Working with the media is part of the valorization process for a program. Attention to the media really improves a program’s effectiveness and sustainability.
Attractive and well-prepared information about your program’s results and experiences will increase the public’s understanding and appreciation for a particular topic or research method. Consequently, follow-up programs and projects will be more easily accepted and supported. Also, such information may motivate other health promotion and prevention professionals – by a sort of multiplication process - to plan and implement similar interventions in different places or other settings. This is how the original program or project becomes a model of good practice.
Consider carefully the type of media that you want to reach and what, why and how you want to communicate. The most common communication channels are:
- Internet: websites of the organizations that run or support the program, the program’s/project’s own dedicated website, the quint-essenz community platform and other social media platforms
- Print media: articles in newspapers and magazines
- Audio-visual media: radio and TV
The Internet has the advantage of being a virtual medium with direct access to your desired audience/ There usually is no need to convince media professionals to accept your content. The only constraint,if any, are your own organization’s guidelines regarding communication and publication. However, there is generally a great deal of freedom in regard to what and how to communicate. Nevertheless, internet content needs to be prepared carefully and updated regularly.
The quint-essenz community platform is an ideal way to present your program or project for little additional work and no cost. You will easily reach the platform’s target group of professionals who work in health promotion and prevention.
In the print media, you must convince the editors that a text is worth publishing – unless you have the good fortune to be approached by them, of course.
If a theme is sufficiently topical and fits in well with current health concerns or debates, there is a good chance that a press conference will attract the interest of radio and TV journalists.
Present your program or project as a model of good practice. Actual events, surprising developments and results, as well as stakeholder statements, will make for an attractive, multi-media presentation.
Upcoming events, publications, job advertisements, introductions of new services, etc., are usually announced in short texts of 20-40 lines (750-1500 characters). They have a high likelihood of being published. Important statements and announcements should appear at the beginning, whereas who, where, when, etc., should be left to the end.
Project descriptions or general health topics deserve longer texts of 3000 – 5000 characters (60-140 lines). They are introduced by a semi-bold lead text that summarizes the most important information. This consists of 20-25 words with one or two concise statements about the content of the main body of the text. The text should begin with an enticing entry, such as a quote or a specific example. The main part should be well structured and contain a common thread. It helps to imagine that you are telling a compelling story. The text should always end with a summary of the key points. Notices of events or other happenings are given briefly at the end.
The content and writing style should be adapted to the target audience. For the print media, the text should be supplemented by evocative images of specific situations, if possible.
Organizing a media conference and inviting journalists to attend it is a good way to obtain a short radio or television appearance. Depending on the size and geographic reach of the program or project, it makes sense to send such an invitation, along with documentation, to local, regional and even national stations.
If your press conference or event is attended by journalists, here is some advice:
- Take care of your appearance (e.g., dress appropriately).
- Speak in short, clear sentences and not too quickly.
- Be prepared for nasty questions.
If there will be a live interview, it is important to clarify in advance the content and questions and also to negotiate time for preparation. You should also insist on hearing or seeing the final product before it is broadcast to ensure that the desired content and tone is communicated and that no central statements have been cut from the recorded interview.
Why you would disregard these aspects
- You have no contact to journalists.
- You have made negative experiences and are avoiding contacts with the media.
- You do not have the confidence to appear on radio and in television programs.
- You have no budget for working with the media.
What you have to gain
- If you are working well with the media, your project will resonate with the public and will be better accepted.
- If you respect the rules of the media professionals, your press conference will be better attended and your text will have a better chance if being published.
- If you write your own text for the print media, you stand a better chance that your key messages will be reported accurately. This also saves time by avoiding a need to explain details, clear-up misunderstandings and make corrections.
- Even a short appearance on radio or television is good advertisement for your program or project.
What you can actually do
- Allow sufficient time for working with the media from the very start (planning phase) and also in the valorization phase.
- Take advantage of the community platform of quint-essenz and publish a profile of your program or project with minimal effort.
- Maintain contact with media professionals, if you already have any, so that you can reach them easily, when needed.
- Get advice from persons who have experience in media relations.
- Consult one of the many guidelines that are available on the internet.
- Have someone proofread your texts.
- Prepare radio and television appearances with simulated interviews.
- Include radio and television appearances in your website.
Questions for critical reflection
- Are your media activities systematic and purposeful?
- Have you budgeted for the time necessary in media work?
- Are there reviews and discussions about the impact of your media activities?