Working with the media
Some top tips to help you work most effectively with broadcast and print media
- Know why you want media coverage. What is the message you want to give, and to which audience?
- The media is a channel, not an audience or an end in itself. Is your message best delivered to your target audience via the media? Other communication channels – targeted publications, online stories, audio, video – might be just as effective.
- Package your message with something a journalist wants. Think about their ultimate aim: to interest as many people in their target audience as possible. Their readers/viewers/listeners are asking: 'Why should I care?'
- What makes people care? Stories that are relevant to them and that provoke emotion (e.g. curiosity, indignation, surprise, amazement, amusement, empathy). Human interest is important (and individual case studies will dramatically multiply your chances of media coverage).
- News is new. If something happened yesterday, it's too late to tell a journalist about it.
- Make life easy for the journalist. They have to produce several stories a day for tight deadlines on a range of topics. They need information in concise, digestible form, and they need to be able to phone you for immediate follow-up. Good images help a lot – a great photo can make a story.
- Be topical. If you've found a cure for cancer, you set the news agenda. In most other cases, you need to fit into it. Are there certain times when your message is more likely to fit into the media's existing agenda? Is there a big story out there that you have something to say on?
- There's more to media than The Guardian and The Times. Don't just think about newspapers: TV, radio and some websites have much bigger audiences than print. And don't just think about UK media: there are potential funders, researchers, collaborators and students in many other countries.
- If your story is unlikely to make it into the national or international media, how about local or specialist media? Keep a list of what people in your area of interest read/watch/listen to.
- Oxford University members should look around these pages: Start with 'Should I approach the media?' and 'Will the media be interested?'. Finish with 'Next steps'. For more information, contact the University Press and Information Office.
These tips are reproduced with thanks from the Public Affairs Directorate 'Ten tips to start with' webpage (which is no longer available). You can find more communications resources on PAD's website.