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Generating Media Coverage

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How can we generate more media coverage? This training explores news coverage in the media (articles, press, and media awareness which mentions our organization and CCL's work earned outside of paid advertising) and reviews strategies for generating news coverage with your local chapter and the support of CCL's national communications team.
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/topics/media-relations
TOC and Guide Section
 
Defining news coverage

In most media outlets, “opinion” journalism and straight “news” reporting are totally separate.

A lot of CCL’s media work takes place on that opinion side: volunteers write LTEs, publish their own op-eds, and work to generate editorial endorsements from a newspaper’s editorial board. All of those types of media appear in the opinion pages of a newspaper.

But the “news” side is where you find articles researched and written by reporters. At a TV or radio station, you’ll see and hear segments where journalists interview sources and report on the story.

This training discusses how to generate stories about CCL that fit into the “news” category: written articles, as well as segments on TV or radio.

Why to pursue news coverage now

In CCL’s early years, we had a small number of chapters and a great idea: putting a price on carbon and giving a monthly dividend to the American people. 

But today, CCL has a critical mass of hundreds of chapters in nearly every congressional district across America—and in dozens of other countries, to boot! Our idea, carbon fee and dividend, is now a piece of legislation under consideration in the U.S. Congress, with a steady stream of cosponsors signing on since its introduction. Plus, the national conversation around climate change has increased dramatically in recent years, and public attention is heightened around this issue.

All of that means CCL’s work is more “newsworthy” than ever before. It’s the perfect time to reach out to local reporters about the work you’re doing in your community, and the legislation we support, so they can cover it in the news.

How to alert media to your story

The media can only cover what they’re aware of, so you need to make sure the media in your area know about the story you want them to cover. Sending a press release is the most typical way to do that. Reporters are used to receiving these.

A press release will always include a few standard elements:

  • The basic information about the story you’re “pitching” to the reporter (asking them to write about). If you’re pitching a story about an event, for example, be sure to include the name of the event, the location, the number of people you expect to be there, and the purpose of the event. 
  • The date, so the reporter knows the information is new and fresh, and that they’re free to write about it immediately.
  • Contact information. Always the name of a local CCL volunteer that the reporter can reach out to to learn more and to set up interviews. If you are the one sending out the press release, you can list yourself as the contact, so that you can manage incoming press requests. 

Those are the basics of a press release. To help take your press release from good to great, we also recommend that you: 

  • Keep it concise—usually no longer than a page
  • Include direct quotes from yourself, your group leader, or other local CCL volunteers as appropriate. If the reporter is on a tight deadline, they can just grab those quotes and drop them right into their story without having to conduct a new interview. When you make a reporter’s life easier, they’re even more likely to cover your story or come back to you for coverage in the future. 
  • Include a photo if you’re sending your press release after an event and you have some good images to share.
Press release templates from CCL

CCL offers press release templates to help you conduct this outreach. They are always available and refreshed periodically by CCL staff, so they’re a great starting point for your outreach. 

If you want to generate coverage on a topic other than those in the templates, you can feel free to use the templates as a guide to create your own.

How to develop your local media list

Once you understand what goes in a press release, you may be wondering where to send it. 

We recommend that you develop your own local media list. Here’s how to do that:

  • Identify local media outlets. As a member of your community, you probably know your area’s primary newspaper, a few of the local TV news stations, and a radio station or two off the top of your head. You may even be aware of hyper local outlets, such as a neighborhood magazine or an alt-weekly that publishes in your city. Write down all the ones you can think of. If you’d like, you can then supplement that list with a Google search.
  • Choose appropriate contacts. As we mentioned before, when you’re generating news coverage, you are not looking for contacts on the “opinion” side. Here, you’re looking for reporters or assignment editors. Specifically, you want to identify reporters who are covering climate change, energy, environment, local government, Congress, or even things like community interest stories or utilities. You could also identify the editors who oversee those reporters and topics. It will take a little research to identify who these contacts are. You may be able to tell from reading the paper or watching/listening to the news, but you may also need to get on the media outlet’s website to do a little digging. Look for their staff pages to see exactly what certain reporters are assigned to cover, or to identify the editors, who are usually less public than the reporters themselves.
  • Find contact information. When you have the names of the contacts you want, try to assemble as much direct contact information for them as you can—an email address and phone number would be ideal. Sometimes this will be listed on the media outlet’s website. Other times, you may need to call a general inquiry number for the media outlet and simply ask someone for Joe Smith’s email address, because you have a press release that you’d like to send to him. Note: A media outlet might have a general inbox for submitting news tips, something like news@ourwebsite.com. You can certainly send press releases there too, but you will likely have better luck if you can identify a specific person to reach out to.
  • Follow them on Twitter. Social media can be another way to connect with reporters if you can’t find their contact information or if they aren’t responsive. Following a reporter on Twitter also gives you a better sense of what topics they’re focused on and when might be a good time to reach out to them. For more about that, check out our social media training on Interacting with Members of the Media.
When to send press releases

Now that you’re familiar with a press release and you know who you can send one to, let’s talk about opportunities and timing.

It’s a great time to send a press release when your chapter has:

  • An event coming up, like a regional conference, a Climate Advocate Training, a movie screening, and so on.
  • A major endorsement, like a municipal resolution in support of carbon pricing, or an Energy Innovation Act endorsement from a prominent community member
  • Lobby meetings, like when volunteers travel to D.C. 
  • Praise for your member of Congress, like when they sign on as a cosponsor of the Energy Innovation Act or they join either the House or Senate Climate Solutions Caucus.

You can give yourself multiple bites at the apple, in terms of timing. Try sending a press release as early as two weeks in advance of your event or your lobbying, then again a few days before, and even again immediately after, when you can include photos and fresh quotes. Or if you’re promoting an endorsement or a good move by your member of Congress, reach out two or three times in the week following the news. 

Don’t be afraid to follow up on your outreach with a phone call and a short, friendly voicemail. If you don’t hear back after a few tries, though, you can safely assume they aren’t interested in that story, and you can move on.

Next steps

After you have created your press release, sent it to your media contacts, and followed up as necessary, hopefully you’ll get a few interested reporters who want to cover your story.

They will likely want to set up an interview with you or someone else in your chapter. Find out more by attending the upcoming “Preparing for Media Interviews” training.

Once interviews are conducted and the reporter has put the story together, then the article will be published or the story will air. Congratulations! Your efforts resulted in thousands more people hearing about climate solutions and CCL’s work.

Be sure to file a field report using the appropriate category: article, TV, or radio. This way CCL staff is aware of the coverage and can celebrate your success with you. 

You might also want to share the coverage with any CCL liaisons in your chapter, so they can make sure your member of Congress sees the coverage. 

Also, you and other chapter members can share your media success on social platforms, so that you get even more mileage out of the coverage.

More support

Does your chapter have at least one “media manager” designated? A media manager receives regular communication from CCL’s Communications staff about media opportunities, including opportunities to generate local media coverage. Staff also offers media managers one-on-one support when needed. 

Reach out to Communications Director Flannery Winchester (flannery@citizensclimate.org) or Communications Coordinator Steve Valk (steve@citizensclimate.org) if you would like to be a media manager for your chapter. 

You can also stop by the Working with Media forum anytime to ask questions and seek support. 

Length
Press play to start the video (41m 02s)
https://vimeo.com/showcase/6921662
Video Outline
To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Intros & Agenda
(from beginning)

Writing Media in the COVID Era
(2:45)

What is news coverage? Why now?
(7:16)

How to alert media to your story
(12:12)

Develop your local media list
(16:18)

Pitching and next steps
(30:52)
Instructor(s)
  • Flannery Winchester
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Download PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation.

Download the video.
Audio length
Press play to start the audio (41m02s)
Audio embed code
Audio Outline
To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Intros & Agenda
(from beginning)

Writing Media in the COVID Era
(2:45)

What is news coverage? Why now?
(7:16)

How to alert media to your story
(12:12)

Develop your local media list
(16:18)

Pitching and next steps
(30:52)
Instructor(s)
  • Flannery Winchester
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Discussion Topic
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Category
Training
Topics
Media Relations
Format
Audio / Video