Sharing your story with the media – newspapers, radio, television and the Internet – can be a powerful way to advocate for change or action on an issue. It is very important to remember that proactively speaking to the media should be only considered as a last resort in your advocacy efforts. Communicating through the media takes your issue from being private to being public and can educate a broader audience on the issue. This can put pressure on the government, who care greatly what their constituents believe.
For this reason, engaging media is a serious step that should only be considered after exhausting all other avenues of advocacy and consulting with Action Kidney Cancer.
If you see a story in the media – perhaps in the paper or on the evening news – that you would like to respond to, a letter to the editor or providing viewer feedback is the best way to do this. Most often media outlets have contact information on their website, and welcome the opinions of their readers and viewers, especially if they have a connection to the issue. Your response may appear in the public domain, so remember to consult with us to help ensure your submission is inline with the organisation’s advocacy efforts.
Drafting your response
- Keep your response brief (150 to 200 words), but make it powerful so it will stand out and grab the editor’s attention
- Outline why you are an “expert” on the issue
- Your response to media should address the issue directly, be straight to the point, include your key messages, and be supported by facts
- Write the way you talk and speak from the heart. Don’t try to impress the editor with big words and encyclopaedic knowledge
- Don’t get personal. You can disagree with an opinion or action, but personal attacks distract from the point you are trying to make
- Write the same day or the day after a story appears – the more current the topic, the more interest it will attract
- Send a letter whenever you have an opinion. You can send two letters on two subjects on the same day
- If you are sending your letter by e-mail, put it in the body of the e-mail, do not attach it. Newspapers might not open attachments
- Always include your name, address and phone number. Most papers have a policy of phoning to verify authorship prior to printing
- There’s strength in numbers – try to get others to write on the same topic
- Also, to increase your chance of being published, read the letters to the editor in your local paper to see what style is most often used.
If the media calls you
If you are contacted by the media for an interview, return their call as quickly as possible because journalists work on tight deadlines – not returning the call may result in a missed opportunity to get your key messages out. However, keep in mind speaking to the media can change your issue from a private to a public one and you have the right to decline participating in the interview. If you receive a media interview request, take down the information and agree to call back or arrange a date/time. By postponing the call (even for 30 minutes), you will give yourself time to write down your key messages and be prepared. We encourage you to contact us for guidance with media interviews.
In you initial conversation with the journalist, find out as much you can about the interview, including:
- What is the journalist’s story angle?
- Who else is the journalist contacting for the story?
- Will the interview be live, taped or over the phone?
- How long will the interview be? What is the preferred time and location?
- What is the deadline and when will the story run?
- Any other details like the journalist’s contact information.
- If the reporter wishes to conduct the interview on the spot, don’t hesitate to say you’d like to collect your thoughts first. Be sure to call back well before his/her deadline.
Remember when you are being interviewed you have the right to:
- Prepare for the interview
- Accept or refuse an interview request
- Know how the interview might be used
- Stay within your area of expertise
- End the interview after a reasonable time
- Be treated respectfully.