Steps to Build a Blue Trail: Promote

Develop Media Tools

West C AmpThere are a variety of tools that you can use to implement your media strategy.

Media kits

Media kits are a collection of materials that provide basic information about your Blue Trail. Its purpose is to give the media easy access to the information they need to accurately report on your issue. Ideally, your media kit will be compiled in a folder and include.

  • A fact sheet or general overview of your Blue Trail
  • Recent news releases related to your blue trail and/or issues
  • Visual materials such as photos, maps, or CDs
  • Other materials that describe your mission and stance on the issue
  • Your contact information

Press releases, statements, and advisories

Press releases, press statements, and advisories are common and effective ways to get your message to the media.

Press releases advise the media of a news event, provide your message about that event, and give background information. They should include:

  • Your logo
  • The date of the release and the date that an embargo will be lifted
  • Contact information for the person who will talk to reporters
  • A headline that conveys the most important message of the story
  • A “dateline” that identifies the city and state where the story is taking place
  • A first paragraph or “lead” that provides the main idea of the story
  • A quote or quotes from a key person from your group or an expert
  • Supporting paragraphs that answer the “how” and “what” of the story and provide more details on the lead (all paragraphs should be short and concise)
  • If the release is longer than one page, an indication that it continues by adding the word “more” at the bottom of the first page, and a header on the following pages that includes the release date and page number
  • If appropriate, a web address where more information is available
  • Boilerplate language at the end that describes your group
  • Below the boilerplate language, include “###” to indicate the end of the release

Press statements are similar to a press release but are simpler to prepare because it provides your comments on a news event without providing the context or background information. They should include:

  • Your logo
  • The date of the statement
  • A headline that conveys the most important message of the story
  • The name, title, and organization of the person making the statement
  • A lead paragraph that provides the main point you want to make and one or two additional paragraphs that provide further comment
  • If appropriate, a web address where more information is available
  • Boilerplate language at the end that describes your group
  • Below the boilerplate language, include “###” to indicate the end of the statement

Press advisories are used to announce news events and provide information to editorial writers. A news event advisory is an announcement that informs reporters of the time and place of a news event such as a press conference, news briefing, public workshop, or special event. They should include:

  • A title telling the recipient what the event is about
  • Logistical information about the event in a “who,” “what,” “when,” “where” format, including the time, location, and/or phone number for a teleconference
  • Background information to make your story interesting, without giving away too much information (you want reporters to come to the event to get the story)
  • Contact information

Editorial advisories provide background or in-depth information to editorial writers and urge them to take an editorial stand on an issue. Editorial advisories can be written in an informal style, as if you were speaking to the person receiving it. They should include:

  • A direct pitch urging the recipient to take a stand
  • An indication that you have experts or staff that the writer can speak to
  • A statement of the problem and proposed solutions
  • Factual information to drive home the importance of the story
  • A statement identifying what individuals can do to be part of the solution
  • Contact information

Editorials, op-ed, and letters to the editor

Generating editorials, op-eds, and letters to the editor are an important component of your media strategy.

Editorials are articles in a newspaper or magazine that express the opinion of the editor, editorial board, or publisher. In addition to sending press advisories to editorial writers, you should talk to editorial writers whenever you have a specific issue that’s appropriate for editorial coverage. Be prepared to provide why your issues are important to their audience, including facts and figures and identifying academics and policy-makers who support your position, and provide attractive written materials (brochures, fact sheets, and photos) that support your issue.

Opinion-editorials are opinion pieces prepared by someone other than an editor that appear on the page facing the editorial page. The key to getting an op-ed published is to make it relevant to the readers, usually by localizing the information. An op-ed should:

  • Suggest a headline (but the newspaper ultimately will decide the final headline)
  • Include the author’s name at the top
  • Be relevant to the paper’s readers; you can create relevance by localizing the information or otherwise tying it to an issue of concern to the readers
  • Be organized in the following order: (1) pique the reader’s interest; (2) provide background; (3) explain the problem you are addressing; (4) provide a solution and discuss any challenges to reaching that solution; (5) include a call to action; and (6) close with a snappy statement that will mobilize readers
  • Be short and concise
  • If appropriate, mention your group
  • At the end, restate the author’s name, position, and group, and website

Letters to the editor respond to news stories, editorials, or opinion pieces that were previously printed in the paper. They are an easy and effective advocacy tool for sending your message on an issue addressed in the original article, reinforcing a point in the original article that drives home your message, clearing up inaccuracies that may have been reported, providing information omitted from the original article, making a local issue national or a national issue local, and reaching a large audience to garner support. A letter to the editor should:

  • Be brief and respond to only one article or opinion piece (many newspapers have a 200-word limit and longer letters will not be published or may be edited)
  • Be sent to the newspaper as soon as possible, ideally within one day of the date the original article was published.
  • Include the headline of the article to which you are responding and the date of publication
  • Use a strong lead sentence to attract the editor and reader’s attention, and immediately state your reason for writing
  • Include supporting in a second or third paragraph and mention your group and its views on the subject
  • Use the final paragraph to sum up your letter and demonstrate the larger picture surrounding the issue 

Paid advertising in a newspaper or on the radio can enhance your earned media efforts. The cost of advertising varies among media outlets and within markets. The cost also varies based on the type of advertisement. It’s typically less expensive to advertise in a weekly paper than a daily paper. Radio advertisements also can be relatively inexpensive, particularly in rural areas. Explore the costs with the newspaper or radio stations most likely to reach your target audience before doing any work to prepare an advertisement. In determining paid advertising costs, don’t forget to factor the cost of preparing the advertisement or radio spot.