Working with the Media

The media play a crucial role in our society by helping shape public opinion. Getting media coverage can be a huge asset to raising awareness and educating members of your community about any news, stories or programs you might be working on.

Media relations includes developing materials to use to share information, reaching out to reporters and outlets to encourage coverage of programs, initiatives and events, responding to inquiries, conducting or coordinating interviews, and building relationships with members of the media. The most important aspects of media relations include knowing what is newsworthy and building relationships within the media. It is critical that PTAs work proactively with the media, and at times, it also is necessary for PTAs to work reactively with the media.

A few things you will want to keep in mind when working with members of the media:

  • Always read or watch the news outlets in your market before reaching out to them. It is important to know what type of stories they tend to cover, and it is critical to reach out to the right reporters.
  • Reporters are busy, and media resources are dwindling these days. Reporters rely more and more on public relations professionals to give them a complete story with up-to-date facts and statistics that they will not need to double check.
  • Email is your best approach unless you have a great working relationship with a particular reporter and feel comfortable picking up the phone to call directly.
  • Only pitch stories to them that you know they would have interest in covering. And if they do not cover your story, thank them anyway. Or perhaps point them to another resource where they can get the information they are looking for. They will remember that you helped them, and that will make the difference for next time.
  • Building and maintaining good relationships with reporters will be what helps you place your story. As you carry out programs and events, you can develop positive working relationships with print and broadcast professionals and organizations in your community.

Media Relations Tools

Tools you will use to conduct media outreach are a pitch, press release, media advisory, op-ed, letter to the editor and media statement. All are designed to communicate your message, program or event to media outlets.

Media Pitch
A media pitch is a great tool to convince a journalist your story is newsworthy and relevant to his or her audience. It can either supplement a press release or serve as a stand-alone tool. A pitch is less formal and more targeted to a specific reporter than a standard press release. Think of it as a short letter to a reporter outlining why your story is of interest to his/her particular beat and audience. Perhaps he/she has covered this issue in the past or could benefit from connecting with you (or another spokesperson) to gain insight, information or news. A pitch is your chance to present yourself as a valuable resource. It should provide a reporter with a quick snapshot of who you are, what your news is and why it is relevant.

Press Release
A press release is a written, formal statement that announces a range of news items, including awards, new partnerships or programs. A press release is useful when there is a milestone event, program launch or other "big news" coming from your PTA that is intended for a broad media audience. It follows a standard format, contains the appropriate contact information and allows media outlets the chance to follow up with you should they be interested in pursuing a story.

Sample Press Release & Sample Media Advisory

Media Advisory
A media advisory or media alert is an abbreviated form of a press release that is used to provide information to the media to persuade them to cover an event, meeting or performance. A media advisory conveys basic facts in the format of what/why, who, when and where.

Opinion-Editorial (Op-Ed)
An op-ed piece is written to grab attention and generate support among various groups, including elected officials, business and community leaders and the general public. This type of piece is designed to express a single, clear point of view that is supported by facts and statistics. An op-ed submission should focus on a subject that is timely and newsworthy and include a clear call to action.

Letter to the Editor (LTE)
A letter to the editor is another way to reach a large audience. A letter can take a position for or against an issue, simply inform or both. Letters to the editor are short and concise and can include emotions and/or facts. Letters are designed to reference or highlight relevant, hot topics; recent events in a community; or a recent news article. 

Media Statement
A media statement is written in response to a breaking news story or event. A statement is used when media outlets are already covering a story to provide quotes that could be incorporated or when an association wishes to comment on a story. A statement is short and concise and is used to grab the attention of reporters or media outlets.

Conducting Interviews

Scoring a phone or a face-to-face interview is a great opportunity to relay a story or news to a reporter who will then “package” the story for his/her audience. Here are some helpful interview techniques and tips to be an effective spokesperson for your PTA:

  • Prepare talking notes on focus points you want to make. Keep this fairly succinct as there is always a possibility that the reporter will edit down your response. Think of these as “sound bites.” Try to practice these at home before your interview.
  • Listen to the interviewer’s questions and answer thoughtfully. If possible, try to bridge this to your talking points.
  • If you do not know the answer to a question, that is fine. Tell the reporter and let him/her know that you will follow up with it.
  • Be authentic, passionate and truthful. Be yourself! It will help you to relax and will come across as more sincere.