Engaging the media

Local media and writing media releases

From the outside, the media can seem chaotic and complex – but your local media could be a valuable LDAT ally. Start here to find out how you can harness the media to promote your work.

By working with the media, you can raise awareness of your work and build on your success. Journalists want to hear real stories from real people - both your plans, and your progress, to prevent and reduce alcohol and other drug (AOD) harms in your community.

Identifying your local media: simple steps

The media connects people and organisations across the community with similar interests and concerns. Follow these proven steps:

1 Do your homework

Do you know the media outlets in your area? There are often commercial and community newspapers, television and radio stations, in many areas. And you can also leverage social media.

Research each one: what are they writing and talking about? For example, throughout the week, what kinds of stories are they covering? Who are they ‘speaking’ to? What catches your eye – headlines, photos, personal stories?

2 Be realistic

It might happen, but it’s unlikely that the ABC’s 7.30 Report will cover your story. So, start small. Build coverage in your local area and then use it to spread the word to a wider audience.

3 Building relationships

Once you’ve identified your local media options, make a list of key contacts within each. For example, the newspaper reporter who covers health or youth stories, or the morning radio presenter who has a weekly segment on community issues.

By working with the media, you can raise awareness of your work and build on your success. Journalists want to hear real stories from real people - both your plans, and your progress, to prevent and reduce alcohol and other drug (AOD) harms in your community.

For example, community radio stations often have programs that cater for specific ethnic groups, people with particular interests, or certain age brackets – including seniors or teenagers.

Once you’ve done your research, call these media contacts to introduce yourself. Talk to them about your LDAT and, depending on whether you’re talking to metro, suburban, or regional media, ask if you can meet for a coffee.

It might be harder to secure a coffee meeting with a metro journalist, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a go! Face-to-face chats are always better than having a ‘cold-call’ conversation.

Be genuine - tell them about yourself, what you’re doing and why it’s important. Media outlets are increasingly busy, so be prepared to go to them when organising a place to meet.

Each outlet will have different audiences or communities that you may want to target.
engaging the media
Confirm what you (think you) know. Talk about what they’re working on, what they’re interested in, and what their needs are from you in terms of information.

4 Find out more about local journalists

Don’t assume they’re knowledgeable, let alone an expert on AOD issues. Make a point of asking them their understanding and their experience reporting on these topics.

If they’re less experienced for instance, they may appreciate guidance from you on appropriate language. For example, not using terms like ‘junkies’, ‘addicts’ and ‘alcoholics’.

Terms like this often deepen a sense of shame for those who use alcohol and other drugs. This can drive their use further ‘underground’; and set back efforts to reduce harms within your target group. For more information on using non-stigmatising language, please see the Power of Words. You can even share this link with your local media contacts.

Most importantly, find out your new media contacts preferred way of staying in touch.

Ask journalists questions like:

  • How often would they like to hear from you?
  • When are their deadlines?
  • If you have an event on October 3, for example, as how far in advance would they need to hear from you to get some pre-publicity to attract people to your event?

Writing a media release

Writing a strong media release takes practice. It should be concise and factual, providing the journalist with the key details of story.

Journalists will contact you if they want more information. To get your story across, be newsworthy and try write to the outlet's tone and style. Before writing the release, consider these questions to help you gather your thoughts and key information:

Key questions to ask yourself:

  • What is the appropriate tone and language to use?
  • What’s your ‘hook’ or lead line?
  • Who can you quote in the media release?
  • Do you need more than one spokesperson?
  • What are the key points you want to get across?
  • Are there websites you want to link to?
  • What is your ‘call to action’? What do you want the reader to do? E.g., attend an event, complete a survey, visit a website, etc.
  • Are you providing a photo?
  • Who should the media contact for further information?
  • Do you need a logo/s on the media release?
  • Who needs to approve the media release?

How to write your first release

Follow these simple examples and you can learn the basics. Download our “How to write a media release” guide:

Help for Local Drug Action Teams (LDAT) engaging local media

Use these templates to help draft media releases around different events, including announcing the formation of your team, additional funding for your LDAT, the launch of a project/activity or the promotion of a community meeting.

How should you respond to the media when contacted?

Once your LDAT project is under way, the local media may approach members of your team to get a comment or quote related to your work, or on another AOD issue.

The Tips for responding to media enquiries for LDATs guide can help LDATs and community groups engage with media.

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