Working with the media can impact public policy at every level. News coverage reaching a large group of constituents focuses public attention and then translates into action. Just as constituents wish to build credibility with legislators through their knowledge of a particular issue, they also wish to be a credible asset to the media by their knowledge of an issue.
Working with the media, be sure to:
- Get to know key members of your local media: feature reporters, city editors, photographers, TV anchors and correspondents, radio news directors. Regularly meet with reporters and editorial boards, so that you know your reporter or editor, and he or she knows you.
- Know your facts and the practical impact of public policies on your community as well as on your organization. Your credibility is critical.
- Invite members of the press and broadcasters on a private tour and meeting with facility officials, pointing out the innovative approaches to meeting patient needs, especially in the context of your public policy agenda. Show the media the facility in action and those who are served.
- Familiarize them with the community benefits your organization provides, how it serves low-income persons and improves health in the community.
- Be available to comment on the state of health care and other medical issues (by being a reliable resource on a variety of topics, you can make a reporter's life easier and improve the quality of the information shared with the public).
- Develop a website with special components for media (e.g., hospital facts, traditions, story ideas, public policy positions, and contacts).
- Be aware of news deadlines. Morning paper reporters need to file their stories by late afternoon. TV assignment editors should be contacted in the early morning.
- Remember newspaper op-eds and letters to the editor are effective means of influencing politicians because they express an educated opinion and a particular side to an argument, which is often lacking from radio and television reports. Keep your op-ed or letter to the point and within the word limit that is suggested by your newspaper. Include your name, address, and phone number.
How to Work with Specific Types of Media
- Print Media
- Business journals:
Provide data and also information on community benefits—the same information as given to the daily newspaper's financial editor; could emphasize the service's value to employers.
- Chamber of commerce newsletter:
As one of the area's larger employers, emphasize the benefit to the community in providing services to ensure the wellness of employees and lower health risks within all segments of the community, thus reducing burdens and costs to business.
- Church bulletins and publications:
Emphasize the ministry and mission aspects of the service and the organization's commitment to mission.
- Daily newspapers:
Get to know different editors or writers for specific angles or stories.
- City editor: Give leads on human interest stories.
- Columnists: May have more impact than other reporters; find unique angles for columnists to focus on or build interest around the impact of public policy agenda.
- Editorial board: Emphasize mission, ministry, community benefits, and accountability, reimbursement issues, services for the uninsured and underinsured.
- Elderly or senior citizen writer: Point out pertinent projects.
- Financial editor: Provide not just figures, but also information on community benefits (e.g., statistics on premature births, their costs, how an obstetrics clinic is helping to reduce these costs, and the impact of adequate reimbursement and regulations).
- Health or medical writer: Supply human interest stories on the delivery of care and the impact of adequate funding and regulations.
- Lifestyles editor: Suggest human interest stories.
- Religion editor: Furnish mission, ministry, and human interest angles.
- Minority or ethnic publications:
Tailor material for specific audiences within the community through specialty publications, stressing benefits provided to those communities.
- Monthly magazines:
Get to know editors' idiosyncrasies. Human interest, technology, and business stories are possibilities.
- State, local, or regional hospital association newsletters:
Stress broad issues or services, community benefits and accountability, reimbursement issues, services for the uninsured and underinsured.
- Suburban and weekly newspapers:
Go for the local angle targeted to that publication's circulation area by citing a patient or staff member in that area or a benefit to the area of the publication's coverage based on the public policy agenda.
- Wire services:
Concentrate on the impact of a service (e.g., reduction in infant mortality after two years of operation of an obstetrics clinic). Remember Catholic News Service and other specialized services.
- Electronic Media
- Try to get a facility representative, from administration or medical/clinical staffs, on a talk show or call-in show; talk about services and benefits to the community.
- Plan a public service announcement on services offered or have special programs (e.g., health fair) included in a list of events.
- Tailor your format and content to the audience (e.g., senior programs on an easy-listening station; teen pregnancy programs on a rock station).
- Try to get a disc jockey involved in one of your community service programs.
- Some stations give free airtime to issues of public interest. Your radio public affairs director can tell you how to get on the air.
- Provide to news directors and assignment editors information on people available for interviews and their phone numbers, and a list of photo opportunities available.
- Try to generate interest in a series by emphasizing the community impact based on your public policy agenda. On news programs, contact the business writer, medical writer, and general assignment editor.
- Try to get facility representatives on community discussion shows.
- Some stations give free airtime to issues of public interest. Your local TV public affairs director can tell you how to get on the air.
- For CATV, offer guests and topics for educational and community-access talk show programs.
- Internet and Email:
- Explore websites and chat rooms pertaining to your issues. This is a good way to recruit members to your coalition or to make contacts with other organizations.