Taking Your Message to the Media
Sometimes a person, business, or institution will deal very differently with a parent when their actions are exposed to public scrutiny. A business owner might think that he can get away with banning wheelchairs from his store when he turns someone away at the door, but that same business owner will usually sing a different tune when the local television station shows up to cover the story. In situations like these it helps to know how to take your message to the media.
Here are some useful steps that will help you effectively utilizing the media.
- Don’t wait until you have an issue. Call your local paper, radio and television stations and find out who is the right person to cover issues around disability rights, access, education, etc. Is it the news assignment person at the TV stations or a specific reporter or editor working a beat?
- Educate your contacts in the media. Send them brochures on your organization, fact sheets on your issues, action alerts, etc. that impact your lives, your community. Use numbers and statistics whenever possible. Data creates news and your message has more credibility when you can show the quantitative news value.
- Have good spokespeople available. Make sure you have recommended resources and spokespeople available for media to gather data from or interview.
- Be persistent and consistent in getting information to these media contacts you develop. Even if it seems that they don’t initially use your information, they start to build a file and get to know who they can count on as a regular resource on these issues.
- Hold the media accountable for stories that don’t present your side of the story. Write your paper and TV station editors, reporters, news directors and advertisers to complain when things are wrong or biased. It is also important to give kudos when things are well done. For the most part, the media wants to “get it right” and will listen to your letters and calls.
- Be proactive in writing letters to the editor and op-ed pieces. The space is there. Don’t be afraid to use it.
- Follow up, follow up, follow up, follow up with media on all these steps by phone, letter or in person.