Know why you want media coverage
What is your message, and what is your audience?
The media is a channel, not an audience or an end in itself
Is your message best delivered to your target audience via the media? Other communication channels – targeted publications, online stories, audio, video – might be just as effective (look around this site for ideas).
Package your message with something a journalist wants
Think about their ultimate aim: to interest as many people in their target audience as possible. Their readers/viewers/listeners are asking: ‘Why should I care?’
What makes people care?
Stories that are relevant to them and that provoke emotion (e.g. curiosity, indignation, surprise, amazement, amusement, empathy). Human interest is important (and individual case studies will dramatically multiply your chances of media coverage).
News is new
If something happened yesterday, it’s too late to tell a journalist about it.
Make life easy for the journalist
They have to produce several stories a day for tight deadlines on a range of topics. They need information in concise, digestible form, and they need to be able to phone you for immediate follow-up. Good images help a lot – a great photo can make a story.
If you’ve found a cure for cancer, you set the news agenda. In most other cases, you need to fit into it. Are there certain times when your message is more likely to fit into the media’s existing agenda? Is there a big story out there that you have something to say on?
There’s more to media than the Guardian and the Times
Don’t just think about newspapers: TV, radio and some websites have much bigger audiences than print. And don’t just think about UK media: there are potential funders, researchers, collaborators and students in many other countries. If your story is unlikely to make it into the national or international media, how about local or specialist media? Keep a list of what people in your area of interest read/watch/listen to.
Ask for help
The University News & Information Office provides media guidance webpages (members of the University can access using their single sign on details) or please contact us directly. You can also approach the press office of your funding body, if relevant.
What needed media coverage?
The University of Oxford Botanic Garden and University Herbaria want to promote their 400th anniversary, which will fall in July 2021. On 24 November 2013, 400 weeks from the 400 year anniversary, we began a countdown to the anniversary. Each week a different plant of cultural or scientific significance from the University’s collection is highlighted.
What was the role of the Press & Information Office?
The Botanic Garden is one of Oxford’s best-known attractions, so a milestone such as its 400th anniversary was always going to capture the imagination.
The Press & Information Office was approached by Dr Alison Foster, Senior Curator of the Botanic Garden, who wanted to publicise the anniversary countdown. We initially visited the Harcourt Arboretum to talk to staff and find out more about the project. Once we were confident we understood the project, we:
- Wrote a press release to be distributed to media
- Sourced images to offer print publications
- Pitched feature ideas to contacts at local newspapers and broadcast outlets
- Arranged radio interviews Published an article on the University website
- Publicised the countdown on social media
Media coverage received
The story received widespread coverage in the local media, including in-depth features in the Oxford Mail and Oxford Times. The anniversary was also the main focus of a BBC Radio Oxford Breakfast Show, with four separate segments being broadcast throughout the morning. The segments included interviews with Dr Foster and Professor Liam Dolan, Head of the Department of Plant Sciences, on topics such as the history of the sites.
Results for the project
The @Plants400 Twitter account is estimated to have reached more than 70,000 users in its first week, and it is hoped that visitor numbers to the Botanic Garden, Harcourt Arboretum and University Herbaria will increase as a result of the media coverage.
In their words
Stuart Gillespie said: ‘As soon as Alison described the anniversary countdown, I knew it would be of huge interest to the local media. The Botanic Garden is one of Oxford’s best-known attractions, so a milestone such as its 400th anniversary was always going to capture the imagination.
‘We were able to help Alison publicise the countdown by making use of our existing contacts in the local media and our experience of the various types of coverage available – for example news stories, features, radio interviews and so on.
‘The range of coverage was broad – the Oxford Mail focused on the events surrounding the countdown, whereas the Oxford Times published a more historical feature. The BBC Radio Oxford Breakfast Show made the anniversary the main focus of the programme, which was superb.
‘The hope with media coverage such as this is that it will raise the profile of its subject – in this case increasing the number of people coming through the doors and taking part in the fantastic events on offer at the Garden, Arboretum and Herbaria, as well as sparking the public’s interest in the fascinating world of plants and showcasing the work of the University.’
Dr Alison Foster said: ‘The support and enthusiasm for the project from the Press Office was invaluable in helping us secure the local media interest. This project will be a “slow burner” and we hope that the Press Office continues to help us generate interest with the media at key milestones through the countdown as we build up to the 400th anniversary itself.’
An introduction to media relations
Took place on 9 March 2012
Ruth Collier, then Head of the Press and Information Office, explained what the Press and Information Office does and how it can help you, as well as introducing the basics of media relations from issuing a news release to responding to a crisis.
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