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Media Outreach Guide

December 1, 1999

This guide provides information on how to understand and work with the three primary mass media venues -- television, radio and print.

I. Understanding the News Media

The three most important elements in a good story from the media's point of view are action, people and substance. Match the media's need with your message and ensure that the information is provided to them in a timely manner. In order to develop appropriate media activities and messages, ask yourself:

  • What goal(s) do you want to accomplish in your World AIDS Day event?


  • Who is your target population?

  • What messages must be developed and conveyed to influence your target audience to make the desired changes?

  • What role do you want the community at large to have?

  • What types of media outreach would be efficient and cost effective for accomplishing the above?

II. Tips for Success

  • Look for ways to tie in with national World AIDS Day observances and HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns.

  • Take the event on the road by co-sponsoring a series of similar events in different communities.

  • Consider having a radio or TV station co-sponsor the event, which would highlight the station's commitment to the community and generate free publicity for your event.

  • Use the World AIDS Day theme to attract both media and public attention. Use it on all publicity-related materials, from invitations to media kits, buttons and banners.

Allow plenty of planning time when selecting your date and time. Select a time when your most important audiences will be available and when conflicting events are not taking place.

III. Types of News Media

Medium Characteristics Deadlines
  • a highly visible medium; visually portrays the importance of your message

  • Graphics often used in segments.

  • Stories are brief (30- to 60-second segments).
  • day before for breaking news (contact the assignment editor)

  • by 10 AM for the
    6 PM news

  • 3 to 8 wks in advance for public announce-
  • 10- to 15-second sound bites

  • Be aware of tone and firmness of voice when responding to questions.
  • allow several days notice for public events
  • more in-depth treatment of a subject

  • may use direct quotes from press statements or news releases
  • daily AM: 2-3 PM the afternoon before

  • daily PM: early AM the day of  issue

  • weekly issues:  3-5 days before the issue
  • targets specific segments of the public

  • explains more complex health/behavior issues
  • 6-8 weeks before publication goes to press

IV.  Event Calendar

Before the Event

Track Your Media Relations

Track your media contacts (i.e., phone conversations) by having all staff record information (name of media person, organization, time, date and topics discussed) on a simple form.

Prepare News Releases

News releases should include, in 1-2 pages, the five "W's":
  • WHO is involved?
  • WHAT happened?
  • WHEN did it happen?
  • WHERE did it happen?
  • WHY or HOW did it happen?
The lead paragraph should answer these questions, in one or two sentences, especially since most reporters decide whether or not to read the rest of the release based on the first paragraph, and print editors tend to cut the article from the bottom up. The second or third paragraph should include a "colorful" quote reporters can use in their article. (See Sample News Release.)

Feature news releases can be 3-4 pages in length; an attention-getting headline is important.

Your news release may target specific groups, such as people of different age groups, ethnicities or genders.

  • a profile on an active community member -- what he or she has done and why
  • fund-raisers and projects that local groups organize in support of HIV/AIDS
  • personal stories of people living with HIV/AIDS
  • targeted prevention programs for those at high risk for infection
  • an exceptional HIV education program at a local business, place of worship or school

Prepare Media Kits

The "media kit" is a collection of information prepared for the media to be released on the day of the event. Examples of materials that might be included in a media kit are:

  • Statistics on the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in your state, county or city.

  • Information on your organization and its HIV/AIDS prevention programs.

  • Basic Facts about HIV/AIDS, other fact sheets and list of HIV/AIDS hotlines from this resource book.

  • Business cards so the media can contact your agency about HIV/AIDS issues.

  • Brief, one-page biographies of key agency officials, event participants and/or spokespersons.

  • Photographs (most newspapers prefer black and white) and camera-ready graphics, such as charts and logos.

Other Planning Tips

  • Write an Op-Ed piece or a Letter to the Editor for your local newspaper.

  • Contact the reporters who cover community events and pitch the event as a future story.

  • Call community calendar reporters at area newspapers and TV, cable and radio stations, asking them to place a calendar notice.

  • Two weeks in advance, hand-deliver or mail invitations.

  • 2-3 days in advance, call editors and reporters and ask if they plan to attend.

  • The day before the event, call the media again to politely remind them.

Day of the Event

  • Set up a media sign-in table and distribute media kits to media who attend.

  • When the reporters arrive, set up interviews with the key people, and escort media to the appropriate spokesperson.

  • Issue name badges to promote better communication between media and individuals.

  • Assign someone from your agency to take black-and-white photos to accompany articles in newsletters and other publications.

After the Event

  • Send a news release immediately to any reporters who were unable to attend.

  • Send follow-up letters to editors of local newspapers thanking the community and informing them of your success.

  • Write a follow-up article for appropriate community publications. Illustrate with photos from the event.

  • Ask media for their photos of your event.

  • Send a description of your event and a copy of photos to us for possible use in our AIDS report of activities across the United States. (See Follow Up Report)

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This article was provided by American Association for World Health. It is a part of the publication Be a Force for Change.
See Also
World AIDS Day Planning