Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How to be an effective Advocate 101. Part 2

Keep Environmental Issues Alive in Your Local Newspapers, Magazines, and on TV and Radio Stations.

The media plays a powerful role in conservation efforts. It helps shape public opinion on policies like protecting endangered species and drilling in the Arctic. You can help maximize the potential of this resource by calling in to local talk shows and writing letters to the editor. Not only will you raise an important issue in your community, you'll also grab the attention of elected officials, who pay close attention to opinions voiced in newspapers, radio and TV in their district or state.
Here are some tips to monitor and utilize local media:

A. Letters to the Editor: Letters to the editor provide you with an opportunity to comment on articles, editorials and advertisements appearing in local newspapers.

B. Know the Rules: Check the paper's guidelines for writing letters; these are usually clearly stated on the editorial page of your newspaper. Be sure to include your name, address and telephone number (papers do not print anonymous letters and often call to verify authorship).

C. Be Specific, and the Shorter, the Better: Many papers won't publish letters longer than 200 words. Most prefer 150. Be sure to state the purpose of your letter in the first paragraph.

D. Timeliness Is Everything: Respond as soon as possible to printed stories or editorials. Write your letters on debates, issues or legislation happening right now.

Make sure your family and friends are aware of conservation legislation and encourage them to get involved. The more people involved in the effort, the better our chances of creating a future with which we can all live. Email alerts to friends and co-workers quickly when conservation legislation is up for a vote or in danger of being ignored. Let them know the vote's outcome, and how your specific lawmaker voted on the measure. Invite friends and family over for pizza and a letter-writing party. Pick an issue, pick a theme, have fun, but get those opinions in to lawmakers.

Create a media file.

1. Survey your media market: What are the sources of news, who are the reporters, producers and opinion writers, and what if anything have they written about environment and energy issues.

2. Harvest names: build a press list of reporters, producers, assignment desks that will serve as your contact list.

3. Be a resource: Offer up useful information, news, quotes, tips in a timely manner so that repliers come to see you as a reliable source that is connected and helpful.

4. Message discipline: always prepare before talking to a reporter to get your facts straight, and stick to you top line messages, even at the risk of repetition. Imagine the hardest questions you could get and develop answers beforehand.

5. Fonn relations with news leaders - the summit of media relations: brief and otherwise form working relationships with key reporters, editorial boards and radio producers so that you feel comfortable calling them and they feel comfortable calling you.

Always be truthful with the media if they catch you miss leading them one time they will never trust you again. (I wish they would always be truthful with us but, that's another post).

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