'no. of soccer fields'. That is, use measures that are familiar and can be easily visualized or shocked into realization ('equal to three trips to the moon').
- Emphasize the additional features, effects, benefits, or advantages. What are the interlinkages with other issues or problems? How can communities benefit from the action you are taking?
- Don't overdo it. Present the plain facts, in a clear and simple outline. Don't assume that journalists know a lot about the topic or issue you are dealing with. Provide a 'handle' with which the story or byline can be built.
- Work at the appropriate scale. Clearly understand the scale of the problem or issue and work with the media that best addresses that scale. Global/transboundary issues with the appropriate global media, a local river environment problem with the local media.
- Stress the human angle. What ever the issue you are presenting, stress on the human angle - either as the culprits or as the victims. What have humans been doing (or not doing) to result in the situation?
- Cultivate in-house spokespersons. In order to maintain a consistant and constant relationship, and to present a message properly, cultivate in-house spokespersons who are comfortable in a public situation and can present a viewpoint clearly and coherently.
- Create a trend piece. Why should you be the person advocating the issue or problem? Under what authority or experience
are you making the stand? Whta other similar initiatives, jobs or projects have you handled?
- Use outside expertise. Bring in independent experts and important personalities to highlight and substantiate your point or issue.
- Admit things you are not doing In order not to create a misunderstood situation that may affect future dealings, admit things you are not doing (yet), or not doing right.
- Be persistant. Keep the media personnel informed - of breaking issues, progress made and other pertinant details in order to maintain interest.