Working with Media
While we have many resources to offer to the media, a multifaceted, strategic approach is recommended. Traditionally, you could send out a page-long news release to your local media contact and it would get covered. Today, media receives information from multiple sources throughout the day, and have limited staff to respond, so outlets are faced with choosing from competing topics. Because they have dwindling time and resources, we need to be very thoughtful and succinct about our approach.
What hasn’t changed is that relationships continue to play a key role. It is recommended you keep local media relationships strong by checking in with them at least once a year on how they prefer to receive information and in what format. More information on maintaining these relationships is below.
We as an organization currently make sure our news is distributed on multiple platforms such as targeted information to email lists and utilizing official social media accounts. Please keep in mind that short and simple is generally best.
Our name – Consistency is key
Presenting a consistent name is a key step toward establishing organizational recognition.
Our formal name is University of Maine Cooperative Extension. This name is used in formal locations such as stationery, web pages, envelopes, and contracts. We increase public recognition of our organization through frequent, consistent use of our name.
In written materials, our full formal name is used for the first mention; a shortened ‘UMaine Extension‘ is used for the second mention; additional mentions in the same piece can be shortened further to ‘Extension.’ Consistent use helps avoid confusion.
Some things to avoid include adding the word “Service” which was dropped from our official name in the late 1980s.
Also, please avoid referring to our organization as “UMCE” or “UMaine Cooperative Extension.”
Finally, because our official logo is based on the University of Maine logo, the word “The” does appear. However, when referring to us verbally or in writing, simply use “University of Maine Cooperative Extension.”
Promoting scheduled events
For more in-depth information on event promotion, see Checklist for Promoting Your Event
- If your event is local, consider distributing information about it to your local media, including a media release. Please share the final draft of your release with the Extension communications team (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a quick review before you send it out to media.
- Submit all events to the UMaine calendar at calendar.umaine.edu or, if you work with the Communications and Marketing team on your event, we will submit the event information to the calendar for you.
- Our team and others pull events from the calendar to promote them in venues such as social media.
- Many media outlets and targeted local venues also have online event calendars that you can submit to directly.
Other event or story promotion
If you want to develop a media release unrelated to a scheduled event – for instance, about new research findings or significant program outcomes – many of the same considerations about the ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘why’, and ‘how’ apply, with your audience’s need for the information, and why it matters to them, forming the core of your message.
If you have a story idea, please consider working with your Program Administrator first, to be clear about the intention of the release, its timeliness, and the target audience you want to reach. Then work with Extension’s communications team who will review and edit your draft release and share it with the UMaine Division of Marketing and Communications. Someone from Extension’s communications team will get back to you with the approved release and UMaine Communications will distribute the release.
Staying in touch with local media
Make it part of at least a yearly update to connect with your local media. Why not give them a call and provide an opportunity to meet with them, send them information about who University of Maine Cooperative Extension is, or refresh them on current initiatives?
- Find out if an introductory meeting would be helpful.
- Find out if they would like to receive updates and in what format. Keep in mind, if they are not aware already, you can refer media to UMaine Extension Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.edu sites for more information as well. These social media sites are updated frequently with current news and timely events.
- Ask questions such as:
- What length works best for the information they receive? Do they prefer stories or brief items?
- If they would like to receive information, what time frame works best for them to receive updates?
- Would they like to be part of your county’s executive committee or know someone who may?
- If the media follow up with you as a result of a media release, either for questions about the event or issue, or for additional material or information, please respond as soon as you’re able. If the request is simply for more information, what might work best is putting the information directly in your reply or providing a link to the information on our website, rather than sending an attachment. If you have any questions about how to respond or what to share, contact the communication team to discuss.
- Finally, if media contact you for an interview, please let the communications team know so that the UMaine Communications can be updated. The communication team is also available to work with you before your interview if you have any questions about the process.
Before your interview
It’s important to remember that the interview will be recorded and edited; it is not a live broadcast with no option of retakes. It’s even more important to remember that this will be a very short story, and the interview will be reduced to the most significant, memorable soundbite (typically 10 seconds or less).
Before the interview, figure out your top three talking points that need to be stressed. Be sure to make those points, and be brief. Don’t assume the reporter has done their homework and will ask the most pertinent questions. Say your top talking points no matter what, and don’t be afraid to take control of the interview in order to do this.
Provide succinct responses; don’t ramble. These broadcast stories provide no time for storytelling. The reporter simply wants a good soundbite; be sure to supply it, which will ultimately provide the best representation of your program, project, or initiative.
Think about this question, often at the heart of a good interview: What difference will this (action, program) make? Each interviewee should have the response to that question as an essential talking point.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss the information offered here, please contact the Extension communications team (email@example.com).
Updated June 2020