Wheeling Walks Training Manual

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Chapter 4:
Working with the Media:
Developing Credibility
Selling the Campaign
Essential Campaign Tools



It is important to establish campaign credibility. Introduce yourself by using the name of your most noted sponsor. For example, WHEELING WALKS was fortunate to have the support of West Virginia University (WVU). WVU, one of two major academic institutions in the state, provided us with door-opening ability that we may not have otherwise had. Saying that we represented WVU and having WVU clearly stated on our business cards provided credibility and an invitation for many initial meeting. However, after the door opened, we had to sell our product. The good news about ?selling your product? is your product is public health.

Meeting the Gatekeepers

To produce maximum results, it takes a minimum of 10 weeks to prepare the media for a campaign the magnitude of WHEELING WALKS. The process begins with getting to know the key people at each media outlet.

The key gatekeeper at each media outlet is not always the person you expected. It could be the editor of the newspaper, the TV station manager, the local radio DJ, or possibly the photographer that makes his own decisions about the strategic shots that appear on the front page. The media is many people doing many things. Therefore, it is important that you meet everyone.

Tips for Working with the Media

    > Make the reporter?s job easy. Provide him/her with a professional packet of information. (See Appendix 4-b for a PRESS KIT.)

    > Get to know them by taking them to lunch. Be sure to include ?meeting? costs in your budget. These meetings are invaluable.

    > Ask the person you are talking with if he/she can suggest other colleagues you should speak with regarding the campaign. Will he/she introduce you?

    > Hang out at the TV station/radio/paper.

    > Start listening to, reading, and watching each outlet. Make decisions about who you should contact based on topic coverage or airtime.

    > Get to know the receptionist. This is the person who will forward your call or make sure the right person gets your message.

    > Become friends with the people at the station. Use your first name as often as possible.

    > Be courteous at all times. If you do not get your desired reaction, try another person at the same outlet.

    > Take T-shirts. When making the initial contact, take enough t-shirts to give to all who seem interested in walking. ( See Appendix 4-c for t-shirt design.)

    > Remember names. Get extension numbers and email addresses.

    > Make notes immediately after you leave the media outlet. This will help you remember the clues and leads you received during your visit.

    > Do not be afraid to wait. Take a seat. Let the contact know that your information is important and you will wait to give him/her your eye contact, handshake, and thanks in advance for helping with this important public health campaign.

    > Learn everyone?s names and titles.

    > Be prompt--If you are asked for information, an interview, or a photo, provide it promptly. Nearly all media have rigid timetables to get items on the news. Work with them on this.

    > Credibility--the accuracy of your information is your currency. Be precise and accurate. Or, check it out and get back to them.

Preparing Talking Points

A lot can be said about walking. Therefore, it is important that everyone has the same message and is communicating the same message. To avoid confusion and ambiguity, develop talking points and memorize each point. Be sure to provide talking points to all staff, event speakers, speakers? bureau participants, and volunteers (See Appendix 4-d for WHEELING WALKS Talking Points.)


Make an appointment

Make an appointment, at each outlet, with a suggested contact, a person you know or a person you have heard is an advocate for public health campaigns. Making an appointment communicates professionalism and respect for both your own and the contact?s time.

When calling to make the appointment, introduce yourself by using the name of your most noted sponsor, such as a university, a prestigious agency or the local health department. Let the university/agency/health department open the door for you. Introducing yourself as a staff member of a walking campaign alone may not result in an appointment.

Under no circumstances should you merely leave a packet of information. To establish a contact, you must meet the person.

The First Meeting

Be early for the appointment and be sure to schedule additional time in case your meeting is delayed. Recognize that when you work with the media, the news comes first. Breaking stories are always occurring; therefore, you may have to wait. Determine when the paper goes to press or when the radio station is doing live programming. Avoid making appoints at those times.

Tools for Selling your Campaign

  • Be credible.
  • Be prepared with statistics, facts, and figures.
  • Be sure the goals and objectives of your campaign are simple and understandable.
  • If your campaign has a research component, tell them.
  • If you need to embargo the campaign until your Kick Off, be sure to say, many times, that campaign information is restricted until a given date.
  • If your campaign is embargoed, be sure that all written material clearly states that the information is restricted until a given date.

Note: All media in the Wheeling area respected our request to embargo the information.

Essential Campaign Tools

  • The Campaign Information Packet
  • The Press Release
  • The Personal Invitation
  • The News Conference
  • The Press Kit

These are so important that we will consider each of them individually:

The Campaign Information Packet

This is a packet of information on the campaign that you will have available for every event and to handout to those you contact about the campaign. As the campaign progresses, some items may be deleted and others added. Items like the Schedule of Events needs to be modified to drop those events that have already occurred.This is without doubt one of the campaign?s most important tools. Print and copy the separate items and compile your packets well in advance so you can just pick up 5, 10, 30 packets as you leave for the event, or, pull out a certain number to modify the contents of that particular number for a particular event/meeting.

The contents of the Campaign Information Packet is provided in Appendix 4-a and includes:

  • Campaign Information Sheet
  • Benefits of Walking
  • Walking Facts
  • Campaign Schedule of Events
  • Campaign Registration Form
  • Campaign Endorsements
  • Campaign Sponsors and information
  • Sampling of Press Article(s) on the Campaign

The Press Release

Before every event, send press releases to every media outlet. Even if a particular outlet has yet to cover your campaign, keep them informed.

The press release should answer the questions who, what, where, when and why about your campaign or about the campaign event described in the release. Most of the questions should be answered in the first two paragraphs of the news release. Remember that those paragraphs will determine if the journalist reads the rest of the release or whether it ends up in the recycling (with most of the other releases they get).

News releases should be brief and to the point. Try to keep to one or two pages. They also should be clear, accurate, and free of grammatical and spelling errors. Journalists are relying on you to provide them with accurate information. Factual errors, misspelled names, and typos will adversely affect your credibility and whether or not the journalist uses this and future news releases. (See Appendix 4-b for a sample press release.)

Notify your Account Executives of the events. Because you are a customer, they will remind the newsroom that your event is of importance to the business.

Send the press release no more than 48 hrs before the event.

  • Fax: We have found that faxing after business hours is a great way to avoid busy signals on fax machines. Put specific names on the fax to be sure it gets routed to your contacts.
  • Email: Email the press release to the specific departments or people you want to receive it. You should have the email addresses of all your media contacts.

Note: Email is not a replacement for the fax. Newsrooms still use the fax machine as their primary way to assign stories.

The Personal Invitation

The morning of the event, be sure to follow up with journalists. Invite them to attend the event. Ask if they received the release (offer to send another copy if they did not) and if they need additional information.

In addition, try to interest the reporter in covering the story by briefly explaining the content of the release and why it is important. Inform them about a personal interview you have scheduled for them with one of the speakers (i.e. the Mayor or the campaign director) at a certain time during the event.

Do not feel like you are harassing the press when you call them to cover a campaign event. Reporters regularly rely on outside sources for news stories. You cannot call a media outlet too much. They are used to being informed of events. They are, however, not used to being invited and treated as guests. This goes a long way in obtaining the coverage you need.

The News Conference

The News Conference is a vital link and a main source of communicating the message. These are well-planned, strategic events designed to be quick and informative. Depending on the length of your campaign, you may host as many as three press conferences.

Announce the news conference through a news advisory. (See Appendix 4-b for a sample news advisory.) The advisory should announce the date, time, and location of the news conference. In addition, it should briefly describe the event. However, be sure to hold the important details for the news conference. Again, it is essential to make follow-up calls after sending the advisory. Call to ask if the journalist received the advisory. In addition, briefly explain what will be announced at the press conference, describe why it is important, and try to interest the reporter in attending the news conference. You also could make a second round of calls on the afternoon before or morning of the news conference to help ensure good attendance.

The basics of a successful news conference.

  • A press conference has a pre-determined agenda.
  • Spokespeople must be well versed and prepped on what is to be communicated.
  • If more than one speaker is scheduled, be sure that the messages do not overlap or contradict. You may want to provide your speakers with sample talking points to include in their presentations. They will be appreciative.
  • Be sure the microphone is working well and that there are plenty of outlets in the room for cameras or tape recorders.
  • Arrange the room for the cameras.
  • Make sure all background music is turned off.
  • Have enough people at the event to give the event importance, but not too many to distract from the message.
  • Keep the event colorful. Use balloons and banners. Banners can communicate your message (?Start with Just 10 Minutes?).

Press Kit - including the Campaign Information Packet

One of your most invaluable tools, your Press Kit provides vital campaign contact information, background information on the campaign, information on the specific event, and all other items that are distributed to press ahead of time on a particular event or that are given out to press members arrive their arrived at the event. The Kit give the press member what s/he needs to make it easy to do an initial and many follow-up stories on the campaign.

A copy of the WHEELING WALKS Campaign PRESS KIT is provide in Appendix 4-b, and includes:

  • The Campaign Information Packet (see above and Appendix 4-a)
  • Event Announcement (sample)
  • Media Advisory (sample)
  • Press Release (sample)


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