Local press is a good way to kick off your campaign, and can help make sure your next MP is fighting for people with arthritis and everyday freedom from the pain it causes.
Making a story from each stage of your campaign is a good way to maximise your coverage.
For example, think about doing a press release before you meet your MP summarising the problem or issue, and then another one about your MPs' response, and any further campaign milestones or developments.
Here's our template press release (Word 110KB) example to get you started. Think about including:
- supporting quotes from your MP (for example if they agree to become an Arthritis Champion or back your campaign)
- a photo of you and your MP
- your own experiences.
So what actions do you need to take first to prepare for doing press as part of your campaigning?
Do the ground-work
Before you send out your first press release it’s a good idea to do some preparation.
Check out what local media there is in your area and create a simple press list with their contact details. This could be local papers, regional TV, radio stations, or even local news blogs. See if issues or themes similar to your campaign crop up – this is often a good guide for getting coverage.
Get local journalists's attention. Once you’ve got the lay of the land, pick up the phone and start contacting your local media contacts. When talking to journalists about your campaign:
Be polite, if the journalist isn’t available to talk, ask if there would be a better time to call.
Sum up your issue quickly and simply, within the first sentence.
Include personal stories that back up your story.
Tell them about any support you may already have (e.g. other campaigners/residents/politicians/experts).
Make the story locally relevant – make sure the journalist understands the local significance of the problem.
Make notes on what the journalist says – is there a particular campaign or type of story that the newspaper is running that might fit your campaign? What sort of stories appeal to them?
Get their direct contact details and how they prefer to be sent press releases (e.g. direct to the news-desk, or to their own inbox).
Remember to say thank you for their time, and for any coverage that you get.
Writing press releases and letters
Now you’ve laid the ground-work, the next place to start is with a press release. We’ve included a template press release (Word 110KB) here as a guide, but here are some basic do’s and don’t’s:
- DO use a catchy headline title that will grab attention and tell the reader immediately what your campaign’s about.
- DO keep it short and sweet. Try to get your campaign across in the first sentence, give some background in the second and third paragraph, and include quotes from major people involved (e.g. your MP or councillor, you as a campaigner, other local people involved or affected by the issue). Try to keep your sentences short and snappy.
- DO consider what will grab the reader’s attention – is it a quote from your MP, or an expert’s opinion, or a personal story to tell?
- DO make it visual. Always try to include photos with your stories. Often a good photo can tell the story of a campaign without the need for too many words. Better photos often mean more coverage
- DON’T forget to have a ‘Call To Action’ for the reader. What do you want the reader to do once they’ve read the story? Add their name to a campaign petition? Offer help, or join your team?
- DO include notes to editor – this is where you include any links or extra info on your evidence, background information on the campaign, and your campaign’s contact details, and where people can find out more.
- DON’T ignore events. The best press coverage can often come when you least expect it. Look out for stories that are being covered and think about if your campaign can link in with the news agenda.
- DON’T make it hard for journalists. Invite your local media (local newspapers, regional TV news, radio stations) to events and meetings, but remember to give them as much notice as you can, and always take photos of your own as back-up in case no photographers turn up. Local press are often under-resourced so don’t be disappointed if photographers don’t turn up – just keep trying!
- DON’T stop at one press release. It’s vital to keep getting your message out there – it may not get picked up first-time round so doing things in volume can help get cut-through.
- DO learn from your mistakes. Sometimes your press release won’t get the coverage you were aiming for. Don’t worry, this happens – the crucial thing is that you learn from it. Try calling your local press contacts to politely remind them about the press release, and ask them for feedback on why it’s not being covered. Campaigns are a learning process, and you may not get it right first-time.