Before you begin any community outreach, plan to use the local news to reach the most people for your effort. When you engage community groups, you are reaching a select group of people. When the local news covers the story, it can amplify that message to reach a broader audience.
Every community of a moderate size will have a local paper, and larger towns may have more than one. You will probably have a local newspaper and a smaller community publication. Larger cities will have television and radio news, newspapers, community magazines, and special-interest periodicals that focus on the arts, music, and so on. It’s in your group’s best interest to have contacts with every paper that distributes in your area.
Contacting your newspapers is easy through their websites, but you may not get much interest at first. Don’t be discouraged; just keep at it whenever your group is doing something that seems newsworthy or of interest to the general public.
Give your journalists plenty of advance notice of your event. Don’t wait for the day before the event to let them know about it. If you are hoping to increase attendance at an upcoming meeting or event, several weeks is good notice, then follow up with a reminder one week before, and again a day or two before. These are events that you need to promote in order for them to be successful. For events where you only hope for news coverage (for example, an event that isn’t a public attraction), a week’s notice should suffice.
Examples of advance notice (2 weeks or more):
- Skate jams and contests
- Movie premiers, music events, and fundraising events
- Meeting notices on critical topics, such as public input meetings concerning the skatepark
Examples of short notice (1 week or less):
- Presentations to community groups
- Core group or Skatepark Advisory Committee meetings
- Core group volunteer participation in other community group events
Remember: The news loves stories about scruffy youth engaging in “adult” processes and events. Use this to your advantage. Bring your skateboards, wear your organization’s t-shirts (if you’ve made some), hand out stickers and flyers (if appropriate), and have fun.
Tip: When shooting photos of your group at work during awareness events, or just for your personal records, set your camera’s resolution to a high resolution. Print publications need higher resolution images than online publications do. Knowing this in advance will allow you to provide print publications with support images that they can actually use.