Mara Ostfeld and Lauren Slagter will share their experiences on what makes a successful story, how to effectively pitch your idea to journalists, work with reporters, and prepare for interviews. April, 2022.
0:00:03.9 Cindy Bank: Hi everybody. My name is Cindy Bank, and I'm the Associate Director of the Program on Practical Policy Engagement here at the Gerald R. Ford School Public Policy. I wanna welcome everyone. We're really excited about this event because not only do we have our Ford School community joining us, but we also have colleagues from around campus and a number of community partners that work with various offices around campus. So we're really happy to have you all here. I am thrilled today to have two of my colleagues, Lauren Slagter and Mara Ostfeld, who work over at Poverty Solutions, are here to present and... And before I forget, of course, I wanna thank my colleague, Mariam Negaran, who is behind the scenes, and you'll see some chats coming up from her throughout the presentation. But thank you, Mariam. And I'm gonna turn this over to Mara and Lauren now, and thank you all again for joining, and thank you Warren and Mara.
0:01:10.6 Lauren: Alright. Thank you to Cindy and Mariam for having us and for helping to put on this event. We're really excited to be able to just share some information and hopefully answer a lot of the questions from the people who are in attendance. We really wanna make sure that this is a useful workshop and that you come away with a lot of practical tools that you can use. So I think Mariam will have some instructions for putting your questions in the chat. Mara and I are open to taking questions during the presentation and we'll also leave some time for Q&A at the end. So let me go ahead and share my screen. And we will get started here. Alright, how does that look for everybody?
0:02:00.3 Mara: Looks great, Lauren.
0:02:02.6 Lauren: Thank you. I'm having trouble seeing the Zoom participants, so... Yeah, if someone could interject and let me know if there's an issue that would be appreciated. So I wanted to start off with just asking how many people here have worked in journalism in the past or communications, maybe you've just been interviewed by a journalist. I just wanna get a sense of what people's familiarity is with working with the media. And then here are our goals for our session today, so we wanna just enhance your understanding of the media environment and what reporters are looking for, we'll do an exercise to help you sharpen your point and just work on some messaging. We'll clarify the rules of engagement with journalists, review some tips and techniques for interviews and just hopefully leave you feeling really confident so that you can own the interview. So we'll start with just talking about the communications plan. Having this plan can help you answer some few important questions that will really set you up for success in terms of getting your work where it needs to go and translating it in a way that works for your target audiences.
0:03:19.1 Lauren: It's just a strategic way to think through your communications goals, ask clarifying questions, and it can be really helpful in just getting everybody on your team on the same page so that you have consistency in the message that you're putting out to the public. You can use a communications plan for an advocacy campaign, the launch of a project, an event you wanna promote, a research project that you're presenting on, all sorts of different cases, anything that has a public engagement component, it can be really helpful to take time for this planning, and your strategy can be really robust, like if you're doing a national campaign, but it can also be really simple. So at Poverty Solutions, we don't necessarily write out a formal communications strategy for every single project that we release, but we're certainly thinking through these components and having conversations about them, so it's really up to you, just what works for your project.
0:04:17.5 Lauren: So here are the basic components that you'll wanna have in your communications plan. You'll start with just the plan for this project, that can serve as an internal project summary to get everyone up to speed. It's useful, especially... So at Poverty Solutions, if we're putting out a multi-year research project to just have a little summary of what are the central research questions, who on our staff has been involved in it? And also sometimes we'll list if there's a certain funder that's been involved just so we know who the key players are and what's the summary of this project. Your goals for your communications plan can be similar to your programmatic goals, but then you'll wanna take it a step further and think about the specific communications outcomes that you're looking for.
0:05:04.0 Lauren: So an example might be to raise awareness of an issue among service providers in order to improve programming. So you've kind of started to hint at, who are you trying to reach and what's the impact that you're hoping to have? It can also be something really specific, like you wanna generate more web traffic to a certain page on your website, you're hoping to get a lot of earned media coverage, or maybe you wanna boost your social media presence. So you can list all of those types of things, in the goals on your communications plan. And then, the messaging is really the most important part of your plan, that's going to be the key to getting people's attention and getting them interested in what you're sharing.
0:05:45.5 Lauren: And so we're gonna do an activity a little bit later that will help you just think through your messaging and what that can look like. You want everyone on your team, ideally to know these messages by heart, so that they can just be consistently sharing the same thing across the board, and you don't have to worry about deviations or people getting lost in the weeds as they're talking about your project. And then your target audiences are also really important, and so you'll wanna spend some time really drilling down into who exactly you're trying to reach.
0:06:17.7 Lauren: Generally, the more specific you can be about your target audiences, the better. Your target audience is not the general public, you'll need to be more specific than that. And once you get an idea of who your audiences are, maybe it's policy makers, if you can be even more specific, is it state policy makers, local government, federal policy makers? Then you wanna start drafting some value propositions of, How does this information that you're sharing benefit this target audience? What problem does it help them solve? What action do you want them to take after they receive the information? Those are just four basic pieces to get you started as you're putting together your communications plan.
0:07:00.4 Lauren: And then you'll wanna think about the components, the tactics that you're going to use to actually relay your messages to your target audiences. This can be a lot of different things. It can take a lot of different forms. A website is often a good place to collect a lot of information. So a lot of times in our communications efforts, we'll have a landing page on our website or some place online that we're sending people back to so they can follow up and get more information. Working with the media is a great way to get your message out, and we'll spend just like a half of this workshop talking more specifically about how to do that. You can have all the types of different collateral fact sheets, handouts, data visualizations, social media graphics, video.
0:07:45.9 Lauren: And in social media, you also wanna be thinking about, are there certain channels where your target audiences are most engaged and where can you meet them where they're already spending a lot of time and sharing information? Internal sharing is also really important. You wanna make sure that everybody on your team knows what you're about to share publicly, and especially at a decentralized organization like U of M, it's really important to loop in other departments that might have some overlap with the work that you're doing or the specific topics that you're working on, just so that people have a heads up, and they can also potentially help amplify your messages and spread the word to their networks too. And internally, you'll wanna identify your key spokespeople and make sure that they're available once you do this public launch to talk about your project, your topic. It can also be helpful to have some spokespeople who are outside of your organization that can just add to the credibility where it's not just us saying that here's one of our partners who's also talking about how useful this information can be.
0:08:53.0 Lauren: So we'll talk a little bit more about getting to the point and really honing in on the messages that you wanna be sharing as part of your communications plan. I think one thing, especially in academia is we can fall into the curse of knowledge. If you have been studying something for years, putting a lot of work into a project, into a paper that you've been working on, it can be challenging to then take a step back and think about for someone who's coming to this issue fresh, brand new with no prior knowledge, what's the most important thing for them to know about this?
0:09:25.0 Lauren: And so that's where having these really clearly defined points can be very helpful. So, point is a proposition that you can make a case for, it's beyond a topic like student homelessness, it's a point that you can make in terms of what exactly you're trying to get people to know about this topic. And so when you're dealing... Like I said, if you're dealing with complex or nuance policy issues, this can be a challenge, but it's really worth putting in the time to hone in on those messages. And so I'm gonna cue up an activity where we will give you each a chance to try this out for yourselves.
0:10:09.2 Lauren: So we'll watch a video to guide you through the instructions for the activity, and while that's playing, if you can be thinking of a point that you might want to make. This can be a research paper that you're working on, a presentation, a project that you've been working on, an event that you have coming up, anything that you might want to share publicly. And you can be thinking about who would your target audiences be? What would the value proposition be for them? And so this video will walk us through it. This is my colleague, Elyse Aurbach from the Center for Academic Innovation, and this will just explain how it's going to work.
0:10:51.4 Speaker 4: Hi. In this video, we're gonna demonstrate for you a simple and quick technique that we use to discover the central message that we sometimes wanna communicate to different audiences or in different situations. The exercise is called Half-Life Your Message.
0:11:07.3 Elyse: Half-Life Your Message is really easy. You stand up and for 60 seconds you talk fluidly about whatever topic you want. And then immediately after that 60 seconds is done, you have to start over, but here's the catch, you only get half the time. Now, importantly when you start over you're not... Or you're iterating on the exact same topic, you're not starting over from scratch and talking about something new. So you do 60 seconds, then you start over and do 30 seconds, and then immediately after that, you do it again in 15, and then again in 8. Now, the two key pieces of this is that you really should be standing up and you really don't wanna give yourself any time to pause between the 60, 30, 15, 8-second versions.
0:11:47.0 S4: Yep. So we're just gonna launch right into it. Elyse is gonna demo it, and I've got my phone right here and we're gonna time it, so that she'll get markers at the 60-second point, the 30-second point, the 15-second point, and the 8-second point, so that she can track how long it's taking her, so are you ready to do this?
0:12:06.2 Elyse: I need a topic.
0:12:07.5 S4: So your topic is... And by the way, she doesn't know what this is, so this is completely improvised. We just wanna show you that you can do this without any preparation. So your topic is talk a little bit, you're an expert in communicating and helping people to communicate better. Talk a little bit about the importance of practice in communications to become better at it. Okay, so I'll give you a couple of seconds to think about it. I'm gonna make sure my phone is all set with the timer. Alright, so are you ready to go?
0:12:34.9 Elyse: Mm-hmm.
0:12:35.5 S4: Alright, three, two, one, go.
0:12:39.9 Elyse: So most people, when they look at me today, don't believe that by nature, I'm a total introvert, and that I actually was not at all effective in public speaking for a really long time. In high school, my favorite thing was to check out a big pile of books from the library and spend a weekend not talking to anybody, but just crawled up in my bedroom just reading. And it wasn't really until I got into some of my research experiences and started watching really effective communicators that I decided that I wanted to become more effective at public speaking. But then there was a conundrum.
0:13:09.5 S4: Thirty seconds.
0:13:10.9 Elyse: And that conundrum was that I had no idea how to get from where I was, which was sort of quiet and mouse-like and not particularly effective to being really effective. And the answer that I landed on was in focusing on specific skills and getting a lots and lots and lots of practice.
0:13:24.0 S4: Fifteen.
0:13:26.0 Elyse: And that practice is, I think, really critical because you can't actually get better at something until you work the muscle to develop the skill. And with that and with consistent feedback...
0:13:34.1 S4: Five. Four.
0:13:35.0 Elyse: You really can get better at communicating.
0:13:36.7 S4: Two. Two and one. Nicely done.
0:13:39.0 Elyse: Alright.
0:13:40.0 S4: Alright. So we're gonna do the exact same thing, same core message, but this time only in 30 seconds. Are you ready?
0:13:47.0 Elyse: Got it.
0:13:47.9 S4: Go.
0:13:48.3 Elyse: Alright, so when people look at me today, they don't necessarily believe that in high school, I used to be really introverted and I didn't really know effectively how to be a good speaker, it wasn't really until I started thinking about how to break down communication skills...
0:14:03.9 S4: Fifteen.
0:14:04.3 Elyse: And really starting to practice that I started getting better. And I think that this is really critical as people are learning to communicate, to get lots and lots of practice, and lots and lots of feedback...
0:14:13.8 S4: Five.
0:14:13.9 Elyse: As they're developing their skills so that they can become a better communicator.
0:14:17.1 S4: Great. Alright, 15-second version.
0:14:20.8 Elyse: Mm-hmm.
0:14:21.7 S4: Deep breath. Ready, set, go.
0:14:26.2 Elyse: So by nature, I'm not actually a particularly effective communicator. And when I was learning how to be an effective communicator, the key thing for me, was doing lots of practice and getting lots and lots of feedback.
0:14:36.0 S4: Five.
0:14:36.9 Elyse: I think that this is really critical as people develop their communication skills, which are skills.
0:14:41.2 S4: Alright, nice.
0:14:42.7 Elyse: Alright.
0:14:42.8 S4: Alright, pro-tip. Go for the 8. 8-second version.
0:14:47.1 Elyse: Let's do it.
0:14:47.5 S4: Alright. Go.
0:14:48.5 Elyse: By nature, I am not a particularly effective communicator, but I learned to be an effective communicator by practicing and integrating a bunch of feedback.
0:14:57.0 S4: And there's the 8-second mark. Nicely done.
0:15:00.0 Elyse: Thanks.
0:15:00.8 S4: So...
0:15:06.2 Lauren: Alright. So now you all will get a chance to try that. You'll go through a 60, 30, 15 and 8-second version of your message. Mariam's gonna send us into breakout rooms, it'll just be two people in a room, so one person can go through and deliver their message in all of its versions, and then you'll switch and have the other person do it. You can just, hopefully use a timer on your phone or on your laptop or device, whatever you're joining this Zoom meeting from. So yeah, we'll go into breakout rooms to do that, and then we will come back as a full group to debrief and then I'll turn it over Mara to get more into how to work with journalists specifically. So hopefully you will stick around after the activity for that.
0:15:52.9 Mara: Lauren, there's a question about whether people will assign one another a topic.
0:15:58.9 Lauren: No, the idea is that you will just come with your own topic, whatever you want to talk about, it can be... Yeah, based on something that you're working on or just something you're interested in.
0:16:46.6 Speaker 6: Should we move people around so that no one's by... I see some people in rooms by themselves.
0:16:52.3 Speaker 7: Yeah, I'll do that. I think some people didn't wanna participate, so I'm gonna move. Actually, I'm gonna move her to... Four. And I think everybody else should have... Yeah, I think Bonnie is the only one. Yeah, everybody else should have another partner now, so maybe not. Hang on.
0:17:19.3 S6: I think room eight and room ten are alone.
0:17:22.4 S7: Yeah, that just changed. Room eight has two. Room nine has two. Room 10... Somebody, I think just left [0:17:31.8] ____ a couple of people. Hang on a second. I'm gonna move. Okay, Kelly, I'm gonna move you to room 10. Oh, she hasn't joined. She was supposed to be in room five. Okay.
0:17:48.0 S6: Okay. Oh, yeah.
0:17:49.0 S7: Hold on. Now, there's... Thi is the tricky part about breakout rooms is that people... Okay, I'll put her in room ten. Yeah, people will come and go, and it's tricky and I'll...
0:18:10.4 Mara: She's not joining in room ten.
0:18:14.1 S7: Nope. Not joined. You know what, I'll pop... Oh, there she is. There we go. Now everybody should have a room. Two Per room now.
0:18:27.9 Mara: And... That was great. You did a really great job, Lauren.
0:18:31.8 Lauren: Thanks. It's so weird not being able to see anyone.
0:18:36.7 Mara: I know.
0:18:38.7 Lauren: So... Yeah. So do you wanna just share your slides when they come back?
0:18:45.1 Mara: Okay...
0:18:48.4 Lauren: We'll just have that little debrief, and then it's into the journalism part.
0:18:53.7 Mara: Okay. I'm gonna put up my screen and then... So you don't mind helping them debrief?
0:19:00.6 Lauren: Yeah, I can still call on people.
0:19:01.1 Mara: Okay.
0:19:01.8 Lauren: 'Cause that'll probably be easier if I can see them.
0:19:04.4 Mara: Oh yeah, that makes sense.
0:19:07.4 S7: Right, and we started the breakout rooms, what? Two, three minutes ago?
0:19:11.6 Lauren: Yeah, a couple of minutes ago.
0:19:13.1 S7: Okay, so let's see here. Should I give them until 12... When? Until... Oh, hold on, waiting room...
0:19:22.5 Mara: It's 12:25.
0:19:24.0 S7: Somebody just joined. Okay. Hi, Jeremy. We're working in breakout rooms on an assignment. Are you just joining us?
0:19:36.2 Jeremy: Yeah, sorry.
0:19:38.3 S7: No worries...
0:19:40.0 Jeremy: I was trying to get some lunch in while it was happening, my bad... 20 minute... If I had gotten 20 minutes earlier, I maybe wouldn't be able to get my lunch in before breaking out to some assignment...
0:19:50.9 S7: You're fine. I didn't wanna just launch you into a breakout room without knowing what we're doing. Right now they're working on an assignment where basically they're half-lifing, they give a message and then they half-life their message basically to kind of sharpen and hone in on their communication skills.
0:20:07.3 Jeremy: Okay.
0:20:07.8 S7: But I didn't wanna just launch you in there without a knowledge of what you're doing, so...
0:20:11.9 Jeremy: Yeah, okay.
0:20:12.6 S7: If it's okay, we'll just keep you here and...
0:20:15.1 Jeremy: Okay. That's fine. Yeah.
0:20:15.9 S7: Yeah. [chuckle]
0:20:17.7 Jeremy: Maybe I'll be able to get a quick bite in real fast, then take it...
0:20:21.4 S7: Go for it.
0:20:22.5 Jeremy: In as I can at the session. Sorry about that.
0:20:26.1 S7: Absolutely, go for it. No worries. [chuckle] Alright. So I'll send a message at 12:24, giving them a minute and then we'll close at 12:25.
0:22:08.0 S7: Love that exercise though. I saw Elise at an event yesterday, used it a lot.
0:22:13.4 Lauren: Oh yeah.
0:22:13.5 S7: Yeah, I even... I share it with students who do an Advocacy Day, and they practice doing it.
0:22:20.6 Lauren: Nice. Yeah, she... Well, we were talking to Ellen about the public engagement faculty fellowship, and she said you were doing a session on that and that they were gonna use this activity for one of their sessions, and then Mara and I will be presenting for that too.
0:22:37.9 S7: Great.
0:22:47.6 CB: Before everyone gets back, I'm sorry if I look... I'm... You probably didn't even notice I was distracted, Lauren, you couldn't see it, but I just got an email from my dog walker with a picture of the dead mouse she found on my living room.
0:22:56.5 Lauren: Oh my gosh. [chuckle] That's not a text you wanna get.
0:23:05.8 Mara: I just saw a giant possum in my back yard, like a dog-sized possum.
0:23:13.2 CB: My old dog once caught an possum in our back yard in Maryland, and they truly do play dead. It played dead. We got the dog in, went back to take care of it, it was gone.
0:23:25.9 Lauren: Oh my gosh.
0:23:28.1 S7: Just to let you know, I closed all the breakout rooms and everybody will be joining in 30 seconds.
0:23:33.0 Lauren: Okay. Thank you. So wrap up the possum stories?
0:23:36.9 S7: Possumbly.
0:24:19.3 Lauren: Alright, is that everybody back from the breakout rooms?
0:24:25.5 S7: Yes, everyone should be back.
0:24:26.0 Lauren: Alright, thank you. So yeah, so how did it go? Does anybody wanna share kinda what changed over the course of trying to half-life your message?
0:24:36.4 Andre: I'll speak. This is... My name is Andre from student advocacy center. You can get wordy, so I think... I don't know if all of us did it, but I think all of us had something in mind, but we didn't have the talking points, as you said before. And so, I think the first time I went, I got a little wordy. But as you dwindled down and you need to be succinct and have a clear message, it makes you hone in on exactly the message that you're trying to give. And so, I think by the end, you kinda wrapped it up and like, "Hey, this is what I need, this is what I'm talking about, this is the things you need to know in that amount of time." So really, it was helpful.
0:25:26.1 Lauren: Great, thank you. Anybody else wanna share? Did you like the message that resulted in the shorter version?
0:25:37.7 Speaker 10: I'll go. I'll be very honest with you, I guess, I was so wordy in the 60-minute and the 30 seconds, by the time I got down to the eight second, I lost it. I was just... I couldn't get to the point, and so it's something I really have to go and dig into and practice, because very honest with you, that's part of what we do at our organization, Hire My Vet, is ask veterans and anyone to practice their elevator speech. We say 30 to 60 seconds. Well, eight seconds is very tough, so you have to understand what is the point that you demonstrated at the beginning, so you really have to give it some thought. What is the point?
0:26:26.6 Lauren: Thank you. Yeah, it can definitely help you find that elevator pitch, like you said, helps you narrow it down. And I think there can be value in all the different versions too. I mean, your 60-second version might be more of a guide for... You know, if you have more space to tell this story, what would you put on a website, what would you put in a press release where you can expand a little bit more? The eight-second version might be closer to what would you put in a tweet or a social media post where you have that really limited time and space. So you can use all the different versions as guides in how you wanna make this point. And yeah, it can be really clarifying. So yeah, I think now we will shift to Mara, and she is going to share more about working with the journalists.
0:27:12.8 Mara: Great. Thank you, Lauren. And please, as we go, start going through some other content, please jump in with any questions as they come up. Don't feel any need to wait till the end. But now that you have a good sense of the message that you might wanna share, we wanna talk a little bit through what journalists need to cover your story and to get a good placement for your story. One thing that we often underestimate is just how valuable it is for a journalist to have advanced notice, ideally a few weeks. This not only gives them time to put it in a certain position in their queue of stuff they're already working on, but it also gives them time to do some background reading... Is it showing up okay?
0:27:55.4 Lauren: I just shared mine. Do you want me to keep doing that? Or do you wanna be able to do it?
0:28:00.2 Mara: Let me try to share mine. I thought... I didn't realize that it wasn't working, so let me try this again.
0:28:03.7 Lauren: Oh, okay. Sorry.
0:28:04.6 Mara: Sorry about that. Are you seeing it okay now?
0:28:08.2 Lauren: Yeah.
0:28:09.1 Mara: Okay, cool. So you wanna give the journalist that you're contacting advance notice so that they can not only put it in their queue of stuff that they're working on, but that they can also start to reach out to other people that they might wanna incorporate into the story. So whether that is community partners or people on the ground or other points that... Or things that they might wanna connect it to, especially if it's a reporter that works in that genre that you wanna cover. You also wanna make sure that there's a visual element that you're sharing. This can be a video, this can be a photo, this can be a figure, a very clean figure that gets clearly to the point. But if you provide the visual element, it not only takes some of the work off the journalist's plate, but you can also identify how you want this to be visualized for your audience, or at least help pitch a visualization for your audience.
0:28:58.0 Mara: You wanna make sure that when you reach out to journalists, you have multiple sources that they can contact. That might be you, that might be other experts on your team, that might be, again, community partners or community experts, but you wanna not only have them accessible, know that they will have time to take calls, but you wanna provide the contact information that a journalist can reach out to them with. And it's contact information that the person will... Don't give them their number if they're not gonna answer an unknown number. Make sure you give them contact information that that person will actually respond to.
0:29:30.6 Mara: Finally, you wanna make sure that you give them a reason to cover your story. You know why your story is important, but you wanna make sure you're pitching this to the reporter in a way that they will immediately understand and know how to present it to their audiences. So what makes your point news-worthy? You can think about it as maybe it's something new. Is it something new, unique, or that just came up? Is it something that people hadn't thought about? We just did something at Poverty Solutions about how school discipline rates are significantly higher for youth who've experienced homelessness. That's not something people are often thinking about. It's not something at the top of mind. We wanted to get it at the top of mind, especially as a lot of law makers are thinking about budgets for next year. We want it to be more salient in people's minds.
0:30:14.8 Mara: But the other thing you can do is you can take an issue that is in the news, Ukraine, COVID, vaccination rates, and provide a different angle or a different lens for readers to understand it with. So something else we had done, has been talking about vaccination rates, highlighting that parents are a demographic that has really low vaccination rates. And so that's not something an angle that had often been discussed in the news and that we wanted to make more salient in how people were interpreting vaccination rates and COVID.
0:30:44.2 Mara: You also wanna make sure you're reaching out to an outlet and a reporter that covers the topic that you're interested in getting coverage of. So you don't wanna reach out to the Wall Street Journal about an art exhibit that you're putting on. You don't wanna reach out to Detroit News about something that's really unique to Nebraska. You wanna make sure you're not just contacting good reporters, but you're contacting reporters and outlets that cover the content that you're focused on. A great way to start is just looking at the news that you read or just doing a Google news search for other people who've covered something in the genre that you're working on and starting with that and contacting those reporters.
0:31:24.8 Mara: So here's some really good examples about pitches, when you start sharing your message to reporters. Sometimes what we do is we start with something that really excites us. So we might say, "Hey, state lawmakers are adopting several Poverty Solutions auto insurance policy recommendations, which was big news for us, but nobody else cares about that. Just because it excites me, nobody else cares about that. A better way to highlight it is that we have experts that can discuss what auto insurance means for low-income residents. And then somewhere down in the story or the pitch, we can say that state law makers adopted it. But highlighting that "We're special to state law makers," is not necessarily what reporters are gonna be interested in.
0:32:06.0 Mara: Another way we could talk about a different story is highlighting there is hot spots for environmental and justice in Michigan that were identified in the UM study that's really clearly relevant to the broader public. An alternative, less desirable way to just highlight that we had these recipients name for this new UM professorship. Again, something really excited for your mom or your cousin, not that excited for the journalists that are covering this stuff.
0:32:34.7 Mara: Okay, so now you know your message, you know the reporters that you wanna reach out to, you know why it's relevant, there's a couple of ways that you can reach out to them, you can do a press release, which is basically a draft of a story for the reporter, you know, like 300 to 500 words with the visuals, that starts off with basically an idea for a headline that they can use. So you're basically saying, this is the new story that you can be pitching. Another way that you can do it is you can say a media advisory, Hey, we have this event going on, and you really go through the who, the what, the where, and the one of it, often it takes that exact format. You're saying, we have this event going on, here's who's gonna be there, this is what it's about, here's when and where, here's where you can park, all the details and the logistics so that reporters can easily get there.
0:33:23.8 Mara: Maybe you're not trying to do this broad press release, maybe you're not trying to reach 50 reporters and you don't want all that, but you have a couple of reporters that you can just reach out to personally and say and give them your pitch directly. And you can do that in an email or you can do that in a conversation. So when you're pitching the story, there's a couple of steps that you might go through. You contact them often through email now, might be a DM, it might be personally, but whatever you do, you put the press release in the body of the email, an attachment, it's just something else, it's just another step that reporters have to go through. So if you can remove that step, then you facilitate them accessing your story, you're gonna explain why your project is news-worthy and to them and to the general public, and you're gonna lead with that in a really concise succinct way.
0:34:13.2 Mara: You're gonna include all of the contact information for sources that they could follow up with to get other quotes, other ideas, other perceptions or perspectives on the issue, including their availability for interviews, and again, the contact information that they will respond to. And then you're gonna include links to other relevant information, if that's bigger reports or other articles that they've covered that touch on this topic, just connected to other things that might make it more salient and relevant to them.
0:34:47.2 Mara: Here's a couple of ways that you might reach out to reporters, so a really good way, especially if you don't know them, is to say, Hey, I saw that you covered this based on your coverage of [0:34:56.9] ____ schools, I thought you might be interested in a new data book on the educational implications of homelessness. You can elaborate on that and then say, If you'd like to learn more, I can connect you with the spokesperson at this time who's available at these times. So here, you're connecting it to what the reporter is interested in and what the reporter typically covers, so you're saying why this is relevant to them or why they might be particularly interested in it, and you're saying what's new, what's the value added of this work that you're sharing.
0:35:29.5 Mara: Some things that you wanna avoid doing is that you want to avoid reaching out to reporters and then you or other people not being available for comment. That is a really quick way to burn bridges, 'cause you just wasted some of their time. You grab their attention and then you weren't available for the follow-up. Asking for help promoting fundraisers or just asking for stuff out of the kindness of their heart isn't something that anybody, you or reporters have a ton of time to do. You really wanna make sure you give people more of a heads up. This is not uncommon, where people will reach out to reporters and be like, Hey, this is about to happen right now, especially if you're not the governor or a senator this will really not work and it won't get you any brownie points with them.
0:36:17.7 Mara: And finally, you just wanna make sure you're using the right names, you're using the right formalities when you reach out to people, and it doesn't look like some generic message that you copy and pasted from to a bunch of different reporters. So a common mistake is using gender-ing people the wrong way, or using some titles in the name. And then just remember, even if you don't hear from them after that first pitch, you're building a rapport over time, this isn't your only event, this isn't your only project, this isn't your only article, so that you can reach out to them down the road. They may have... They may have had a busy week. They may have been off that week, so reach out to them again, and just keep on working on that rapport, especially if it's a reporter, you really respect.
0:37:01.8 Mara: A couple of tips to keep in mind when you do get called back by reporters, one, just knowing the difference between these three things: You should assume that when you are talking to a reporter, anything you say is on the record and can be used in a quote. If you don't want it to be used in a quote, then you should say... If it can be used in a story, then you would say, it's on background, that means this can be used in your story, but don't quote me for it. If you don't want it to be used at all and you don't wanna be quoted for, then it's off the record. So that might be something if I'm saying... If I know the reporter is gonna keep following up... I used to work in a governor's office, so if I know they're gonna keep pursuing this person and I wanna be like, listen, off the record, you know the governor is really sick. The governor is going through this really crazy personal thing, I don't want it on the record, I don't want them writing it, but I do want them to have some... I want them to stop pursuing it and I wanna give them a reason, they're humans too, they understand that stuff comes up, but if you're just being evasive, then they're gonna think that something suspicious is going on.
0:38:05.5 Mara: So, these can be really useful tools and just communicating with reporters and being clear about what you want recorded and what you don't want recorded. If they ask you something that you don't know, it's a 100% fine, and it is exponentially better to just say you don't know. The last thing you want is to be quoted for something that's inaccurate, that will take detract from your credibility. So it's okay to say, I'm not sure, but I can get back to you, reporters respect and appreciate that. Sometimes, like we have said, like you just pointed out in the last exercise that you went through, you're sharing a lot of information, so to the degree that you can highlight your key takeaways, you wanna do that you wanna keep coming back to it. These are my three big points, these are the three trends we're seeing, the key takeaway is anything that you can do to make it clear what you want them to be paying attention to will really help them write the story. And frame it in a way that is consistent with what you're imagining.
0:39:03.5 Mara: Just like when you... If you're a researcher, just like when you submit articles, you always wanna be prepared to address the counter point, and it's the same thing that when you're submitting something to a journal, they wanna know what critics are gonna say, so if you can address it for them, then it will reduce the likelihood that they'll go to someone who's gonna completely contradict you, and again, make it look... Detract from your credibility or make it look like you had to consider something. You wanna say, other people might say this, and here's what I would say, and here's something to consider. But you wanna make sure you're clearly coming across with all the information that may be relevant. Try to avoid using no comment, if you're gonna decline a comment, then you generally wanna offer a reason. Again, if you do this they're just... One could not come back to you, it's gonna really detract from your relationship, they're not spending time talking to you, because they want you to say no comment.
0:40:00.9 Mara: And then often it can make it look like you're hiding something. So I would try not to do that as much as you can. And generally, I wouldn't ask... You can ask to review the piece before it's published, but I wouldn't expect it, because reporter is just like you are often on tight timeline, so you can't take that time to go for a back and forth process. They have to go through many layers of their own editor, so it's generally not possible to get your sign-off before they publish a piece. So just try to be really clear upfront. And then, finally rejects flawed premise of a question and you can re-orient the conversation. So sometimes you start seeing a reporter go in a direction that you're like, This is not how I want you to be thinking about this issue, so there's a couple of examples of ways that you can help reorient them without saying that explicitly. So, oops, one thing you can do is you could say, if they're starting to group what you're talking about with other issues that you think is distinct from.
0:41:00.0 Mara: You can say that that's a really good question. What I'm really trying to focus on and what I'm really trying to drive home is this specific part of it... Or this is really what I feel comfortable talking about. But you can say something like that to reorient the conversation to the specific thing that you feel comfortable elaborating on.
0:41:14.7 Mara: If you feel like they're getting two bogged down in the details and you wanna make sure they think about the issue as part of a broader trend or a broader story, then say that, then tell them. If we step back, if we look at the bigger picture, then this is consistent with these larger patterns, or help them make that connection.
0:41:34.9 Mara: You can also try to add context in a temporal way by saying, "If we compare it to where we were a year ago," but you can add the reference point that you want them to be drawing upon when they're contextualizing your story. And again, you can flag it. If there's a key point that you wanna drive home, then don't hesitate to go back to that by saying, "The key point that I wanna drive home," "The real issue here," there's a bunch of different ways that we could frame that, but don't hesitate to reorient the conversation, I think.
0:42:05.4 Mara: I love... One of my favorite shows is 'Meet the Press' 'cause then you... Those are the people who are experts at it... Just seeing how they can shift where the conversation is going, and they have all these segues... Truly an art. And don't hesitate to just reiterate. Don't hesitate to come back to your point and say it again. You wanna... You don't wanna be on the record of saying you're... Something you're not comfortable with or connecting... With the point you're making being connected to something. So don't hesitate to go back to what you are comfortable with, you have to drive your own conversation.
0:42:43.0 Mara: After the story comes out, it's great, make sure that you help promote it too. That will also build your rapport with the reporter, and that it's not naturally gonna get into every one's inbox, so you wanna help do some of that work. So make sure you share it on social media, that you share it with people in your network, you email it, you put it in newsletters, whatever works for the forum or organization that you're working at.
0:43:01.1 Mara: Don't forget to thank the reporter, to highlight anything that you liked about the story, thank them for their attention or anything of that nature. But remember, it's about building the relationship with the reporter. If there are things that are incorrect, then don't hesitate to reach out to them with very specific information about why it is incorrect. And often you can say, "I'm concerned about this because of X, because I don't want it to be... " We have a lot of data on unemployment trends, which can get really deep into the weeds, and so sometimes we've had to ask for corrections on those points. Just saying... We really wanna be clear about... That this is... People in the labor market and not just everybody... Everybody's employment rate. And so usually they're receptive to that, but don't... It's not uncommon to ask for it so don't hesitate to do it if you feel like something's not represented correctly.
0:43:50.3 Mara: So these are our main points, but if... We're gonna share these slides with you, but we also wanna encourage you to reach out, especially if you're at Ford, to the resources that are at Ford. Especially Daniel Rivkin has been a great resource at helping people connect with reporters, frame their stories, prepare different types of communications content, coaching them in writing op-eds, and doing various walk-throughs. So he's here and he's accessible, so I think that information will be shared in a follow-up email, but don't hesitate to reach out to him if you need additional assistance. So thank you guys for being here and for walking through all this with us. We'd love to hear your questions or more specific comments about where you guys are or what would be helpful to you.
0:44:36.8 S6: Mara, we did have a question in the chat from Teresa; How do you make daily services to clients newsworthy or don't we? Do we just have to wait for some larger story to make our work interesting? And in those cases, reporters tend to reach out to us anyway, Teresa says. Yeah, I don't know if you have any thoughts on just how to make your day-to-day services seem more unique, timely, relevant, and newsworthy.
0:45:03.9 Mara: What are the types of services you provide?
0:45:09.5 Speaker 11: Can you hear me? I'm not sure if I can put myself up... Okay, great. So I'm the fund development and engagement Manager here at Freedom House, Detroit. We are a shelter for asylum seekers. We provide legal aid, coordination of healthcare, connection to resources, shelter for up to two years. Yeah, I mean that's it in a nutshell, regarding this... Primarily it's employment, medical and mental health care, legal aid, shelter and basic needs, and living... Or I'm sorry, housing resources. Huge news, as you said, for the asylum seekers that we help, 'cause we do it free of charge. It's not really newsworthy 'cause we do it on the day-to-day [chuckle] basis. It's not the sexiest thing. Where we finally get a boost is, sadly, when something like Afghanistan happens or Haiti or the situation at the border.
0:46:04.4 S1: Then reporters tend to calls and often they conflate our work with some other work. So that's a huge opportunity for us that we do our best to leverage in terms of making it also educational and explaining the work we do and putting eyes on us for that temporary period. I will say with limited capacity... We're not in the position to do a whole lot of media cultivation right now, but luckily, we've been around for almost 40 years, and so predecessors have done that and they keep in touch when those hot button areas... Hot button issues happen. But yes, that's the question is, can we just, out of the blue, make what we're doing interesting? And I haven't found that to be the case.
0:46:53.3 Mara: Yeah, that's a really great point. There's a couple of things in it. I think, as you're saying, it's so challenging, 'cause I know you guys have limited resources to spend on cultivating these relationships. I think there's a couple of patterns that can be... That can be useful. I have to say it's always... This is a population going through a lot, so then there's all these other dynamics, that need to be considered.
0:47:14.6 Mara: The things that contribute to reporters covering services like this... Every reporter always likes the personal stories. So personal narratives are often what they wanna go for. Often, you can use that anonymously in connection with some larger data or some larger need. So to the extent that that's possible, if there is a larger event then connecting it to that. If not, it sounds like what you're saying is you don't always want it to be in response to some big news event or crisis, which makes sense. I think to the extent that you can find data that's publicly available or find someone to do some of the analysis for you, often connecting it to that will help, one, provide the personal narrative that reporters like, but also connect it to larger trends.
0:47:56.7 Mara: I think there's a whole other conversation we could do about issues like this where they're super racialized, and then there's some people who will read it and then they were not supportive of refugees, and then there's this backlash effect. And so thinking about how you wanna frame stuff that often can polarize audiences can be something that... That's really sensitive, and you have to be really strategic about... And I'd be happy to talk into that. My thoughts on that more in another conversation. Lauren, do you have any other thoughts?
0:48:30.7 Lauren: No, I think that's great. Yeah, I think you covered it.
0:48:36.4 S?: Andre's hand is up.
0:48:40.5 Andre: Yes, I have a question. So in your email or your communication, your initial, how much information... Do you give them, all the information you want in the email or in the first communication, or do you save some for the personal one-on-one conversation?
0:49:06.5 Lauren: We usually... So when you send out a press release, we'll work with Michigan news and yeah, if you're outside the university, you wouldn't have exactly the same set up. But we will go ahead and email the whole press release in the body of the email, so it's easier for them to just skim the information. And then I might attach a personal note just at the top of that saying, "Here's why I thought you would be interested in this," to just make that connection and make it relevant for their audience specifically. And say, "Here's the press release below my signature, I'm happy to connect you with whoever our spokesperson is, if you wanna learn more."
0:49:41.8 Lauren: So you don't need to share everything that you know or all of the information, I think that's where you go back to your key messages and what's the main point that you wanna get across and just... Yeah, go ahead and send all of that in your initial pitch, I think that's fine. And then if they're interested in more detail and certain aspects of a report or project, whatever it is, then you can go ahead and provide more as the conversation unfolds. Anything else, Mara? Okay.
0:50:16.5 Mara: Okay. That's perfect.
0:50:18.3 Kelly: I have a quick question.
0:50:20.7 Mara: Kelly, go ahead.
0:50:21.9 Kelly: So do you ever do both... A media alert and a press release when it comes to an event? Let's say weeks before, send a media alert with the who, what, where, when, why... Just to kinda give them a heads up. And then maybe a week or... What would be your suggested timeline in terms of then sending a press release closer to the event? Would you say like a week out, or... What would you suggest in terms of a timeline for both of those documents?
0:50:50.8 Lauren: I think it depends on your goal for the event. If it's really important to get people to the event or to come to the press conference to learn the news, then we wouldn't send out a press release in advance. So then you would wanna stick with just kind of that shorter Media Advisory event announcement and... Yeah, I think, like Mara said, maybe a week or two maximum in advance...
0:51:18.2 Lauren: And then totally fine to follow up with a day before, day of reminder like, "Hey, I just wanted to bring this to the top of your inbox. Just wanted to send a reminder to see if you're planning to be here." But if it's really important to share the news at the event, then I would not recommend a press release.
0:51:35.4 Lauren: If it's more just... You're trying to build general awareness and if they can come to the event too... That, that's just a bonus. Then... Yeah, having a press release go out leading up to an event could work as well.
0:51:49.8 Kelly: Okay, 'cause I was thinking if we had some type of a walk or a run or something like that. I didn't know how far out... If we're trying to get them to attend an event. I guess that's why... I guess I should have been more specific. Would you suggest sending out a media alert maybe weeks before, even four weeks out and then send a more... Maybe a little bit more concrete, a little bit more detail-oriented press release closer to the event.
0:52:18.4 Lauren: Yeah, I think, that could work. I don't know that you would need to do four weeks just because things change quickly in the news landscape. And so, if you're doing that far advanced notice it could get lost in the shuffle. Maybe a couple weeks and then reminders or press release getting closer to it.
0:52:35.3 Kelly: Okay. Thank you.
0:52:37.7 Lauren: Does that sounds right?
0:52:39.2 Kelly: Yeah, sure. Thanks.
0:52:40.3 Lauren: Okay.
0:52:45.8 S6: Go ahead.
0:52:47.3 Lauren: No, did you have more to add on that one?
0:52:49.4 S6: Nope, I was just gonna point to a question from Chelsea. And Chelsea was asking... Was saying that she works in the public sector and would also... Often have media reach out about different projects or issues in the community that they were working on, but not ready or able to talk about yet. So their timeline for comment... The reporter's timeline for comment was very short before they are publishing. So do you have any suggestions for navigating the media when you don't have a communication plan put together? Lauren, do you wanna take a first response to that.
0:53:25.8 Lauren: Sure. I think if you can promise a fairly definitive timeline for when you can share the information, reporters might be willing to hold a story or to do a follow-up story to incorporate that information. Otherwise, I think sometimes we've just said, "Oh, we're not able to respond to this request right now." It's just not worth it to try to put... To share something that's half-baked, basically. And so it can be better to just follow up when you are more prepared to do a fuller roll out. Anything else, Mara?
0:54:03.8 Mara: No, I think that that summarizes it really well. I think, reporters also know if they're asking you for comment with really short notice, they often are reaching out to multiple people and they understand that you may not be able to do it. Any other thoughts or questions?
0:54:23.0 S7: Did you see Catherine's question about Twitter and the value...
0:54:28.8 S?: Yeah. It's a great question.
0:54:29.8 S7: Yeah... I'm sorry. Do you want me to... It's the question about Twitter and the value of using it to build brand awareness? Is a constant presence, sharing activity, a good idea? Any thoughts?
0:54:48.7 S6: Lauren, do you wanna take... Do you have strong reactions to this?
0:54:54.2 Lauren: I think social media in general is super helpful for building brand awareness, and generally the more consistently you can be posting, the better it can help to not only share your own content, but to be interacting with other people who are in the same sector or same space that you wanna be networking with.
0:55:14.4 Lauren: And it's really a way to just build your following of people who already have expressed some level of interest in your work. And so then you're continually just sharing with them. So yeah, I think there is a lot of value in doing that.
0:55:27.8 Lauren: I do think that consistency is a big piece of it. And so if you don't have the staff, time or resources to dedicate to it, maybe start with one platform that you're trying to be consistently posting on versus trying to be on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok across the board and not really doing any of it well or strategically. That would be my kind of initial reactions to that.
0:55:55.4 Mara: Yeah, I would agree with all those points. I really wanna highlight... I think a lot of people go on Twitter or any of these and really just put out their own content, and then every now and then like some other's content. But if you really wanna be effective and build an audience, it's really great if you can do exactly what Lauren does... And that's kind of respond to or comment on other people's posts that are in your field that you wanna engage with. 'Cause then it's more of a conversation and a more meaningful engagement with others.
0:56:23.5 Lauren: And I retweet a lot of journalists too. That's just a good way to be on their radar and just kind of have that extra point of contact.
0:56:33.9 S?: Super helpful. Thank you so much.
0:56:38.2 CB: Yeah. Any other questions? I wanna say... Just this... The last question is... What it says to me is, "We need another workshop. I'm using social media." [chuckle]
0:56:47.0 S?: Yes, I love that. Yes.
0:56:48.2 CB: On how to use social media, right?
0:56:50.8 S?: Yes.
0:56:52.3 CB: We did one of those years ago, so we'll have to do another one. Oh wait, we got... Bruce?
0:57:00.0 Lauren: Oh yeah, Bryce had submitted this ahead of time... How has social media impacted the relationship between policy makers/analysts and communications experts? How can these forums serve as an effective intermediary between policy experts and citizens?"
0:57:17.7 Lauren: I think social media just increases the access to all of these people have to each other, so we aren't as dependent on reporters to kind of be the gatekeepers and decide which stories get a bigger platform. I think it's easier for the average person to reach out directly to policy makers and for policy makers to be engaging in that online discussion too. Any other thoughts on that, Mara... Just how you've seen that... Those relationships change?
0:57:45.8 Mara: I think what we know is that the other angle is that... Is that social media tends to have more extreme views, and so it tends to really polarize political debates in ways that it isn't always constructive. And so that's a problematic element of how social media is engaging and affecting public opinion...
0:58:04.2 Mara: But it's also something that people... Some people are trying to make a more conscientious effort of countering and having more productive and less like critical communications. But it is something that's been shown to just amplify existing patterns of polarization.
0:58:22.7 CB: We're at time now, and I just wanna thank you both, Lauren and Mara for this, and for everybody who attended. We'll send out a follow up email with the links and the contacts and... Thank you all for attending. And look for news for maybe part two, but thank you all. And everybody, have a great rest of your day.