Establishing solid talking points and knowing how to effectively work with the media will also help with your interactions with the public.
It is critical that your organization stays on its message. Again, any divergent voice weakens the strength of the collective voice. You want to speak in unison, expressing the same objectives.
The good news is that you are already the expert! It is natural to be intimidated when talking to the media for the first time, but you need not be. You know the facts. You are at the center of this storm. You are telling your story—and nobody knows it better than you.
Remember to always personalize, humanize and dramatize:
It’s OK to show emotion about your situation—what you are going through is difficult and may be downright horrible, and the media should know that.
Your message must focus on the simple, clear and outrageous facts of the situation. You should explain economic liberty, explain the situation, battle the myths and explain the solution.
Preparation is key. Keep your message simple and repeat it over and over again. Remember that, often at the very most, you are going to get just one quote in the media. You want to make sure that you would be comfortable with anything you say being the only thing quoted in the media.
At IJ, we call talking points “Strategic Over-riding Communications Objectives” (SOCOs). SOCOs are prepared statements you deliver with punch and passion that advance the themes you wish to convey. Developing SOCOs allows you to establish the terms of the debate and argue on your turf. Crafting these messages together before communicating with the media ensures that you are consistent and effective in getting your point across. You may also find that this is an effective way to put your thoughts into words when writing letters to the editor, op-eds, media advisories and press releases. Make sure that your SOCOs focus on just one or two main issues about your battle. Here are some generalized examples. You will want to make these specific to your fight and industry:
Remember: Do not concede points made by the other side. No level of protectionism is OK, no matter how “small” or “limited.” Your opponents may claim they are trying to protect the public’s health and safety, but that is not accomplished through limiting competition. They may argue that they are trying to create a “fair” playing field, but “fair” is in the eye of the beholder. A restaurateur may think it’s “fair” that street vendors be kept 500 feet away from his or her establishment. A limo company owner may think it’s “fair” to force her lower-priced competition to charge higher prices. Do not let the other side define your fight in terms of their definition of fairness.
It is helpful to identify a key spokesperson to speak on behalf of the group, to ensure the group’s message is consistent and the media has a main point of contact who can be reached at any time. This person should be articulate, and other members of the group should be comfortable with this individual speaking on their behalf. The spokesperson should master the talking points (as should all of the members of the group) and be readily available to do television, radio and newspaper interviews.
Track the names and contact information of journalists who have been covering your issue in the news and start keeping a list. Also, think creatively about alternative media outlets, like community blogs and neighborhood listservs. If the mainstream media won’t cover your battle, force them to by making it top news in alternative outlets.
Try to get to know the reporters who are covering your issue. Are they for or against you? What might sway them? What angle are they most interested in? Tailor your pitch to them accordingly.
When you call a reporter to pitch an event or story, there are two questions you absolutely must ask. First: “Are you on deadline?” If he or she is on a deadline, apologize for taking his or her time and suggest a time later in the day when you might be able to speak. Second: “May I give you a 30-second pitch on a story I thought you would be interested in?” This demonstrates respect for his or her time, which will be greatly appreciated. Practice your 30-second pitch ahead of time and do not take any more of his or her time than that. You can burn a bridge by talking his or her ear off. You want to be someone that the media looks forward to talking to.
And remember: the microphone is always on, no matter who you’re talking to. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t want to read in print the next day or watch on the evening news that night.
The media is an incredibly valuable (and free!) tool to get your message out. Here are some tools that you can utilize.
Sometimes (hopefully!) a television reporter will show up at your event and want a quick quote. Remember your SOCOs, take a deep breath and go for it. If he or she asks you a question that is leading you in a direction you don’t want to go, you can redirect by answering with one of your SOCOs. And when you’re asked that golden question, “Is there anything else you’d like to add?” remember those remaining talking points!
If you know you are going to appear on television, wear solid color clothing. Avoid small, complex patterns and stripes. Avoid white and black if possible. If you wear earrings, avoid ones that dangle. If you wear makeup, go with subtler, matte colors.