Communication Tools

Getting the word out is one of the most powerful tools to mobilize people around one cause. The following media tools can help you present climbing in a positive way. To spread the word:

On the Internet

  • Your own website / blog
  • Facebook – create a page or a profile rather than a group for your cause.
  • Twitter
  • Local websites / media

Write an Action Alert

Alerts are meant to produce action, not to document every nuance of the situation. When carefully written, Action Alerts are a terrific way to get the word out. It should be brief, one page in length, and proof read: run a spell-check program, polish your writing, and review the material. Remember, an effective Action Alert will provide people with all the necessary resources to come to action.

Organize Your Alert*

  1. Title – It should reveal the nature of the problem in a short and direct way.
  2. Opening Paragraph – This is the lead paragraph! Describe the issue, people involved and what you want to achieve. Two or three sentences!
  3. Call to Action and Deadline – Clearly state what you want people to do: write comments, sign an online petition, place a phone call, etc. Include all relevant deadlines.
  4. Background Information – In one or two paragraphs, try to provide enough history, related problems, additional consequences and other information to help produce well-informed responses from your constituents. Avoid over-describing the situation.
  5. Pro Climbing Points – Provide succinct and different points (no more than four). Bullet-points are often the best format. This will add some diversity to people’ s responses and let them customize their message.
  6. Contact Information – List email and postal addresses as well as phone numbers or websites where comments or calls should be sent.

Write a letter to the editor**

Letters to the editor most often discuss a recent event/issue covered by a publication, radio station, or TV program. They are your chance to “ sound-off” to your community about issues in the news. They are widely read-so make them an important part of your media strategy.

Elements/Hints

  1. Keep it short and concise-150-200 words. Lead with your most important information.
  2. Check out Pro-Climbing Points for useful information.
  3. Write short paragraphs, with no more than three sentences per paragraph.
  4. Be constructive rather than negative; offer solutions, not just problems. Offer to be part of the solution and keep letters positive.
  5. Check the newspaper protocols to submit this letter. Emailing usually works fine and some newspapers may require a hard copy with your signature for identity verification. Be sure to include your full name, address, and phone number at the top of the page and sign the letter at the bottom.

Press Release**

A media release describes the important information a reporter needs to write their piece about event, report, or issue. Envision the news story YOU would want to see written and write the press release on those lines. Send it out 3 – 5 working days before the event.

Elements of a Press Release

  • Headline – This will make or break a news release. Include the most important information in the headline, and make it punchy. It can be up to four lines if necessary, including a sub-head, if used, keep it short and remember to use a large font.
  • Short description of the event and the issue. Make it visual (“ Climbers will pick up and haul out 3 tons of trash to support the local Parks and Recreation Department.” )
  • Important information should jump off the page-most reporters will only spend 30 seconds looking at a release. Spend 75 percent of your time writing the headline and the first paragraph. Make your most important points early in the release and work your way down.
  • Keep sentences and paragraphs short. No more than three sentences per paragraph.
  • Include a colorful quote from a spokesperson in the second or third paragraph. This quote should be the main message that you are trying to convey to the press, and in extension, to the public. Therefore, it should be clear, well thought out and strategic.
  • Contact information. In the top right corner, type names and phone numbers of two contacts. Make sure these contacts can be easily reached by phone.
  • Include a short summary of your organization in the last paragraph.
  • Mention “ Photo Opportunity” if one exists and be sure to send it to the photo editors of local news outlets as well as to reporters – they don’ t always share information with each other!

Structure/Form

  • In the top left corner, type “ For Immediate Release,” and just below it the date.
  • Contact Information: In the top right corner, type names and phone numbers of two contacts. Make sure these contacts can be easily reached by phone. Including the contact’ s home phone number, if appropriate.
  • Type “ ###” at the end of your release. This is how journalists mark the end of a news copy.
  • Type “ MORE” at the end of page 1 if your release is two pages, and put a contact phone number and short headline in the upper-right hand corner of subsequent pages.
  • Print your release on your organization’ s letterhead.

How to Distribute It

  • A media advisory should arrive at news outlets 3 to 5 working days before the event. In some cases, you may want to send an “ embargoed” copy to select reporters ahead of time, meaning that the information is confidential until the date you specify. Generally, send a release to only one reporter per outlet.
  • E-mail advisory to the appropriate reporter, editor or producer at each news outlet on your press list.
  • ALWAYS make follow up calls after you send the release. If your release is announcing an event, make the calls the morning before your event is scheduled.
  • Have a copy of the release ready to be faxed when you make the calls.

Tips for interviews**

  • Discipline your message! Use your slogan or message as much as possible. Check out Pro-Climbing Points for useful information.
  • Familiarize yourself with three soundbites (with backup information). Soundbites are short, pithy messages that clearly and fully communicate your message. They are the ideal one or two sentence quote you want to see in tomorrow’ s newspaper article. Write them down.
  • Always turn the question at hand back to your message. Use “ bridging” to bridge the gap between the question and the more important issue at hand.
  • Anticipate questions – have well thought-out answers ready to respond with.
  • Know the opposition’ s arguments and how to respond to them.
  • Practice-even people who speak to reporters all the time practice.
  • An interview is never over even if the tape stops rolling. Everything you say to a journalist is on the record.
  • Don’ t get frustrated by difficult questions-just stick to your messages.
  • If you slip up, don’ t worry. Just ask the reporter to start again (unless it’ s live).
  • If you need more time to think, ask the reporter to repeat the question or ask a clarifying question-or simply pause and think before answering.
  • If you don’ t know an answer to a question, don’ t force it. Try to return to your message. If it’ s an interview for print media, tell the reporter you’ ll track down the answer later call them back. Tell the reporter you have more to add if he or she overlooks something you think is important

* From the International Mountain Bike Association website.
* * From the Access Fund website.

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