Involve Young People

Be Heard:

Using the news media

The news media – TV, radio, newspapers and internet – can help bring attention to your campaign, issue, project or event. Sending journalists and bloggers a media release will help them report on and follow the story. If you talk to the media, it’s best to be well prepared.
Writing a media release

Knowing how to write a media release is a valuable skill. Here are some tips for creating a good one:

  • Write a catchy headline that sums up the issue.
  • Explain things clearly:
    • who is involved,
    • what the issue/event/action is, and
    • where, when and how it is happening or has happened.
  • Keep your information short and snappy.
    • Each paragraph should be no more than one or two sentences.
    • Put the most important details in the first paragraph.
    • Use simple language and avoid slang, acronyms or jargon.
    • Ideally, the whole media release should fit on one page.
  • Use quotes from people involved in your event or campaign – include their name and any job or role title they have.
  • Make sure all your information is correct – double-check all the facts!
  • Include contact details for someone who will handle further media enquiries.

Once you’ve written the media release, phone or email the media organisation beforehand to find out who it should be sent to (the best contact). After you send them the media release, phone them back to let them know you’ve sent the media release and check they’ve received it.

Timing is everything
  • Make sure you send in your release before the media organisation’s closing deadline. Contact them to find out when that is.
  • If you want something to appear in online news or newspapers that day, it’s best to send your media release early.
  • If contacting a radio station or TV channel, either contact them the night before or early in the morning.
  • If possible, aim to send information through on quiet days when there is less news. Sundays or public holidays can be good. Avoid days when other issues take up media attention, such as days that the Victorian Parliament is sitting.

Media organisations get lots of releases, so you need to stand out. To make sure you get noticed, check more tips on writing a media release at Youth Central.

Talking with the media

If they are interested in your story, journalists or media representatives may contact you to ask you questions.

Be prepared for this. They might ask you to provide a written response, a quote, or ask you to take part in an interview. If you’re asked an unexpected question, tell them you will call back with a comment shortly and develop a clear idea of what your message will be.

Remember you don’t have to answer the media’s questions – you can say ‘no thanks’ to an interview. This is probably the best option if you don’t feel properly prepared – and you need to be careful the media isn’t trying to present your story in a negative or incorrect way.

Taking part in interviews

Anyone taking part in an interview should know and understand the key messages, aims and objectives of the group or campaign they represent. Choose a spokesperson (or spokespeople) who is confident and happy to be interviewed. This way, mistakes are less likely and your issue is less likely to be misrepresented.

If you are going to speak with the media, find out as much as you can about the story they are aiming to run. What information is the journalist basing their story on?

Before you agree to an interview, ask:

  • When and where will the interview take place?
  • Will it be over the phone or in person, on radio or TV, live or pre-recorded?
  • Who else will take part?
  • What exactly will be discussed?
  • Can you have an advance copy of the questions to help you prepare?

When speaking with the media, remember that:

  • You can take your time to answer, and think through your responses if you need to.
  • Be passionate about your subject but always stay calm, professional and polite.
  • Keep it simple – make sure you have one clear message that anyone listening will understand.

And most importantly, always prepare as well as you can!

Start local

Big national news networks aren’t the only people who can promote your news. It’s often best to start locally, by contacting:

If you want to get your message to a youth audience, contact SYN Radio’s Panorama, a news and current events program for and by young people in Melbourne.

Making a video

Making a short video can be a great way to engage people with your story. You can use videos as part of a social media campaign and also send them to TV or online news services.

They can communicate complex ideas or messages quickly and neatly. You can make a video with most cameras, smartphones or webcams – the quality doesn’t have to be ‘movie standard’, people are interested in real-life stories and natural conversations.

Here are some tips:

  • Keep it short – less than 3 minutes.
  • Tell a story with a clear message – with a beginning, middle and end.
  • If possible, interview several different people about the issue or event, to show the range of support you have, or record live footage of an event, action or meeting.
  • Be careful to respect copyright by not using any graphics, images/audio from TV shows or movies, or music you don’t have permission for.
  • Think about creating a series of short clips, each telling part of the story. This encourages people to keep watching and learning more about your issue. You can turn this into a longer promotional campaign.
Make your own news!

You don’t have to rely on existing news services or media organisations. Why not start your own blog or website to share your news and stories of your project or campaign?

Remember that there are lots of independent media organisations out there to learn from (or speak to) – some examples are Crikey and Indymedia.

What you can do now

British Youth Council (BYC) (2011), How 2 be a media spokesperson, London: BYC

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