Make sure your message is heard

The media -- newspapers, radio and television -- will play an important role in the triumph or defeat of your issue. You will need to deal with the media to insure that:

  • they understand the issue from your perspective;

  • they call attention to the issue so that it does not elude the public's awareness;

  • your side of the story is presented correctly in any coverage that does develop.

The role of the media cannot be overemphasized. What they read and hear will determine what members of the public think and whether they will support or oppose what you are advocating -- even whether they hear about the issue at all.

Even if your ads are running in the newspapers, or commercials are appearing on radio and television, you still must contact the media with materials that explain and supplement the ads. It is important to generate news stories and to make sure the facts presented in them are correct.

Engage in activities such as open forums, debates, town meetings, meet-the-candidates night -- anything that will attract the attention of the media. At least a week before, mail or FAX a press release with time, place, speakers, etc. to every newspaper and radio and TV station.

In dealing with news people, your position should be that of presenting them with the other side of the story, with the facts as you see them. By doing this you will gain credibility -- you will be seen as a clear-thinking authority and not as a defensive or frightened person resorting to emotional or inflammatory tactics. But don't try to browbeat a reporter into accepting your opinion of the issue. He will be sensitive, and rightfully so, about his own ability to make judgments. If reporters do ask for an opinion, then be prepared to voice one clearly and quickly.

Your Job

Your primary job is to take the press kit to the editors of your local newspapers and to the news directors of your local radio and television stations. Call for an appointment first.

Your Campaign Strategy

Your campaign may include an extensive list of activities and materials, including the following:

  • Newspaper advertising.
  • Television and radio spots.
  • Letters from various officials and other important groups.
  • Fact file containing purely factual data on your position.
  • Video productions.
  • Press releases.

Your Press Kit

The press kit that you will provide to reporters/editors may contain a wide variety of material. It may include:

  • General news stories about education and choice, collected from a variety of local and national papers and periodicals. (Consult the Readers' Guide in your public library Reference Section.)
  • Position papers collected from supportive organizations.
  • Fact sheets compiled from your data research.
  • Goals and Principles of your organization.
  • Miscellaneous information on educational choice and vouchers.

Getting Ready to Meet the Press

Before you meet with editors and broadcasters, read the contents of your own press kits thoroughly so you'll understand the entire contents. You may be asked questions, so you should understand the issue thoroughly.

Next, compile a list of the editors of newspapers and the news directors of radio and television stations in your area. The easiest way to do this is simply telephone the media and ask for the names. (Your local library may have a media directory in the Reference Section.) Knowing the metro and education writers on each paper is also helpful. (Note the byline above every education article in the newspaper.)

Groups of two to four people should make appointments with editors and broadcast news directors.

Explain when you call that you have an information kit pertaining to educational choice, and that you'd like an appointment to discuss the issue.

The Goal of Your Meeting

When you meet with the editors, your goal is to give them the kit, make sure they understand what the issue is about, and why your organization is supporting educational choice. In essence, you want your side to be heard. Successfully stimulating accurate news coverage can help carry the true story to the public.

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