How to engage your local media

How to engage your local media
Your local media can help you raise awareness about important issues like global poverty
and injustice. Local media is where people find out what’s happening in their own
community. Depending on the type of media, it can also be used by local MPs, opposition
candidates and local councils to gauge community interest on particular issues.
Whether it’s your local newspaper, your local community radio station, a church blog or a
university magazine, local media is a great way to get heard on a particular issue and
generate public debate or support.
Best of all, your local media want to hear from you! Journalists are always looking for good
human interest stories and a personal story from a local resident can be just what they’re
looking for.
Here are World Vision’s top 10 tips on how to engage your local media.
Tip 1: Find your local media
Local media includes newspapers or radio stations that are based in, and report on, a
suburban or regional area. To find your local newspaper(s) go to You
will find the email address of the editor in the “contact us” section of your newspaper’s
website or you can call and request their email address if it’s not listed.
Most local radio stations also have details on their websites. To find your local radio station,
start here:
It’s a good idea to get to know the reporting style and audience of your local media first so
have a read through the paper or listen to the radio station before you pitch your story
Tip 2: Find the right “angle”
Local media love a local angle, so make sure that’s what you focus on. They will want to
know how this issue is affecting local residents like you, and what locals are doing about it.
Getting local politicians or community leaders involved can also help.
Be clear about what you want to achieve – for example, do you:
Want to raise awareness about a particular issue?
Want to influence a decision or policy?
Want to let people know about an upcoming event?
Want to build public support for an activity or project?
Keep your goals in mind as you craft your message and tell your story.
Ask yourself:
What is the issue/problem?
What is the local angle?
What am I (or my group) doing about it?
What is the call to action?
A great way to create the news is to hold an event in an area of local significance on an
issue you care about and invite local community leaders. See our “tips for organising an
event or stunt” guide for more information.
You can also leverage breaking news to get coverage of your story. Pay attention to current
news events and try to relate your action to what is already being covered.
Tip 3: Think visually
Newspapers need photos as much as they need words, if not more so. Photos often convey
a message more powerfully than words and make an article eye-catching to readers.
When planning your event, think about the photo opportunity, because the photo will help
sell your story and could also result in better placement in the newspaper. You should try to
organise photo opportunities that illustrate your point in an interesting or novel way. Invite
the media to take their own photos, but also arrange for someone in your group to take some
in case the media can’t make it but want to run the story.
A photographer should be able to capture a single image which:
tells a story – signs/banners might help to do this;
readily conveys a link to the issue;
shows action;
conveys a tone or emotion;
involves local people (ie. builds a social movement);
gives an idea of location – eg. outside an iconic building or familiar landmark;
gets the reader’s attention – the more creative the better! – think crazy stunts,
costumes, props etc. (But also keep in mind laws and local by-laws).
See our “tips for organising an event or stunt” guide for more information.
Tip 4: Make initial contact
Once you know what you are planning to do and what it might look like it’s time to pick up
the phone and make your pitch. Call the media outlet’s news desk about a week or two
before your event, but this depends on your objectives for getting media attention. Do you
want to advertise an event so other people can join you? If so, you need to give the media
plenty of time to run the story before the event. If you just want it covered, you can alert the
newsrooms closer to the day. If you have noticed a particular journalist who seems to cover
similar issues, ask to speak to them directly. Otherwise, ask for the editor or chief-of-staff.
Introduce yourself and quickly outline the key points that make your story interesting. For
Hi, this is [name] calling from [suburb]. Myself and other youth from the area will be
rallying outside [shopping centre] this Saturday to raise awareness about poor water
and sanitation in developing countries which causes life-threatening diseases. Local
MP [name] will be there to receive signed letters from local residents calling for
urgent action on this issue. We will also be giving out bottles of dirty water to show
people what children in the world’s poorest countries drink every day. Would you be
interested in speaking to one of us about this story?”
When pitching your idea, find out what timing works for the media, and what further
information they require. Try to get the journalist/editor’s personal email so you can send a
follow up media release directly.
Tip 5: Send a media release
Follow up your phone call with a media release at least a week before the event. Preferably
a media release should be less than one page and contain a snappy headline, details about
the event, background on the issue, quotes from key people like politicians or community
leaders (with their permission) and your contact details. Remember to explain who, what,
where, when and why. Include the most important or compelling information in the first
sentence or two. Use short, simple and clear language throughout and avoid using
acronyms or abbreviations like ODA or MDGs.
Consider answering questions such as:
When is the event?
What makes this story relevant for their publication/radio program?
What’s your connection (are you a local resident, a local student? etc)
What’s the photo opportunity?
How do readers/listeners get involved? (attend, sign-up, spread the word etc)
Before sending your media release, have someone else proofread it. And, after you send it,
follow up with a phone call to make sure it was received. Ask if they need any further
information and if they’d be interested in sending a photographer.
Tip 6: Appoint a spokesperson
You should identify a spokesperson who is willing to be interviewed by the media. Provide
their contact details on the media release. Make sure it’s the number of someone who will be
at the event and preferably a mobile number so they can be reached.
Here are a few things to remember before an interview: know your key points (have no more
than three) and be able to express them clearly; show passion for your issue but steer away
from becoming aggressive; tell people what you or your group is doing; and, finally, provide
a “call to action” – pointing your audience to ways they can make a difference.
You might want to practice the interview beforehand. Ask a friend to ask you some likely
questions in preparation. The most important tips are to be yourself, speak slowly, and
remember to smile! Keep your answers brief and to the point. Try not to reel off too many
facts and figures, because your own experience is more engaging to an audience.
Some questions you may be asked are:
What’s the cause?
How did you get started with this cause?
Why are you campaigning on this cause?
Why are you passionate about making a difference?
Why should others care about this cause?
How can others get involved?
Remember, you don’t have to be an expert. You’re being interviewed because you and/or
your group care about an issue and want to make a difference. If you don’t know the answer
to a question, just say so. It’s better than making something up.
It’s worth keeping in mind that while most stories will simply run in local newspapers (or on
local radio), some may be picked up by metropolitan newspapers, television or radio
programs. Be prepared, just in case you get a call.
Tip 7: Follow up after your event
If your story doesn’t get picked up, still send a follow-up email to the media outlets you spoke
with, telling them how the event went and attach some high-resolution photos. That way, if
they have room in an upcoming edition or bulletin, they may still be able to cover it.
Don’t forget to post an event update and any photos/footage on social media as well to keep
the story going. Sometimes online media can be just as effective, if not more so, than
traditional media. See our “tips for engaging using social media” guide for more information.
Tip 8: Write a letter to the editor
If you care about an issue but aren’t organising an event, you could still write a letter to the
editor of your local newspaper, giving your opinion on a particular issue. When writing a
letter to the editor, you need to be clear and concise. Try and keep your letter to about 200
words and focus on a single argument. Tying your letter into a recent issue or story is also a
good way to get your letters published – although if you’re going to do this, make sure you
get in quick while the issue is still topical.
Tip 9: Contacts are key – keep them!
If the local journalist you spoke to appeared interested and engaged with what you were
saying – and the story got a run – keep that journalist’s details on hand. Ask for them directly
next time you have a story idea, and provide them with your contact details in case they
want to speak to you about a story in future. Keep a list of local media outlets and their key
contact people and keep the list up to date.
Tip 10: Don’t give up
Don’t be discouraged if your story isn’t published or promoted this time. Even large
organisations aren’t always successful in attracting media attention. The main thing is to not
give up. The more letters, articles and media releases you write on an issue for your local
media, the more likely your story will get published or broadcast.
Finally, let World Vision know about it!
If you get media coverage, please let World Vision know. We want to know what our local
activists are doing, and where possible, link to these local stories so we can inspire others to
get out there and do the same. Please email us an update at
[email protected]
If you have an idea that you think would be good for state or national media, please give
World Vision’s media team a call to discuss.
Please remember that when dealing with local media you should be careful not to give the impression
that you are a spokesperson or representative of World Vision Australia or that your activity is
endorsed by World Vision Australia.