As you begin to think about your media outreach efforts, first define the most important messages and overall goals of your project before identifying the media you want to reach. Here are a few things to think about as you get started.
Define your message.
Defining the most important messages will set a sound framework for everything that follows. Here are some questions to consider:
- What do you want reporters (and, ultimately, policymakers and other members of your community) to know?
- Do you want to raise awareness, call community members to action, or both?
- Do you want to bring attention to all facets of your programs and activities or only specific ones?
When defining your message, let your own experiences guide you. When talking with family and friends about public health, what part of it excites you and them the most? Focus on the most exciting aspects of the story. Do not bury your message in details or jargon. Which example do you think is more memorable?
"Americans should respect the CDC guidelines, and healthy people should not get a flu shot so there is enough for those who need it."
"For every shot that goes into the arm of a healthy adult, one small child or frail elderly person won't be able to get vaccinated."
Identify your audiences.
Certain media outlets are better suited for reaching certain audiences. Here are some questions to consider:
- Who have been the primary recipients of your past work?
- Who are the specific groups that most need to know about your program, project, or event?
- Who are the audiences with natural interests in the messages?
- Which audiences will be most receptive to your message?
- Are there other new audiences you want to reach? If so, who?
If you identify multiple audiences, consider whether you are prepared to respond to an increased level of interest and inquiries from the audiences you are trying to reach. Do you have adequate staffing? If you have a Web site, is the content current and does it correspond with your media outreach activities?
Establish community partnerships.
People and organizations from all sectors of the community—public, private, educational, non-profit, or philanthropic—may share your vision, goals, and activities, so partnering with them may be advantageous in reaching out to the media. If you choose to partner with another group, consider the following activities for success:
- Determine responsibilities. Have a clear plan for who will handle each task.
- Share news lists and contacts.
- Draft news releases and other project materials together and include all the partner names (and logos if feasible) on all media materials.
- Identify common audiences and determine who is best suited to reach out to those audiences.
- Prepare your organization's representatives and your partners to be spokespersons. Do they have experience doing media interviews? Do you have the right spokespersons—are they appealing to the audiences that you want to reach?
Look for news “hooks.”
Take advantage of natural news hooks, such as the involvement of a local celebrity or activities timed around a national day or other local community event for the program or activity you are promoting. News hooks show media outlets that your work is timely and will attract readers, viewers, or listeners.