There are a number of ways to engage with the media, including press/news releases, media conferences and media trainings. Program staff may want to conduct a range of activities, depending on their program’s needs.
A news or press release is a document sent to news media outlets/houses or agencies, and included in a media kit. It is a focused document that is usually written as a news story, and highlights an intervention by an organization, agency or a company, an event, or information about a product or service. It is written with the news media in mind, and is meant to convince journalists to cover the issue that the news release is showcasing. Here is a sample press release from a global meeting of SSFFC malaria medicines stakeholders that took place in Ghana. Keep these best practices in mind when writing a press release:
- Make sure to select a strong angle for the story that is newsworthy.
- Always lead with the most newsworthy and important information. Use a strong headline and opening paragraph that will pique the reader’s interest. In this section, cite the reason for the news release. General information should be placed further down the article.
- Illustrate the story with real examples the reader can relate to. Similarly, use strong quotes from real people to illustrate the story.
- Be brief. There is no need to write the whole story in the news release.
- Keep the language simple, and do not use jargon or abbreviations. Always use the third person.
- Make sure to stick to the facts and avoid exaggeration.
- Ideally, a news release should be one page, but if it's necessary to go over this limit, make sure it is no more than two pages.
- Always make sure to answer the five cardinal questions of journalism: who, what, when, where and why. Also try to answer how, and make sure to be very clear why this story matters.
Holding a news conference is often key to connecting with the media. Keep them short, but not so short that journalists feel that they have not been heard or given a chance to interact with the experts, ask questions or even do on the spot interviews. Limit the news conference to three people, who are talking for five minutes each (15 minutes total).
Here are some considerations for holding a news conference:
- Be clear about the information that will be shared with the news media.
- If indoors, make sure that all technical equipment, including microphones, speakers, lighting and any other equipment needed, is in working order. If outdoors, make sure that people can hear the speakers.
- Have enough copies of the media kit available for each media representative.
- Invite as many journalists as possible. If your information is not urgent, send your invitation a few days in advance.
- During the news conference, make a brief formal opening statement, mentioning all the most important information related to who, what, when, where, why and how.
- If more than one person will be speaking, introduce them and run through your agenda, so that the journalists and reporters know what to expect and who will be speaking in which order.
- Allow time for questions – this typically lasts at least 15 minutes.
- If needed, have the speakers or additional people available to answer questions after the news conference concludes.
PROVIDING A MEDIA BITE OR AN INTERVIEW
When working with the media, program staff may be asked to provide a media bite or interview. Before submitting a media bite or giving an interview, take a moment to learn about the journalist and their goals to help tailor talking points and ensure that participation will help the cause. Ask journalists to describe their story and the type of information they would like to receive from the interview, as well as share how they learned about the program/issue and provide the names of who else they have talked to for their story. Also, make sure to ask about their deadline. As It is likely that journalists will ask about the problem and what should be done to reduce it.
While those interviewed may have a lot to say on the matter, it is important to keep in mind that only two or three of their sentences may make it to the final piece. Remember to keep the message short, simple and to the point. It is best to use common language (avoid technical terms) and highlight issues everyone should care about (for example, common sense, fairness or protecting audience’s family) to ensure that audiences can relate to the message. Those interviewed may want to strengthen the case by using examples or personal stories.
For both media bites and interviews, those interviewed will want to reflect on the one to three points they want to get across during the interview – and then stick to those messages. They may find it helpful to think of talking point in terms of three sentence: the main point, supporting fact and an illustrative example. For example:
First sentence (Main point): It is easy for the public to protect yourself and your loved ones from the dangers of poor quality malaria medicines!
Second sentence (Supporting point): In Nigeria, you can reduce your risk of buying poor quality medicines by shopping at formal medicine sources and verifying your medicine by texting the number under the scratch pad.
Third sentence (Illustrative example): This week, a mother in Akwa Ibom was telling me how easy it was to assure the quality of her medicine – she said that using NAFDAC’s mobile verification system was just like adding credit to her phone!
Whether providing a smaller media bite or a longer interview, health practitioners should remember that they are the expert and that they have an important perspective to share. Stay calm and stick to the prepared messages. Those interviewed should not feel obligated to answer questions that are outside their expertise and do not exaggerate or lie to strengthen the interview. Feel free take a moment to pause and think about a question before they provide an answer, or tell a reporter that they will get back to them with more information.
HOSTING A MEDIA TRAINING
Hosting a media training is one way to build partnerships with the news media and make journalists aware of the issue and program, as well as bring attention to the key considerations they should keep in mind when reporting about SSFFC malaria medicines in the area. Media trainings are not only a good opportunity to generate buy in from media sources, they also help to connect journalists and reporters with SSFFC malaria medicine experts that they could use as sources for their stories. See the next step, Step 4 for more information about hosting a training.