Working with the media
Many Daphne projects quote ‘the media’ as one form of dissemination of their project outcomes. In reality, projects have no control over what the media might or might not choose to cover in the press or on TV or radio, so this statement is really more ‘wishful thinking’ than a dissemination plan.
It must also be remembered that the media reach out in a very general way to the mass public and so are not a good way of attempting to reach specific target groups. It is true that there are ‘specialist media’ – for example journals dealing with children and family issues, or women’s magazines that cover issues relating to women, and these specialist media can be useful contacts when there are specific results to be shared with a broad but specialist audience.
It is also important to remember that journalists fall into two broad categories: those who are looking for ‘news’ and those who seek out more substantial stories of public interest. News journalists will want to ‘hook’ onto an event or a launch, and will probably want something unusual or exceptional. Sending a press release announcing the fact that you are running a Daphne project is unlikely to get any response from these journalists.
Current affairs journalists are more likely to cover a project’s outcomes – especially if they are controversial or new or surprising – in more depth. They will not be interested in the project so much as the information that it generates, especially research findings and data showing trends or patterns.
Working with the media, too, therefore requires careful planning and reflection. Again, it is useful to ask some simple questions:
Why do I want to involve the media at all?
- If you are just looking for publicity for your organisation, then this does not really belong in your Daphne project and the Commission should not be expected to fund it – omit it from project activities.
- If you believe the media can help you to reach out to people who need to know the substance of your project, or just the fact that it is taking place, then by all means consider working with the media.
- If your project is an awareness-raising or sensitisation project, you cannot expect the media just to become almost ‘volunteer partners’ and do the work of campaigning for you. That is not what the media are for. Instead you should engage a public relations or promotions company to help you in your campaign. It may well be that the media will be interested in what you are doing and will provide some coverage, but at their discretion and always presuming there are not other more ‘important’ stories in the news.
Is the audience I am trying to reach one that can be reached through the media?
- If the answer is ‘no’, then do not proceed.
- If the answer is ‘yes’, then is the audience the general public (mass media) or a specialist audience (specialist media)?
What do I have to offer the media?
- If you really have something newsworthy, then consider taking the story to a news journalist.
- If the story is not necessarily newsworthy but deserves more in-depth treatment, then consider taking it to a current affairs journalist.
Are there particular journalists who regularly deal with the kind of issues arising from the project?
- Many journalists have a ‘beat’ – ie they regularly cover the same kind of stories. Get to know these journalists and feed them stories directly; just sending a press release or information to the newsroom or TV/radio station is unlikely to yield results. News editors receive dozens of pieces of information every day and most of them go straight into the wastepaper basket.
What can I do to make the journalist’s work easier?
- The easier you make it for the journalist, the more likely they are to cover your story. Be brief in your materials and highlight the most important points. Write clearly and precisely, without jargon. Follow up with a phone call to the journalist concerned. Make people available for interview who know the subject and can speak briefly and to the point.
How can I contact the journalist(s) and what should I send them?
- Most countries have a directory of working journalists/press and media outlets. You will find it in your local library or it may be on-line. You can also scan local press, TV and radio to find the journalists who may be of particular interest. Contact them by name.
- In an introductory phone call, introduce very, very briefly the subject you want to discuss. Follow up immediately with some written materials, generally a one-page press release (written clearly and following the lines of a short newspaper article). Where possible give quotes that the journalist can use directly.
- If you have a research report or other materials to share, do not send the whole package. Journalists do not have time to read 100 pages to get to the heart of the matter – send a one-page summary and offer to provide more information if the journalist wants it.
- You may wish to prepare an info kit for journalists – include the executive summary of the report (see above), a copy of the full report too, a press release/statement with quotes (see also above), and a note of contact numbers of people who can speak on the issues.
- Be sure to mention Daphne support on any written materials! You can use the Daphne logo to let people know that your work is part of Daphne project activity, but be sure to follow the guidelines for its use, which are available on the Daphne website.