How to Get your Petition to the Media
Taking your cause to the media can connect you with people who you wouldn’t otherwise connect with. It also helps alert decision makers about your cause.
Step 1: Prepare
Before contacting the press, think carefully about whether it will help you achieve your petition goal.
You should reach out to the media, if…
> you have a strong and compelling story to tell the public,
> you have an eye-witness event, video or image of your story for the media to cover,
> your petition target hasn’t responded after you reached out to him/her with the petition signatures and letter,
> your petition target said NO to your petition.
You should hold up, if…
> the dialogue between you and your petition target has already started (might not be publicly): you may want to keep a low profile or it will jeopardize the efforts and rapport you have built with the target.
Your message needs to be concise, specific and exciting. Come up with a 30-second message for the media and practice saying it with someone as you would with the media.
“I’m a 35 year old woman and I drive my kids to school everyday and the road is full of careless drivers…” — Not bad.
“I launched a petition to the transportation department on increasing the monitoring of careless driving in Hong Kong, 80 people have signed and we will present the petition on [date].” — Good.
Think about the timing, location and who’s participating when you orchestrate your news story.
Timing. Why now? Is there any deadline for your petition/cause?
Impact. How many people will be affected by your cause? Numbers are important.
People. High-profile individuals who have signed your petition or shared your petition. Human interest. The media likes stories about people and their relationships as it’s more relevant to the audience.
Visuals are a powerful story-telling tool and can increase the likelihood of news coverage, whether it’s an image or a video. If an event is necessary, do it and invite the media to cover it.
Research and prepare your collection of proof in order to demonstrate credibility. It can be documents, emails, images or videos. Always include the contact information of a credible individual who can speak about / for your cause as well as your proof to the media.
Step 2: Pitch
How do you sell your story and who are you selling it to?
Do a search and make a list of media outlets and reporters who have already covered your cause and those who have covered the subject area itself.
Pick at least 5 reporters that you think should help spread the word. Find their contact details via their company websites and social networks such as LinkedIn.
Draft a personal email to each reporter you picked including a summary of your petition i.e. the why, what, who, how, when etc. Provide any links if relevant as well as your contact details.
Make a follow-up call within a day to make sure the recipients have received your email. Be polite and make sure you can recap your message over the phone – short and precise. Keep a friendly tone.
Answer any questions the reporter might have and follow up with an email.
After the above have been done, check if your story is being covered and update that on your petition page and social accounts.
Step 3: Interview
Practice and prepare.
Prepare three important talking points – points you want to make during the interview.
No matter what the reporter asks, remember to answer and make sure you transition back to your main points. You control the flow of the interview and it’s your message that you want to convey.
Sample questions: 1. Tell me about your campaign. 2. Have you heard from your petition target? What are his/her views? 3. Do you have proof of the claims that you’re making? 4. What do you think this says about the larger issue?
Anyone can make a change and impact as long as their cause is important. Be yourself and prepare a sentence explaining who you are and why your petition matters. Relate to the aspect that makes you relevant to the cause.
Talk about your petition and the community you have built via SupportHK.org if you have one.
Practice before the interview. Try recording your script and listen back. Practicing with a friend will also help.
Step 4: Media Coverage
Media coverage increases your chances to win. Don’t stop there.
Share the news with your supporters. Once your story is in the media, your cause will gain public recognition and new supporters.
Thank the reporter for covering your story and follow up with any important campaign updates.
Post the link of the coverage on your petition and social network pages.
If you have tried contacting your petition target but haven’t heard back, you can send a polite email including the links of the coverage and check in with him/her.
Next article: How to Deliver Your Petition.