Working with the Media

Knowing how to work with the media will help you generate public interest in Victims and Survivors of Crime Week. Television coverage of an event or a personal interview in a newspaper can help you call attention to available services, recruit volunteers, and raise awareness about the impact of crime on victims, and survivors and their families.

Types of media coverage

There are two kinds of media coverage: paid and unpaid. Paid media coverage is usually known as advertising. Unpaid media coverage can take a variety of forms, such as public service announcements, letters to the editor (for newspapers, magazines or online publications), and photos, articles or features generated either by you or by a reporter.

Primary audience

The first step in getting media exposure is having a clear idea of your primary audience so you can select the most appropriate medium. Who is your message intended for, and which media will be most effective in reaching that audience? For example, an older audience is more likely to use tradi­tional media (television, radio, newspapers etc.), whereas a younger audience might be best reached through social media. A community newspaper will appeal to a different audience than a local business newspaper.

Create interest

Another important consideration is having a “hook”. What will catch the attention of your audience and make them interested in your event or story? The fact that you are running your event during Victims and Survivors of Crime Week will help “sell” the story to the media. Connecting your event to local issues will likely increase media interest, so you should give some thought to possible local connections. You might want to ask a local radio or tele­vision host or newspaper columnist to participate in your event as a special guest, host or moderator. You can also ask local media to sponsor your event.

If you have a budget, advertising can be an effective way to reach your audience. Traditional media such as television, radio, newspapers and magazines can help you produce an advertisement for broadcast or print. The cost will vary depending on such factors as the size of the media readership, what other media is available (competition), the number of times your ad appears, its size or length, and where it is placed (e.g. front page or back cover) or when it is run (during a top-rated evening show or in the middle of the afternoon). Contact the advertising department of your chosen media outlet for more details.

Public service announcements

Most broadcast and print media will announce upcoming community events in community calendars or bulletins free of charge. Send the details of your event to the attention of the community events calendar at local papers and radio and television stations. In addition, radio stations, local cable channels and some television stations will run public service announcements (PSAs). Sample PSAs are available here.

Letters to the editor

Letters to the editor in newspapers and magazines can be powerful tools to raise awareness about victim issues and to promote your event at the same time.

Preparing your message

Getting the media to cover your event can require a bit more work. You will need to think of a hook and prepare a few written materials in advance, such as news release and background information about the event or victim issues you want to highlight.

You will need to identify someone in your organization as the media contact or spokesperson. This should be someone who is comfortable promoting your event and responding to questions from journalists and the public. This person should have a good under­standing of the nature and purpose of the event and the important issues involved. Prepare some key messages in advance so the spokesperson will be sure to deliver the right message.

The spokesperson should also be prepared to answer the hard questions. A list of Questions and Answers (Q&As) can be helpful. Spend some time thinking of questions that an investigative reporter might ask and prepare answers that will help your spokesperson stay on message.

Basic dos and don’ts for media spokespersons

  • Do: Prepare a few key messages beforehand.
  • Do: Listen carefully to questions before answering.
  • Do: Emphasize key messages.
  • Do: Stick to the facts and stay on topic.
  • Do: Be driven by the message, not the questions.
  • Do: Give complete answers but keep them as brief as possible.
  • Do not:  Speculate when answering questions.
  • Do not: Provide answers to hypothetical questions.
  • Do not: Talk needlessly to fill silence on the air.

Contacting local media

Local media websites generally provide up-to-date contact information you can use to build a good media directory that can be helpful both during the Week and throughout the year.

You should contact the assignment or news editor at community newspapers, television and radio stations at least two weeks before your event. Community television and newspapers, in particular, require plenty of prior notice to accommodate their recording and print schedules (though magazine timelines are longer). Describe your plans and explain why the event will be of interest to the media outlet’s primary audience. Provide the date, time, and location of the event, and say who will be participating, including special guests. Follow-up after your first contact by sending a small package of background information with your news release.

If media outlets do not have staff to cover your activity, offer to write an article on the event for them. Many community newspapers will accept stories or photographs of community events they cannot attend.

Remember that television tells a story through pictures. Make sure your event has plenty of photo opportunities. The more engaging the pictures, the more likely you will get coverage. Always remind the media about your activities the day before – a media advisory sent by e-mail or fax is a good way to update them on any last-minute changes and encourage them to come out. A sample media advisory is available here.

Radio and television talk shows can provide an opportunity for listeners to learn about and discuss the importance of victim issues in their community. Encourage radio hosts and producers of TV news and public affairs programs to plan a special program for their audiences during Victims and Survivors of Crime Week. You should provide them with a local hook and a list of possible interviewees/ panellists for the program. Contact the possible interviewees/panellists to determine their willingness to participate before providing their names for the program.

Using social media

Many organizations find social media to be an important tool in raising the public’s awareness about an issue or an event. It can help you attract media attention, and make connections with organizations and people in your community and around the country.

Get comfortable

If you are not currently active on social media, you can start by exploring some of the more popular social media sites on the web. Find out on which social media sites organizations in your community and in your area of expertise are active. Pay attention to how they use these sites to send out their information. There exist a wide variety of social media platforms, and each can be used effectively depending on your desired audience and message. Some of the more popular social media sites are:

Twitter

Twitter is a microblogging site that allows users to post short messages and have conversations with other users. Twitter has a limit of 140 characters per message (or “tweet”).

Facebook

Facebook is a social networking site that allows users to create profiles (either for an individual or an organization), and network with other users. Users can share information, photos and other media, and exchange messages. They can also choose whether their profile is visible to the general public, or private and visible only to those they have chosen to network with.

Hashtags

Hashtags are keywords that help users identify topics or communities of interest on Twitter, Facebook and some other social media sites. Adding a hash mark (#) creates a hyperlinked hashtag. Before creating a new one, look at what other users and organizations are already using. Using a common keyword or hashtag will help raise awareness about your organization and event among other organizations and stakeholders.

The recommended hashtag for Victims and Survivors of Crime Week is #VictimsWeek / #Semainedesvictimes.

YouTube and Flickr

YouTube and Flickr are media sharing sites that allow users to upload, view and share videos (YouTube) and photos (Flickr). You may need to register as a user to upload content. Users can generally choose whether their content is visible to the general public, or private and visible only to those they choose.

Get active

Now that you are more familiar with how social media sites can be used to help raise public awareness, it is time to get active. Keep in mind that writing for the web and social media is very different from writing more traditional products, such as news releases and letters to the editor.

Tips for writing for social media

  • Write clearly and concisely, and use plain language.
  • Use the active voice when possible.
  • Be conversational and write directly to your audience. Use the pronouns “we” and “you”.
  • Include links to websites where the audience can get more information. This allows you to keep your message short and may also help increase traffic to your organization’s website.
  • Use short words and short sentences. Limit your message to one idea. Long sentences are harder to follow on small screens and mobile devices.
  • Avoid using acronyms and abbreviations that the general public may not understand.
  • Use keywords, tags or hashtags when possible.

Examples

Facebook: We are hosting an information session to raise awareness about the services available for victims and survivors of crime in [insert community name] [insert link to more information]#VictimsWeek.

Twitter: Info session about services available to victims and survivors of crime in [insert community name] [insert link to more information]#VictimsWeek

Facebook: : Victims and Survivors of Crime Week is being held May 28 to June 3 and the theme is ‘Empowering Resilience’ #Victims Week [link to www.victimsweek.gc.ca]

Twitter: ‘Empowering Resilience’ Support Victims and Survivors of Crime Week #VictimsWeek

Facebook: To commemorate Victims and Survivors of Crime Week, we are hosting a vigil on May 28, 2017.

Twitter: Vigil on May 28, 2017 to mark #VictimsWeek [link to more information]

Facebook: The total economic impact of spousal violence in Canada in 2009 is estimated at $7.4 billion, amounting to $220 per Canadian. Walk with us on June 1 to raise awareness [link to more information] #VictimsWeek

Twitter: Spousal violence in Can costs $7.4 billion/yr. Walk with us June 1 to raise awareness [link to more information] #VictimsWeek

Sample media advisory

This sample media advisory is designed to give media the basic “who, what, when and where” so that they can send reporters, camera crews, or photographers to cover your event. Send the advisory by fax or e-mail to local media two days to one week before your event.

Sample media advisory

[Insert name of organization]
Media Advisory

Victims and Survivors of Crime Week
"Empowering Resilience"

Please join [name of person/organization hosting event] in recognizing Victims and Survivors of Crime Week.

[Brief one or two sentence description of the event and why the media should see the story as having positive benefits for their audience. For example: The Centre for Victims Assistance will be hosting a symposium to explore ways to better serve victims and survivors of domestic violence. The day-long conference will offer educators, police, social workers, and youth advocates the chance to share best practices, and hear from victim service providers on how best to serve victims and survivors of crime.]

Date:

Location:

Time:

-30-

INFORMATION: 
[Insert local contact name, name of organization, contact number, and e-mail address]

Sample news release

The news release is a good way to give the media information about both national and local events. This sample news release shows how to format a news release that can be distributed to media outlets to provide information about your event.

The news release can be sent by mail, fax or e-mail at least one week before your event (two weeks in the case of community newspapers and television). Your media contact or spokesperson should also make a follow-up telephone call to confirm whether someone from the media organization will be attending your event and whether they are interested in running a story – their own or one provided by you – about victim issues in your community.

Sample news release

Victims and Survivors of Crime Week

For Immediate Release

(LOCATION, DATE) - "Empowering Resilience" is the theme of Victims and Survivors of Crime Week, taking place across Canada from May 28 to June 3, 2017. Victims and Survivors of Crime Week is held to raise awareness about issues facing victims and survivors of crime and the services, programs, and laws in place to help them and their families. [Insert organization name here] is proud to be hosting an event to commemorate the week in our community.

“The Victims and Survivors of Crime Week is an important event for our community because “[insert high-level, brief message]”, said [insert full name and title of local VIP, organizational spokesperson, or elected official who can speak for your organization]. “[If desired, insert a second quote regarding the benefits and actions that are news worthy and why they are important to the local community].”

[Insert organization] will commemorate Victims and Survivors of Crime Week with [name of event, time and location]. [Insert one or two sentences about the event. Focus on how the event will benefit to the local community and how a resident of the local community might see the event as a positive news story.]

If your event received funding through the Department of Justice’s Victims Fund, please insert the following paragraph:

This event was funded by the Victims Fund, a grants and contributions program administered by the Department of Justice Canada. Funds are available to provinces, territories and non-governmental organizations for programs and services that give victims and survivors of crime a more effective voice in the criminal justice system. For more information about the Victims Fund, please visit: http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/victims-victimes/

For more information on Victims and Survivors of Crime Week, visit: www.victimsweek.gc.ca.

-30-

[Local contact name
cell and daytime phone number
e-mail address]

Sample public service announcements

PSAs can be submitted as scripts for on-air personalities to read, or you can ask the television or radio station to audiotape or videotape your organization’s spokesperson. Your PSA should be submitted as far as possible in advance of Victims and Survivors of Crime Week so the station can schedule it to air during the week.

When your PSAs have been aired, be sure to send a thank-you note to your media contact, emphasizing the value of their contribution to Victims and Survivors of Crime Week and to increasing public awareness about victim issues and services.

Sample public service announcement scripts

Short (approx 15 seconds):

Victims and survivors of crime have been through traumatic experiences, but many use their personal resilience to move beyond their victimization and to create positive change.

May 28 to June 3 is Victims and Survivors of Crime Week

Victims and Survivors of Crime Week is about raising awareness about issues facing victims and survivors of crime and the services, programs, and laws in place to help them and their families.

Call [insert local organization name and phone number] for more information

Long (approx 60 seconds):

Victims and survivors of crime have been through traumatic experiences, but many use their personal resilience to move beyond their victimization and to create positive change.

May 28 to June 3 is Victims and Survivors of Crime Week

Victims and Survivors of Crime Week is about raising awareness about issues facing victims and survivors of crime and the services, programs and laws in place to help them and their families.

Throughout Canada, countless dedicated people work with victims and survivors of crime every day. Service providers and criminal justice professionals give information and meaningful support to victims and survivors and their families as they navigate the criminal justice system.

Services for victims and survivors of crime are available right here in [insert name of community or region]. Call [insert local phone number] or visit [insert web address].

For more information on Victims and Survivors of Crime Week, visit www.victimsweek.gc.ca

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