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Working with Media on Environmental Issues

Generating interest and support for environmental issues is challenging but necessary. Effective media  attention can garner public support and influence whether a corporation or government will address a problem. These notes and suggestions are meant to help others put together an action plan that strengthens your relationship with local print, radio and television media – an important step in raising awareness of issues of concern.

Who do you work with?

Start by building a list of the various newspaper, radio and television contacts. Through the internet you can find previous stories reporters have written and you’ll discover that there are usually a handful that pay close attention to environment issues. It’s also important to take note of how they cover a story. Do they tend to look for scandals and injustice or do they report on both sides in a non-biased manner? If they are active on social media, connect with them directly and take note of the content they share through those channels. It also makes sense to search for and find out if the target audience of your efforts, be it elected politicians, companies or agencies are on social media and make a similar effort. Understanding how your partners and adversaries interact and what gets their attention will be invaluable. When there is a significant development these will be the people that you can reach out to as they may either be looking for a story or already be covering it and trying to gather feedback. Lastly maintain this list as media staff tend to move around a lot.

What do they need to know about your organization?

As part of your initial contact efforts with the various media outlets, share a short paragraph with them that includes your organizational details along with a secondary point of contact that can speak publicly on behalf of your group. This will ensure that you are accurately representing your position on the issues at hand. It may even be necessary to have a designated public relations committee or chair depending on your organization. Once you have completed a few successful interviews, and depending on how much interest the story garners, you’ll likely find your media contacts will start to reach out to you directly as a reputable source of local feedback on breaking stories.

What is the issue?

Should a request for an interview come up there is usually very minimal amount of time to prepare. Be responsive, but it may help to stall even just for a few hours so that you can gather some talking points and perhaps speak with other members of your group regarding the pending request. Ask the reporter what sort of questions they’ll be asking along with who they may also still be looking to interview. There are many stories where they may want to get other perspectives and you can refer them to additional trusted sources that share common interest in environmental issues. If the story is something that isn’t in line with your organizational focus or your background doesn’t relate, declining an interview and referring them to someone else is a good practice and will preserve your integrity for the future.

How to make for a great interview?

It may seem obvious but there are some key fundamentals that lead to a great quotable interview. Make a list of key points along with a clear call to action. Do the interview in a comfortable place without distractions or background noise. Listen to the questions and speak with confidence in areas of expertise. Always consider that you are speaking as an ambassador for the people and/or organization you represent, and conduct yourself accordingly.  Don’t forget to ask for feedback from those you represent so you can continue to improve your interview skills. Having a positive public relations plan will not only help to advocate change and influence key stakeholders, it will attract new members and volunteers to your group.

After a great interview, ask when it will air or be published and make sure to get the word out. Maybe it goes without being said, but be certain to send a note of appreciation back to the reporter after the story goes live, particularly if they did a great job positioning your input. With some consistent effort you can maintain a respectable network of trusted media partners and key a spotlight on the issues and problems that warranted the outreach in the first place.

by, Robert Huber
Chair, Thames River Anglers Association
Vice Chair, Ontario Rivers Alliance

@HuberRob on Twitter