Meeting with Editorial Boards
Meeting with and developing a relationship with a newspaper’s editorial board is one of the most highly leveraged things volunteers can do to generate political will for the Energy Innovation Act. This lesson details how you and/or your group can prepare for, structure and facilitate the meeting.
Meeting with Editorial Boards is part of the Building Media Relations series.
Setting up a meeting
- First, find the name and contact information for the editorial page editor. Then, start reading the paper with an eye toward editorial board meeting opportunities.
- Next, write to the editor, introducing yourself as a volunteer with the local chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby and thanking them for the piece in the paper.
- Transition into an appeal for their support for the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, a bipartisan national policy that addresses the problem of global warming and that citizens in your city are advocating for this solution.
- Highlight that representatives from your group would like to meet with the editorial board to brief them on this solution.
- Emphasize that newspapers have an important role to play in motivating Congress to take action on climate change, and we’d like to talk about how to move solutions forward.
If you haven't heard back, after a week make a follow-up call or email with polite persistence to check in and see what might be possible. Each newspaper follows their own guidelines and criteria for how they set up editorial meeting requests, but if you have any questions, email Communications Coordinator Flannery Winchester.
Determining an objective
Decide what you are hoping to get out of the meeting. Your objective might include:
- To develop a relationship with the editorial board staff.
- To get an editorial endorsement for the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act"
- To get a commitment on doing an editorial on climate change.
- To consider future op-eds from us or from CCL national on timely topics.
- To identify the best contact when an editorial or op-ed opportunity arises.
Preparing for the meeting
- Get together with your team to talk about your agenda, strategy and roles to assign to participants. Roles might include facilitator, note-taker, and briefers.
- Research the newspaper’s editorial position on climate change, policy and related issues.
- You may also choose to prepare a resource binder for each of the editorial board members. It could include a list of information about the bill, the REMI study, the latest CCL op-eds, and a list of other newspapers that endorse the bill or carbon fee and dividend.
Running the meeting
Arrive on time and dress professionally. After quick introductions, tell them a little about CCL and acknowledge them for some of the things the newspaper has written. Then, start the conversation rolling: “We think the discussion on climate change has moved beyond the question of whether or not it is happening. The big question is: ‘What should we do about it?’ If you’re in agreement on that, then we’ll start the conversation there.”
If agreed, then…
- Take a few minutes to lay out CCL’s proposal, stressing that this is a market-based solution supported by conservatives.
- Take a few more minutes for a quick briefing on the REMI study, emphasizing that the study negates any concerns that pricing carbon will impede the economy.
- Provide context of what is currently happening around the issue: the bill introduction, EPA rules and opposition from conservatives; Pope’s encyclical on climate change; global climate treaty; Republicans, like Lindsey Graham, increasingly concerned that their party needs to provide a solution on climate change.
“We think there are enough Republicans who would support this solution for it to pass, but we need to create the space that allows them to stand up, to give them the courage to back up their convictions. We think the newspaper can help them be the problem-solvers they want to be by publishing editorials endorsing the Energy Innovation Act. That’s what we’ve come here today to ask.
- Stop and check in with the editorial team throughout the meeting, making time to clarify questions and practice active listening.
“We’d like to stop now, and hear from you. What are your thoughts, questions, and concerns about the Energy Innovation & Carbon Dividend Act? Are there other community experts we can bring with us to deepen the conversation and add local voices?
Meeting wind down
- Ask again if the newspaper would write an editorial endorsing the Energy Innovation & Carbon Dividend Act. If not at this time, would they consider writing about it when a bill is introduced or publish one from us now or periodically.
- Recap our understanding of their answers to our critical questions.
- Ascertain who their contact person is for our questions and requests for publication of op-eds and to receive media packets.
- Let the board know that your chapter has a wealth of information on the climate issue and to please reach out to us as a resource. If you compiled one, refer to your editorial board meeting binder as an example.
- Thank them for their time.
Fourth branch of government pep talk
One of the things that’s effective, particularly toward the end of a meeting, is to give what we call the “Fourth branch of government pep talk.” It goes something like this:
“Before we go, I want to acknowledge the critical role that you, the press, have to play in solving this problem. You are, as I’m sure you’re well aware, the fourth branch of government in our democracy. You’re the branch that lights a fire under the other branches when they fail to do their jobs. The founding fathers thought this role was so important that they put freedom of the press in the very first amendment to the constitution. Right now, Congress is failing to take action on climate change, and it’s a failure that jeopardizes not only our nation, but the entire world. You can’t sit back and watch it all fall apart like some bemused third party. This is a fight that you need to be in. This is a time when it’s absolutely essential to fulfilling your role as that fourth branch of government by holding the other branches accountable. We have a solution that is simple, effective and easy for all sides to embrace. And we hope that you’ll do everything in your power to inspire, prod, shame and motivate Congress to make it a reality.”
Following up after your meeting
Immediately after the meeting, take a little time to debrief. What worked? What didn’t? What are the next steps in developing the relationship with the newspaper and who will take those steps? If the newspaper invited you to submit an op-ed, agree on the topic and who will draft it. Decide who will be the point person who develops the relationship with the editorial board contact.
Later in the day or the next morning, send a thank you note to the editorial page editor and send any resource materials that may have been requested in the meeting.
Moving forward If you have one, the media point person in your group should cultivate the relationship with the editorial board contact with periodic communications, but no more than twice a month. Keep these communications short and convey useful information. Acknowledge editorials or commentary on the opinion page that relates to the issue. The idea here is to communicate just enough so that they remember who you are, but not so much that they trash your emails before opening them. Establishing and cultivating this relationship will improve the odds that the media packets you pitch will be given due consideration.
Pitching an editorial
Successfully pitching editorial ideas to a newspaper, magazine or online editor is work with a dash of luck. There’s no such thing as a magical pitch that works every time.
Several times a year CCL’s Communications Director creates editorial packets for CCL volunteers to pitch to local newspapers in hopes that they’ll write an editorial.
- Go to the opinion page – print or online, and see if there are instructions for submitting an editorial. Most newspapers don’t like to receive attachments, so it’s best to send your piece in the body of your email.
- You’ll want to put a note at the top introducing yourself and making a brief pitch about why the newspaper should publish the editorial packet you’re submitting.
- If there are no instructions, identify the opinion page editor or the op-ed editor and send it to them.
Sample email pitch for editorials
This is [YOUR NAME] with the [CHAPTER NAME] chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.
There’s some great news about efforts to address climate change:
Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. House have introduced the bipartisan Energy Innovation & Carbon Dividend Act, acknowledging the problem of climate change and calling on Congress to work together on solutions.
We see this as a monumental turning point and attached is the CCL media packet about the legislation, with lots of links, that you’ll find very useful.
Can the newspaper write an editorial praising these members of Congress who are seeking common ground between Republicans and Democrats? Would you urge Congressman(woman) [NAME HERE] to join the legislation?
Meeting Your Board