by Nancy Goldov, Psy.D.
At the March, 2016 State Leadership Conference in Washington D.C, a training about working with the media proved to be rich with ideas and concrete advice. I, along with the Public Education Coordinators from the other 50 states, provinces and territories, attended a workshop led by panelists Michael Coleman from the Albuquerque Journal, Jenny Marder from PBS NewsHour, and Michael Pope from WAMU 88.5. I hope the following summary will guide your efforts to pitch stories to media outlets in your communities and improve the chances of getting your stories covered.
Being a good resource to journalists and bringing your psychologically relevant stories to the media about how to deal with stress, depression, and other concerns is challenging and rewarding. If you want to use PEC materials for your outreach activities such as a psychology booth at a local health fair, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to provide you with campaign materials and ethical guidelines for working with the media. The materials I have include guidelines on organizing community outreach activities and working with the media; including template press releases, digital slide presentations, discussion guides, and event signage.
HOW TO PITCH COMPLEX TOPICS:
Stay away from jargon and arcane acronyms whenever possible. If you must use a technical term briefly explain what it is.
Don’t use too much detail: you want just enough high-level information in your materials to generate a more in-depth conversation.
Only one call to action per piece or main content area. Keep it simple.
Avoid huge blocks of text. Break things up with headlines, subheads, sidebars, bullets and plenty of space.
Use shorter paragraphs and sentences.
Use photos and graphics to show relationships and trends in interesting ways.
Make yourself available to the public. You’re the expert.
Try to take some of the mystery away. For many people the process of psychology, unfortunately, is a bit mystifying.
WHAT MAKES NEWS:
Timeliness: In the news business, newer is better, and stories grow old in a hurry.
Show them how your story influences and affects their readership.
Proximity: People are more interested in home-grown news than in news from far-away places.
Novelty or Rarity: Is it an unusual story?
Conflict: Conflict generates interest and debate.
Go for human interest stories. We identify with other people, and that’s part of what gives a story human interest.
For example; How did a lack of funding hurt this actual person and what was the psychological cost to this person?
How was this person’s life changed by embarking on healthy endeavors for the mind?
Prominence: Engage celebrities and well-known people in your community. On a subject like mind-body health, famous people and athletes who meditate, like it or not, help sell a story. Famous people attract interest.
Partner with other groups with the same goals. The YMCA is a fantastic organization in the mind-body-spirit subject arena.
HOW TO BECOME A GO-TO SOURCE:
Testify before your city council, state legislature other public agency.
Write books or conduct lectures as the media looks for people who have written books, magazine articles, or newspaper op-eds, and/or has conducted lectures on their subject matter
Become active in professional organizations like the APA and other local organizations.
Consult with others reporters who specialize in your area of interest.
Keep those reporter’s contacts, cell phones, etc.