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Dealing with The Press

Rail Future, SalisburyBruce WilliamsonA big thanks to Bruce Williamson who held us all spellbound at yesterday's RailFuture Annual National Conference with his talk / "masterclass" on dealing with the press - something which many of "us campaigners" have learned the hard way.

Bruce has many years of experience on both sides of the microphone, having been one of the presenters on Radio Caroline a number of years ago, and now being the press officer for RailFuture (a national group campaigning for improved rail services where appropriate), he's on the other side of the fence.

Although almost everything Bruce said makes common sense - it's obvious once you've been told - it's not necessarily something you'll pick up automatically. He talked about two types of press contact - the newspaper press release, and the radio interview.


Let's see what I can remember the morning after ;-)

On Press Releases

The Story
• Look for a NEWS story / news angle
• Don't be afraid to jump on a bandwagon
• Add human interest
• Spice it up (but be truthful, of course)
• Keep it snappy

The Format
• Do the job for the journalist - write as a news item
• Snappy start - expand a bit - bulk of article with quoted
• Put words into peoples's mouths
• Write to entertain
• Write for the audience
• Provide notes for editors on background
• Provide contact information and references to stats sources, etc

And
• Split stories - don't burn all your wood at once
• Email direct to the right journalist if you can
• Put your headline in the email subject

On Radio Interviews

Initial Questions you must ask
• Where and When?
• Who is doing the interview?
• How long will it be?
• Will it be live?
• What will it be about?
• Who is the audience?

Doing Your Homework
• What is your overall message?
• Think sound bites. They may be re-used to your benefit
• What awkward questions might you be asked
• Bone up on the recent news
• Check it with policy.

During the interview
• Bridging. Use questions to link (back) to what you want to talk about
• Remember the listener - don't use jargon, and explain
• Don't lie
• There's no such thing as "off the record"
• don't go off topic
• don't get wound up.

Taking a leaf our of Bruce's book - "Keep it Snappy" - I'll leave it at that.

Thank you, Bruce - I recommend anyone who gets a chance to list to you to go out of their way to do so!
(written 2008-07-06)

 
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