The media plays a key role in public policy development, covering Parliamentary activities and political news, keeping governments accountable and giving advocates a platform to voice their issues. Utilising the media can be a valuable strategy in gaining attention from government stakeholders who tend to watch traditional media closely. If you’re incorporating the media into your advocacy strategy, we share some vital tips to ensure your message gets the cut through you’re after.
Put your key messages on repeat
With any media opportunity make sure to stick to clear and concise messaging – which should be aligned to your key priority issues. The news cycle moves at a rapid pace, so media interviews and opportunities are often brief or significantly abridged. Determine a main “takeaway” you want the audience to know and keep reiterating this – by circling back to this point you are more likely to have your message included. Don’t worry if you start to sound like a broken record - despite attempts to throw you off course, journalists will expect you to have key messages that you’ll want to convey.
Hold your line
Inevitably and often suddenly, journalists will begin to prod and probe, trying to find a new or hidden angle on an issue. A core skill in media relations is knowing how to acknowledge tricky questions and then steer answers toward key messages. It’s also good to be prepared for the hard questions so before speaking to the media, make sure you’re across the main arguments against your position that may be raised – it is better to have a response in mind than to fluster when thinking under pressure.
The media are often looking for someone with certain experience or knowledge to make a statement on a particular issue. Watch the news and what’s happening in parliament to find an opportunity to be proactive on a relevant topic and build relationships with journalists for next time they need an expert perspective. When in doubt, or on the fence, don’t just fake it – it is better to hold off until there is a particular subject you feel confident in speaking about than to rush into the spotlight.
Practice makes perfect
There are very few naturally charismatic spokespeople who can win over the media without practice. Whether you’re the leader of a multinational organisation or a grassroots advocate, the importance of rehearsing and preparation cannot be overlooked. Journalists often have more experience running interviews and collecting statements than spokespeople have in giving responses, which makes it easy for your message to be side-tracked if you haven’t prepared ahead. To stay on message, and avoid any blunders, practice your messaging both within your organisation and externally by testing the messaging with your contacts or even a specialised media trainer.
Looking for more ways to enhance your government relations strategy? Contact us for a demo or to discuss how we can support your organisation in developing best practice advocacy.