CDC's Injury Center 20th Anniversary:
Tips and Tools for Working with the Media
Making the Right Connections
There is a great variety of media sources, including:
- Daily and weekly newspapers
- Radio stations aimed at specific age groups
- TV stations broadcasting in different languages
To identify the media contacts you’ll want to reach with information about your injury and violence prevention activities, begin by identifying and prioritizing your best media prospects. For instance, you may want to get messages about the importance of child safety seats to parents of young children. To do so, you’ll want to think carefully about all of the different sources of news in your community and determine where parents turn for information.
Once you have identified the media that you want to reach, create a detailed media contact list or database. An up-to-date contact list is an invaluable tool, because media professionals often change beats and positions. Keep notes next to each contact’s name to help identify specific issues that reporter likes to cover.
For each media professional, you should have the following information:
- Media affiliation (e.g. The Miami Herald or The Boston Globe)
- Job Title (e.g. Healthy Living Section Reporter)
- Phone number (office and cell)
- Email address
- Mailing address
- Beat or topic of interest
- Date of last contact
- Articles that have generated from contact
It’s best to update your contact list at least twice a year to keep it current. Often, when a reporter you have built a relationship with is planning to change positions, he or she will let you know before the change. You can always make contact with a station or a publication’s office and request updated information.
- Call the Reporter:
Introduce yourself, and state why you’re making contact. Ask the reporter if he or she is on deadline. If so, find a time to call back.
- Have a Good Story:
Plan out what you want to tell the reporter carefully. You should know your topic well and be ready to answer any questions.
- Plan a Good Strategy:
Don’t use the same news angle or story for every media outlet. Tailor your pitch to that specific media outlet or reporter. Provide new and fresh ideas about your activities and events related to the preventing injury and violence.
- Be Ready to Respond:
When local or national stories break on injury or violence of any kind, consider writing an opinion piece on the importance of prevention in your community.
- Keep Your Word:
Building a good reputation with media professionals is really important. If you promised that you would follow up with a reporter with local statistics, for example, keep your word and keep his or her deadline in mind. If you don’t know an answer, advise the reporter that you will get back with him/her and then find out their deadline. To keep a good working relationship with reporters – meet their deadlines. Also, keep business cards on hand when you see reporters, and constantly remind them that you’re a source of information for future stories.
- Send a thank you note:
Whether by mail or by email, express thanks when a reporter covers your story.
Some journalists prefer talking on the telephone, while others are comfortable receiving information via e-mail. You’ll learn how to best communicate with different media professionals as you build working relationships with them.
Refer to the following checklist each time you prepare to reach out to the media and see if your answer to each question is "yes":
- Have you thoroughly outlined ways that you can create newsworthy events that highlight the importance of preventing injury and violence?
- Are you ready to offer local or regional news angles and background information for stories on injury and violence prevention tips?
- Before you call a reporter, do you check your media contact list to make sure you are reaching out to the right person?
- Have you practiced your telephone or personal approach to media representatives so that you can be brief and have information that can help reporters make sense of the issue(s)?
- Before you email important materials to a reporter, are you sure this person likes to work with email correspondence?
- When you make follow-up calls, do you have good additional facts or a new story angle to encourage journalists to cover your event?
- If a journalist agrees to do a story, are you truly prepared to answer questions and provide materials and appropriate spokespeople?
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