How to Contact the Media

By AJ Smith/Millar September 2008

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How to establish a relationship with the media:

 Developing a good working relationship with the media can have many rewards. It can raise the profile of your club, yourself, or your athletes.

Most importantly, by working with the media, you can get the word out about what a great sport archery is!

 

Check out these tips below:

 

Learn about the different types of news pieces:

 

(1)   The feature: A feature focuses on (1) a theme (i.e. “archery in Vancouver”), or (2) the life/accomplishments of one individual/family/organisation (this is usually called a “profile”). A feature is not supposed to be overly time-sensitive and therefore can be published at any time.

(2)   The hard-news story: Hard news has happened recently (i.e. - city archer makes Olympic team, athlete captures medal at high-profile event). Hard news is highly time-sensitive and must be published as soon as possible.

(3) The event: Sometimes news organisations (usually local papers) will cover your       event, such as a tournament or awards banquet.

(4) The coming event: i.e. - FCA nationals are coming to town.

 

Learn about the different kinds of news outlets:

 

Local (weekly) newspapers: This is the best place to start. Local newspapers typically are published once per week, have a small circulation, and operate with a handful of staff. Reporters tend to take their own pictures. There may be one sports reporter, or several people may write the sports stories.

A weekly paper is typically committed to covering a town and the surrounding region, or a specific neighbourhood of a city.

City (daily) newspapers: These are usually larger papers that cover an entire city. It may be more difficult to get your story into a daily because they serve a larger population and more organisations/sporting events are competing for news coverage. It's still worth a try though. Reporters tend to only write, and work in collaboration with a photographer.

TV stations: TV stations usually broadcast news shows at peak periods (such as mornings, 6 p.m., 11 p.m.). News shows tend to air hard-news stories earlier in their programs and features later in the program, with hard news being the priority. City stations might also air shows that do long feature pieces about what's going on in the city (i.e. - CBC's Living in Ottawa).

Radio: Many local radio stations promote local events or cover local news.

Internet: Many news organisations also operate a website. Also, some news agencies are web-based only nowadays.

 

Let them know:

 

It's important to remember there is no “news satellite” beaming information down into the computers of reporters and editors. Media people turn up at events because one of five things happened:

(1)   They received a press release or phone call about the event (usually from organizers).

(2)   They read about the event on the internet.

(3)   They heard about the event from another media station.

(4)   They heard about the event by word of mouth/stumbled upon the event by accident.

(5)   The event happens every year, so they know when and where to show up.

If none of the above happened, nobody from the media will show up at your event!

This is true of feature pieces too: a reporter may be excited to do a feature on your club, but they might not know you exist!

 

Since news people don't have CNN-style ticker feeds scrolling through their brains, you must be proactive. Don't count on numbers 2, 3, 4, or 5 happening – take the number 1 approach and contact the media yourself.

 

Get treated like any other sport at your local paper:

 

This is a good tip for clubs. Many community papers faithfully follow local sports, such as broomball or baseball leagues. If this is the case, co-ordinate with the editor of your community paper so your archery club members' results are published regularly. Send them a press release when your members do well at provincials, nationals, high school tournaments, etc. Give the editor a call when a newsworthy event happens, then send a press release with the main details (i.e. - who, what, when, where, and why; complete with equipment divisions, scores, and correct spellings of names).

 

Be proactive:

 

Call the news organisation about a week before your event to see if they're interested in attending. During that call, ask for an email address where you can send a press release (preferably via email) with details.

 

The day before the event, call to remind the news organisation and double-check they're sending someone to cover the event.

 

When the news staff show up, present them with a hard copy of your press release again, just to be sure they received it.

It may be best to appoint a public relations co-ordinator to perform these duties.

 

Email alone isn't good enough:

 

Many editors' email boxes are flooded both with junk and legitimate interview requests. As a result, if you don't call the news organisation and speak with a real, live human being, your email may never get looked at.

Always phone first. Follow up with email later.

 

Present a “new” angle:

 

Typically papers are interested in covering an event if something new has happened. (i.e. - more participants than ever before; a club member shoots a perfect 300, etc.). If you're able to convince the editor/reporter that your annual event has a fresh angle, it may merit a full piece with photos, instead of just a brief or a results summary.

Make sure your press release clearly states “what's new this year.” Include contact information for key organizers or athletes the reporter should interview.

 


Learn the deadlines:

 

Learn when the publication deadline is so you can always alert the media of your event well in advance or submit your material on time.

 

KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly!):

 

Handing a reporter a 40-page document of your club's annual results, and expecting them to sort through all the ages and equipment divisions and write an article about it, is NOT courteous or effective.

 

Instead, offer to send them a *brief* electronic copy of the results, sorted by athlete name, with the awards listed after the name.

 

Help them get it right:

 

Archery can be confusing if you don't know anything about the sport. Make sure someone (ideally your PR agent) is available to answer the reporter's questions about equipment, distances, age divisions, scoring, etc.

 

Again, assembling a press release can prevent the reporter from making mistakes.

 

Let the reporter/photographer know what they can and cannot do:

 

Set rules about where they can stand, when it's appropriate to take pictures/record images, if flash photography is acceptable, etc.

 

Invite everyone:

 

The news business is competitive. Be fair – if CTV is coming for your event, make sure you invite CBC too. Treating all news organisations equally will go a long way in establishing a healthy, lasting relationship with the media.

 

Be yourself:

 

If you are interviewed, there's no need to be nervous! Just answer all questions as fairly and accurately as you can. If you don't know the answer to a question, say so, and point the reporter in the direction of someone who can provide the information/comments.

If you're not comfortable answering a question, politely (but firmly) say you'd rather not talk about it.

 

Open up, be yourself, and don't be afraid to share fun details or tell interesting stories. It will make for a better article in the end.

 

Help prevent errors and inaccuracies:

 

All too often, reporters get information wrong in archery stories. Unfortunately, unlike hockey or soccer, where most Canadians know the rules even if they don't play, archery is a low-profile sport. Most reporters have to learn a brand new vocabulary and expand their knowledge base before reporting on an archery story. As a result, journalists frequently get terminology wrong.

For print stories, do not demand to check over their story before it goes to press. (This is rude. Also, most newsrooms have policies against letting the sources see articles in advance.)

 

However, most reporters are allowed to phone you after they've written the story to “fact check” – They can read certain passages aloud to you and check for errors.

So when your interview is finished, tell the reporter you'd be willing to “fact check” with them. Provide your phone number and tell them when you're available.

Again, A LOT of confusion can be alleviated by providing a press release with correct spelling and details.

 

Say thank you:

It's perfectly appropriate to thank a journalist after they report on your event. However, don't give gifts. Reporters aren't supposed to accept gifts or meals from sources; it can be perceived as borderline bribery.

So save yourself the money and trouble... and avoid the awkward moment when you show up on their doorstep with a bottle of wine or some doughnuts, only to have the reporter turn you down! Send a card or email instead.