Working With the Media
Building Effective Relationships With the Media
National Crime Victims Rights Week is a unique opportunity
to work with your local newspapers, and radio and television stations
to build public awareness about issues related to crime victims
rights, and to build relationships with the media that can last
throughout the year.
As with any effective relationship, its important to establish
trust and a good rapport when you interact with the media . . .
something that happens when you become a valued and credible source
of information, analysis, and referrals to other sources.
Get to know the media representatives who cover issues of importance
to you. When you read the daily newspaper or watch the evening news,
make a mental note of the reporters who regularly cover criminal
justice, legal, social, public policy, and health stories.
If there is a local story for which you feel you or your organization
can be helpful, telephone the reporter and offer yourself or a colleague
as an expert. If you receive media coverage, you can develop your
relationship further by writing thank-you notes to the reporter
and editor. Always be receptive and attentive to media inquiries
by promptly returning phone calls.
The media categorize news into two categories: hard breaking
news (e.g., new victims rights legislation is passed, a local
crime leaves many in the community victimized) versus softer feature
pieces (e.g., a crime victim rebuilds her life through advocacy,
local victim advocates reach out to domestic violence victims in
unique way). The media will typically view National Crime Victims
Rights Week as a feature piece, unless something particularly newsworthy
Whether hard news or soft, the media love facts. Use the enclosed
Statistical Overview for useable, newsworthy data. The Internet
also can serve as a valuable resource when searching for current
Before approaching the media, you must carefully define your message,
then tailor your news releases and events to convey that message.
Present your information in terms of how it will directly affect
the news organizations readers, viewers, listeners.
Most reporters, and readers, want to know the human interest angle
to any story, announcement, or event. For instance, does it introduce
a new or alternative perspective or does it educate, affect, or
influence a large number of people? You are in a unique position
to put a human face on crime victimization, either through the services
you provide or the individuals you serve.
Your publicity efforts will bear little fruit if youre not
targeting the right media contacts. To develop your media list,
a variety of sources are available:
- the yellow pages for the call letters and addresses of your
citys radio and television stations;
- the phone book for the addresses of your local newspaper(s);
- your local library for media directories, which, in addition
to providing addresses, will list the names of reporters, editors,
reader demographics, and the papers circulation.
You may be able to use media lists developed by your local Chamber
of Commerce or mayors and district attorneys offices.
Many reporters now prefer to receive news releases electronically,
so dont forget to get e-mail addresses. This will save on
Tools That Grab Media Attention
Below we describe a number of tools commonly used to communicate
with the media. While you can be creative in how you go about explaining
your issue and activities, you must be able to articulateas
briefly and succinctly as possiblethe newsworthiness of your
information and its relevance to the community.
Media Advisory - A media advisory, sometimes called a media
alert, is a one-page notification to the media that briefly
explains an event (e.g., news conference, candlelight vigil, rally,
open house). Include the who, what, when, where, and why
of your event. A media advisory should be sent out one to two weeks
prior to your event (four weeks in advance for a calendar listing),
and be followed by targeted telephone calls to the appropriate reporters.
If one of the major news wire services (i.e., Associated Press,
Reuters) has a bureau office in your city or town, call their day
book, which lists each days newsworthy events in your
community, to make sure your event is included. The sample
media advisory in the Sample Section can help you as you develop
News Release - News releases continue-to be the most effective
way for an organization to disseminate important information to
as wide an audience as possible, and, if well written and newsworthy,
will be noticed by the media. News releases can be used to announce
the results of a new study, an award, a special event, an outreach
campaign, or a new service to be offered by your organization.
Write your news releases in the inverted pyramid style
with the most critical information, the news, first,
followed by supporting details. Your release should tell the reader
how and why your news affects a large number of people. Try to use
local statistics to call attention to real problemsfor instance,
your communitys number of drunk-driving crashes, number of
reported rapes, or the need for services for crime victims.
At the end of the release, include a brief paragraph about your
organization, its mission, and its relationship to the eventwhat
is typically called a boilerplate.
The news release should be one to two pages in length, and can
include quotes from prominent people in your organization. The
sample news release
in the Resource Guide can help you with localizing your own release,
and dont forget to use the enclosed NCVRW
letterhead found in the Camera-Ready Section.
Fact Sheets - Reporters love data and anyone who is a reliable
source of data. Fact sheets provide additional information to help
reporters put your story into a larger context and fill out their
reports. You can prepare fact sheets on an array of issues:
- national and/or local statistics on crime rates;
- an overview of victims rights legislationpresent
and pendingin your state;
- an overview of the criminal justice system, highlighting the
roles of law enforcement, the district attorneys office,
victim advocates, judges, the prison system, community corrections,
the parole board, and other key players; and
- the need for volunteers for victims, providing details
about various volunteer duties including court monitoring, one-on-one
advocacy, assisting with support groups, developing new public
awareness programs, writing, fundraising and clerical work.
- At least two months before National Crime Victims
Rights Week or another noteworthy event, write to
local print and broadcast managing editors and owners
to ask them to support your public service campaign.
- Ask media officials to produce a series of programs
or articles that provide an overview of victims
experiences. Programs or articles could examine the
issues surrounding victims of sexual assault, elder
abuse, child abuse (using adult survivors or parents),
hate crime, domestic violence, drunk driving, family
members of homicide victims, and others. Avoid suggesting
programs or articles that may be exploitative, and
encourage the media to be sensitive to the victims
- Consider approaching a local public relations or
marketing firm for pro bono assistance in
creating a public service campaign.
- Dont forget to contact your local cable access
talk shows, which are always looking for new ideas
and frequently highlight the programs of community
- Encourage your mayor or city council chair to read
your National Crime Victims Rights Week proclamation
at a council meeting before National Crime Victims
Rights Week. Local media covers council meetings,
and it will help alert them to the upcoming week,
as well as provide an additional opportunity for coverage.
- Coordinate with victim advocacy organizations in
your community to produce a calendar of events
for National Crime Victims Rights Week that
includes information about special events and activities
and how to contact organizers. Provide this calendar
to print and broadcast media in your city (especially
editors and news directors). See the 2002 Events
included on a bookmark
in the Camera Ready Section.
- After events, send professional quality, 5
x 7 black and white photographs to your local
newspaper(s). Many newspapers will print community-event
photos, but may not have their staff cover such occasions.
Be certain to include a caption that identifies each
person in the photo and provides a brief description
of the event. Also, provide the name and phone number
of a person for the paper to contact for more information.
Public Service Announcements - Public service announcements
(PSAs) are free advertisements for issues and organizations that
serve the public interest. At least two months before National Crime
Victims Rights Week, contact the public service department
of your local radio and television stations and newspapers to learn
about their requirements and deadlines for receiving PSAs.
Radio stations usually will air PSAs in lengths of 15 seconds,
30 seconds, or 60 seconds, and frequently require PSA recordings
on audiotape or compact disk (CD). Many also accept written text
(the station will record the script that you provide). Some radio
and television stations will produce a PSA for local nonprofit organizations
featuring the stations on-air talent. This approach virtually
guarantees good pick up by the station and saves you production
and distribution costs.
Newspapers also provide limited public service space, but usually
require the advertiser to produce and provide camera-ready art.
When you mail either the finished PSAs or the scripts, include a
cover letter that encourages the radio, televison station, or newspaper
to support your public awareness campaign. Sample
radio PSAs are included in the Sample Section.
The editorial pages of your local newspaper provide yet another
opportunity to advance your messages on a given issue. Op-eds
and letters to the editor are
used frequently by savvy communicators:
Op-Eds - Essays that run opposite the editorial page
are frequently written by people not on a newspapers editorial
staff. Op-eds usually run from 500 to 700 words, but contact the
editorial page department to ask about exact requirements. The piece
must be timely and provide a different and/or unique perspective
on an issue currently important to the publics health and
welfare. Consider co-authoring a column with other victims
organizations or a recognized local expert in your community. A
collaborative effort will increase the impact. The sample
op-ed in the Sample Section will help you craft your own piece.
Letter to the Editor - Different from an op-ed,
letters to the editor generally react to specific news stories or
editorials that have previously appeared in a newspaper. For most
newspapers, the letters-to-the-editor section is the first and most
frequently read in the publication. Again, contact the newspaper
for guidelines on length and submission requirements.
Also, many newspaper editors are receptive to authoring their own
editorials commemorating National Crime Victims Rights Week,
so dont overlook this possibility.
|National Crime Victims'
Rights Week: Bringing Honor to Victims