Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia

YOU, Working with the Media

In Communications on September 9, 2014 at 3:42 pm

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Although the prospect of working with the media can be a little daunting, it doesn’t have to be. It’s a great way to get exposure for your cause and have YOUR message out there.

Having a few things in place ahead of time helps make sure you are ready to take full advantage of the media coverage your organization gets. Here are a few things I have learned during my time at the Society.

1) Have procedures in place for responding to and tracking media inquiries:
We have set up procedures to follow when we receive a call from the media. I am the initial contact for reporters, and then work with my colleagues to determine who the best fit for the interview is. You want to make sure the person who will be interviewed is extremely knowledgeable about the topic, engaging and represents your organization well.

After the interview is complete, the media request is logged. This includes recording the topic of the interview, who the media outlet was, the date of the interview and who represented the Society. Through the Alzheimer Society of Canada, we also subscribe to a media monitoring service, which sends a report each morning about any coverage we have received. These are both great ways to see how much media interest you’ve had over the course of a month, and to take note of times where there was a higher frequency of calls (and what the cause of that was).

2) Make sure your spokespeople ready to go:
The more you can prepare your spokesperson for an interview, the smoother it will go. The first thing I do every morning when I arrive at work is scan the news (including newspapers, television, radio and social media) to see if there is anything that we might get a call about. If there is something that stands out, I send it along to the staff so they will be familiar with the topic.

If I am pitching a story (about an event, or new initiative we are working on), I work with the potential spokesperson ahead of time. That way, they are fully aware of what we will be sending to media, are comfortable with key messages and can plan ahead for possible interviews.

When we do get a media request, I sit down with the staff member who will be doing the interview, and do a “mock interview” with any possible questions they might get. I try to make the questions fairly difficult, and that way the person doing the interview is ready for anything. We have found that mock interviews are a great way to brainstorm about the messages we want to get out there, and are a good way to calm those pre-interview jitters.


3) Respond in a timely manner
When you get a media request, make sure you respond in a timely manner. I subscribe to the 15 minute rule. If I say I will call a journalist back in 15 minutes, I make sure I call back in 15 minutes or less with a confirmation of who they will be speaking to, and when they are available. Journalists are busy people with tight deadlines, and really appreciate having things confirmed early on, so they can come do the interview, and have time to work on their story.

4) Be proactive
If you think you’ve got a great story idea, don’t be afraid to be the one who makes the initial contact. Find out who the reporters are who cover your area of interest, or speak with the producer or news director. I would suggest doing the pitch initially by e-mail, but remember – journalists have limited time, so make sure your pitch is newsworthy, to the point and includes a suggestion of who should be interviewed.

If you haven’t heard anything in a day or two, follow up by phone. Just like your initial pitch, this should be quick and to the point. Pretend you are in an elevator with someone, and only have 30 seconds to a minute to get out all the important points. The reporter or producer you are speaking to will really appreciate this.

These are just a few tips, but we’d love to hear from you. Do YOU have some tips YOU can share about working with the media? Leave a comment below.

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