Media 101: working with journalists to promote your LIFE project

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Media relations is an effective means of getting your message across. The team behind LIFE 3n-Bullfrog realises this and has successfully raised awareness of how vital it is to control American bullfrog populations – an invasive alien species that threatens biodiversity in Flanders, Belgium.

We caught up with Alain de Vocht who coordinates LIFE 3n-Bullfrog to find out more about the project’s extremely successful media strategy.

Why did you start contacting the media?

I think it is really important to raise awareness about the problems caused by invasive alien species and, in our case, the American bullfrog in Flanders. This frog is big and aggressive, and destroys the indigenous frog population, while negatively impacting biodiversity. But we needed public support and understanding of our completely new and sustainable methods of controlling its populations. And, this is where the media helped.

What process should you follow when reaching out to journalists?

Planning is vital. This means having a media invitation and background information ready. You should also develop a website, a logo, information panels, leaflets, and promotional items before reaching out.

Journalists love numbers and figures so have some to hand. And, make sure you have something worthwhile for them to see. Finally, do not forget to thank them.

What information do you think journalists are looking for?

Journalists want something new, special and original. They are busy people and must be able to quickly assess how newsworthy your story is. So, short communication is a must! Quality information is also key, as are photos and even video if you have it.

Tell us about a media action you recently carried out

In August this year, we organised a press trip to a remote location in Flanders. The event focused on the use of sterile triploid frogs to contain the species in a sustainable and animal-friendly manner.

Ahead of the event, we wrote a concise media invitation of just one page with an attention-grabbing headline. We also handed out some visuals during the trip.

The location was great as the media could see at first-hand frogs, tadpoles, and the team catching the animals with the nets. One of our experts held up a bullfrog so that the journalists could see how big it was.

Our approach worked well – all of the major Flemish television stations and newspapers came and reported.

How about media interviews - any tips?

When doing an interview, you should focus on the key elements of your message. You only have a few minutes when talking to journalists. Be concise and clear. Answer the question, use short sentences, and do not ramble.

I also find it useful to talk through the interview with the reporter in advance to avoid any misunderstandings.

Has your media outreach helped your project?

Yes, most definitely. That the American bullfrog causes a major problem for biodiversity has now been largely accepted by the public. The media has helped us create awareness of this fact.

What are your top five tips for other LIFE projects considering media outreach?

  • Build an accurate list of journalists that publish quality information and update it regularly.
  • Personal invitations to journalists or editors you know are important.
  • Always provide quality and concise information and include visuals.
  • Do not over-communicate with the media. Instead, plan ahead and hold regular events on relevant topics to the journalists you are targeting.
  • Prepare answers to any questions that you think the journalists might ask.

 More information

The EU is keen to limit the negative impact of invasive alien species. Its 2030 Biodiversity strategy aims to reduce their numbers by 50%.

Images: LIFE18 NAT/BE/001016. All rights reserved. Licensed to the European Union under conditions.

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