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National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Media Relations: Basic Strategy

Although this tool kit focuses on the news media, "the media" actually includes the Internet, books, films, the entertainment and advertising industries and even retail products such as t-shirts. Anything that is a "medium" for mass communication can be considered part of the media.

For news media, there are three traditional forms: newspapers, television and radio.

What is news?

Before approaching the news media with a NAMI news release or story idea, you must determine its news value. There are a number of questions to guide you in determining how to present it.

  • Does it involve an action or event?
  • Does it respond to another news event?
  • Is it timely?
  • Is it significant or unique?
  • Is it relevant to the local community?
  • Is there a strong human interest or drama?

In the case of the State Advocacy 2010 effort to save mental health care, the answer to all of these questions is YES!

Basic tools to support your effort include:

Key Messages- Having a consistent, memorable message is key to a successful advocacy effort. Use these messages as often as possible. Add your personal story or example that illustrates a key point.

Elevator Speech (PDF) - In a pinch, use this short script to help you prepare to talk to a legislator, media or other thought leader about NAMI and what you hope to achieve.

Tough Questions and Answers - Whether a person talks with a reporter, a state legislator or others, it's important to be prepared for "tough questions."

Additionally, there are three basic strategies. For each, there are tools and tactics that can be used, but all of these can be helpful regardless of whether a strategy is in place or you are selecting one action to support your advocacy efforts.

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