Media Guide

On this page you'll find tools and templates for successfully engaging with the press to get your message out and be heard.

Setting Your Action's Goals:

  • CODEPINK tends to focus on policy and social change goals
  • The message to the media must be directly related to the goal
  • We are not just doing media work to get our name out, we're doing it to meet our campaign goal

Identify who can fulfill your campaign goals, for example:

  • If your goal is to end the occupation of Afghanistan: Congress, national policy members, President
  • If your goal is to pass a local ordinance: Local supervisors
  • If your goal is to get a big turn out at a local event: People in the area

Target media via actions:

  • To influence Congress, look into “opinion leading” media, such as the NY Times and the Washington Post.
  • To influence local supervisors, it's best to go for local media outlets.
  • To influence the parents who need opt-out info to prevent their kids from getting targeted by the military, we may look for a local newspaper, a school newsletter, or might want to create our own media (handing out flyers, etc.).
  • To get media attention, you have to give the media a reason to cover you by either:
    Creating news
    Piggybacking on another issue/news item

What is news?

  • News is something new! Examples of news: new legislation, a new product, something that hasn't happened before, controversy and conflict, celebrities, holidays and milestones.
  • Other examples: In a small community, what's news is something happening locally, in big cities, you may wish to piggyback on other events, such as a war criminal coming to town.
  • Journalists cover actions that have flair and visual appeal. Monitor the media in your community and tag onto what they're interested in.
  • CODEPINK has succeeded in doing lightning quick actions to respond to what's hot in the media. Find the hot issue, take on a different angle or up the ante and get creative!

Working the press when in coalition with other groups?

  • Get attention at the event: Be very visual, be pink, have signs at the event
  • Before the event: Send out joint press releases, choose the best spokespeople to promote to the media, regardless of which group they belong to, and highlight the group that had taken a lead role in the organizing.

How do you respond to media inquiries at your event?

  • Bring press releases with you, ask the press to sign-in so you'll have their contact info for the future, and introduce the press to the people you want them to talk with. It's really important that you pick someone in your group to be a media liaison and to approach the media to introduce herself, offer to introduce key spokespeople to the media as people to interview.
  • Since reporters will ask you, you should make sure you are able to provide info that you can research on the following pages: CODEPINK Mission | FAQs


Media Tools and Tactics

Writing a press release

  • Write it in an inverted pyramid format: Conclusion first, then supporting facts, with the least interesting information at the end. The lead is used to grab a reporter's attention but should also concisely summarize your "news." Often a quote from a spokesperson is also included. The last sentence or two should reiterate the CODEPINK mission statement.
  • End with ### to signal to reporters that they have the entire document.
  • Send releases on CODEPINK letterhead with a date of release and a contact person's name listed at the top, along with contact info. See samples.

Distribution tactics

  • Fax your media advisory to all your media outlets, usually only a day or two in advance.
  • Call every media outlet to pitch your story.
  • Ask for the assignment desk or the news desk.
  • Make sure to include the when, where, and why it's newsworthy
  • Don't ask if they've received your press release right off because then they may not stay on the line to hear what you have to say. Offer to send them the press release, even though you know you've already sent it.
  • Say that you're calling from CODEPINK. Develop a personal relationship with reporters so that they'll get to know you over time and will trust your tips on hot stories.
  • Do press calls again on the day of the event (usually before noon is best).

Plan out your media strategy before the event.

  • Make sure you have identified a spokeswoman. Someone who knows your groups' soundbytes, can be comfortable giving an interview -- you want YOUR spokesperson to give the interview that will be on the evening news, not some random person the reporter decides to interview.
  • Identify someone (maybe even the spokeswoman) to do a media sign-in. Introduce yourself to the camera people and reporters. Hand them your press release/media advisory and let them know that you or your spokeswoman is available for an interview.
  • Write and practice sound bytes to say to the media.
  • Make sure you are able to respond to questions about CODEPINK, read these pages to prepare your responses: CODEPINK Mission | FAQs

Other ways to get media

  • Letters to the Editor in the print media; make sure it relates to a news item and is very short
  • Op. Eds-longer opinion pieces (600-800 words) don't have to relate to a story in the newspaper, but do have to link to a current event (Example: something about Afghan women pinned to International Women's Day). You can find out how to submit these to the opinion page editor by looking in your paper or calling the newspaper's switchboard.
  • Calendar Listing: To get people to come to your event, you should send a calendar listing to the local event listings, often at least three weeks in advance of the event. See sample.
  • Public Service Advisory (PSA): You can also get a PSA onto your local radio station. See sample.


Giving Interviews

Before the interview: Preparation

  • Develop your message (Problem, Solution, Action)
  • Control the Frame (Your analysis of the issue, the frame defines what's in your story)
  • Consider getting the opinion of someone outside the immediate group about the clarity of your message.
  • Does it make sense to them? What other details are important?
  • Know you talking points and be well practiced-practice in front of the mirror, in front of your friends, and if possible even in front of a camera.
  • Be familiar with both the short term (this cycle) and long term (campaign) media strategy and how this interview fits into each.
  • Know your audience and know the medium (watch the show, research the reporter, understand who watches).
  • Know the interview format and prepare yourself for the specific type of interview.
  • Think about what the others interviewed (the "opposition") will be saying.
Ask the reporter a series of questions LONG before they ask you any!
  • Find out what kind of a story the outlet is doing (how long, what angle, etc)
  • What topics will be discussed in the interview?
  • Who else is being interviewed?
  • Are you live?
  • When will it air?
  • Where will it appear (and can you leverage that for more)?

Prepare for distractions and interruptions

  • Keep focused on the interview; let others be "in action", deal with problems, etc.
  • Warm up your voice and use the music of your voice (tone, intonation, emphasis).
  • Be conscious of how you look. Have strong posture, bring relevant sign/button etc up near your face for video interview. ALL of you is the message, not just what you say!

During the interview (do's and don'ts)

DO:
  • Remember that this is YOUR interview, the reporter needs you for the story.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • When preparing to answer: Stop, Breathe, Relax, Think, Speak!
  • When answering: Listen, Respond, Expand (ONLY if necessary), STOP!
  • Ask the reporter to repeat the question if you did not hear/understand it.
  • Know where to look: at the interviewer, usually NOT at the camera. When in doubt, ASK where to look, and look at the same place throughout the interview.
  • Know how to hold yourself: stand or sit with strong posture and a quiet body presence.

DON'T:

  • Repeat the reporter's questions or phrases.
  • Use pause words ('um' 'like' 'uh') - practice helps!
  • Fidget, use many hand motions, or touch/scratch your face (these will be magnified and distracting on video).
  • Say "this is off the record or I want to speak off camera" - you cannot control that.
  • Argue with the reporter/interviewer - if the interview becomes hostile, simply conclude with dignity and walk away.
  • Feel that you HAVE to answer the question(s); you can respond by speaking your talking points.

After the interview

  • Debrief with others; how do you feel about the interview? What did they think?
  • Watch yourself (request a copy or have someone record it!) and evaluate how it went: notice which bytes made it, did they ask the questions you were expecting, did you control the frame, did you stay on message?
  • Leverage the interview! What can you do with the video to further your goals?
  • Practice some more based on what you learned!