Many of us will readily admit to having anxiety when receiving press inquiries regarding a controversial project. I am sure you immediately envision drawing a blank on live television. Or in your nervousness you begin to talk and you realize nothing is ever "off the record." Breaking into a cold sweat yet? This doesn’t have to be a scary experience. In fact, the advantages far outweigh the temporary heart palpitations.
Having the support of local media outlets and publications to assist in educating your project stakeholders and the public can be an added benefit to your project success and another tool in your Public Involvement Toolbox.
Assign one person as the point of contact. Always have a secondary contact available as well. There is nothing worse than forcing publications or outlets to make their way down the staff directory. They will inevitably reach someone minimally associated with the project who may not be aware of all the facts. Mention on your agency website who to contact regarding press inquiry and inform all staff and elected officials to direct inquiries to this specific individual/team.
Prepare press releases. Prepare a fact sheet at the very beginning of the project. Include all of the necessary information you want to be sure to convey to the public. Provide them with angles on your story and include demographics or members of the community affected. Be clear about project goals and timelines.
Do the hard work for them. Provide them with facts, statistics, priority stakeholders. Clearly outline funding sources and approval processes. You can control the message!
Are you going to be on camera? Have dialogue with the reporter prior to taping. Most are not opposed to and actually appreciate discussing a script to cover all important facts that may impact their viewers/listeners/readers.
Be transparent. Answer questions and always, always return phone calls promptly! News, whether print or digital, happens quickly and staff are met with short deadlines for story delivery. If they don’t get the information from you, they will rely on someone else.
You can also support efforts of media. Nurture your relationships with staff, share or promote their story links on social media. Provide them with story ideas/leads. Send a thank you to them for their coverage and support!
Please share your success stories when partnering with the media on your projects. Comment below or send me an email and stay tuned for Tip #8 in the PI Toolbox!