or: Dealing with Media and PR
Communicating the issues
Communication skills are a much under-rated area, whether used for managing staff or getting a response from the public. Knowing your intended audience and how to reach them is important, but so is remembering that others outside those you are targeting are likely to come across what you are saying too. Do you, for instance, want to convey to health professionals the urgency of some concern, without creating wider panic? Is a contingency plan necessary, in case the message gets scrambled by the media?
Most of this page is about the mass media, but presentations (at events, conferences) can be a way of getting to key people.
Public speaking really needs to be practised if you want to improve your skills. While reading up on techniques and common problems may help you identify what needs improving, there is nothing like a live demonstration, practice and feedback offered in good courses. There are quite a few around – check out the Management Centre, DSC etc. on our Training page. Our Media Services page has some sources of technical training and advice, as well as ‘handling the media’ stuff.
See Comms and Campaigning support/networking organisations, on the Functional Support page.
Clarity and access
The 1999 Plain English Awards demonstrated that complex research findings do not have to be explained in a complicated way. Using a magazine format that combines clear language and pictures with audio tapes, the University of Bristol series of ‘Plain Facts’ publications makes research messages accessible to people with learning and literacy difficulties. The topics covered include employment, training, welfare benefits, housing, and crime. Launched in 1997, magazines and tapes are published jointly by the Norah Fry Research Centre in Bristol and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. See Plain English Campaign website.
On the web
Online communication outlets such as Twitter and Facebook develop and change quickly. A generalist site like VolResource can really only signpost to likely useful material – do check that it is still current.
Making Contact with the Media
Finding the right person, address, even title for a publication you want to target to cover your message, can be tricky.
You may know all your local publications, but no harm in checking at the library – getting the right person, job title and a feel for what stories they are interested in will pay dividends. The specialist trade press, such as Farmers Weekly or Nursing Today, are good places to start researching an industry, for relevant organisations to contact or watch.
While nothing can beat personal contacts, there are a number of ‘press guides’, with all types of media contacts indexed in different ways:
- Brad Insight Media Planning is designed to help research, plan and buy UK media effectively.
- Check Local Media Works for regional/local press info. Part of News Media Association (a merger between the Newspaper Society and Newspaper Publishers Association, Nov. 2014) .
- Periodical Publishers Association has a links page for magazines on the net (published by members).
- PR Newswire UK Media Directory, bi-monthly. Also publishes UK Media Town by Town, European Media Directory. PR Newswire Europe, Communications House, 210 Old St, London, EC1V 9UN, phone 020 7490 8111, email: email@example.com
- Vuelio’s Media Database Incorporates Willings, Cision, Benn’s? National and regional press, trade and consumer publications, broadcast and freelance writers.
Magazines, newspapers, radio and TV with an online presence are all on the ‘independent online media directory’ media.info (previously Media UK).
Before sending out a press release, make sure you have asked yourself ‘why (and when) is this news?’, ‘who might be interested and what will they want to know?’, ‘what media do they look at/listen to?’, ‘how do we make contact there?’. A scatter-gun approach may yield results if you have a really hot issue, but otherwise background research helps. A good hook, correctly baited and in the right place, should catch the fish you want!
Press Releases, photos, newspaper sites
PRNewswire has an archive of press releases under various topics (don’t just look under Charity). May provide some useful pointers and background for your own releases. Check out PRWeb too – they can distribute your press release via the net for free (but it is US based).
Press Association (now PA Media) is the main national news agency for UK and Ireland. Their Mediapoint online newswire has a list of free-to-use UK news web sites, as well as their own editorial contacts.
Media UK reckons it can get you to any section of an online newspaper in 4 clicks.
Also check out the Press Guide websites listed above, such as Pims, for the additional services they are increasingly providing.
Press Cuttings and Media Monitoring
Press Cuttings Bureaux usually work on searching for key words (often your organisation’s name but it can be whatever you specify). Some charge for a period, others for a set number of items found.
- Durrants, now part of Gorkana. Press, internet, newswire and broadcast monitoring. Discovery House, 28-42 Banner Street, London, EC1Y 8QE, phone 020 7674 0200.
- International Press Cutting Bureau, 224 Walworth Road, London, SE17, phone 020 7708 2113.
- Vuelio (was Romeike) Also offer international monitoring, express monitoring, digital delivery, summaries & translations and a range of media evaluation and analysis services.
Press Association Library, 85 Fleet Street, London, EC4P 4BE, phone 020 7353 7440. Holds over 14 million news cuttings, starting from 1926!
PR Week is the trade mag for Public Relations people, which covers charities and public sector in amongst the rest.
Chartered Institute of Public Relations is the professional body, providing training, PR toolkit and other relevant publications.
See Media Services for some specialist agencies.
Specialist Media Outlets
AskCharity is a database of charity contacts (run by CharityComms) to help journalists contact appropriate sector sources of expertise and knowledge for breaking news.
Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom (an independent voice for media reform) can offer advice on the ‘right of reply’. Phone 020 8521 5932.
The BBC is well-known for Charity Broadcasts (not just disaster appeals).
Together TV has taken over from Community Channel – it exists “to motivate people to do more in their lives, and for the lives of others.”
Sector support bodies may have websites which accept press releases or other news and events from members or the wider voluntary sector, for example Community NI in Northern Ireland. How well this is then picked up by the wider media will vary – you may want to check who else is/has used the service – but any cost should be low.
Charity Today website carries news submitted by UK charities. Other such sites come and go occasionally.
Also see Campaign Resources page.
Alternative and Community Media
Full-time ‘Third tier’ community radio stations licences have been issued in stages from 2005. See Ofcom for information on the process – also details of the Community Radio Fund, designed to help such stations get going. To contact community radio stations, try Commedia.
Commedia – Community Media Association. News, information, services and a gateway to community media organisations in the UK and worldwide, especially community radio and webcasts. Community television and film too.
Check out Undercurrents – Video Activism.
AlterNet is US based – may be of interest to journalists.
INK is a ‘trade association of independent periodicals which tackle issues of social, political and personal change, … helping its members in areas like distribution and publicity’. Links to member sites and there should also be access to the publications too (still being developed?).
Indymedia UK ‘is a network of individuals, independent and alternative media activists and organisations, offering grassroots, non-corporate, non-commercial coverage of important social and political issues’.