Media Tips for Substance Abuse Professionals

General Guide to Working with the Media
  • Develop a positive relationship with the media by responding promptly, clearly and concisely to their requests for information. Ask the reporter if he or she has a deadline.
  • Remember to provide information in a way that everyday readers or listeners will understand. Avoid using professional jargon that may be confusing to your audience.
  • Know the facts about inhalant abuse and have them readily available to discuss and email or fax to the reporter.
  • When asked to discuss an issue, think carefully before you respond. Assume that everything you say is on the record and will be used in the story.
  • Be honest. If you aren't sure or don't know an answer, tell the reporter you'll get back to him or her when possible with the correct information. Make sure you follow through.
  • Ask the reporter if there is anyone else with whom he or she would like to speak or if he or she needs additional information. Help him or her get this information quickly because he or she is most likely on deadline and can use your help.
  • Keep in touch with your media contacts even after the story has been reported. Thank them for covering your story. Keep them informed of new issues and new information. Remember, you are trying to build long-term relationships with the media and making their job easier by keeping them up-to-date is an important part of building that relationship.

Press Releases

What Is a Press Release?
Press releases are announcements to the media (print, TV and radio) containing important information about issues or events they might not otherwise discover (inhalant abuse among youth, National Inhalant and Poisons Awareness Week, etc.). Releases are intended to get reporters interested in the story so that they contact you for more information and report on it.

How to Send a Press Release

  1. Plan to contact the media at least two weeks in advance of when you wish them to run the Press Release.
  2. Choose stations and publications that will be interested in your information or event.
  3. Call the news assignment desk, explain the nature of your release and ask to whom you should send, FAX or E-mail your release. Make sure you get the correct spelling and title of the person you wish to contact. Find out when he or she needs to receive your release.
  4. Be sure to submit the release on your own or your organization's letterhead. Feel free to change the release and add your specific activity information to make it more interesting to your community. Be sure to add a contact name, an organization name and a telephone number where indicated.
  5. Mail, FAX or E-mail your release on time.

Tip: Make sure that the news you submit is of interest to the readers of a particular newspaper or the listeners of a particular radio/TV station in your community.

Letters to the Editor

What Is a Letter to the Editor?
A letter to the editor is a way of raising public awareness of an issue or responding to one in the editorial pages of a newspaper. It may be submitted by you, a member of your organization or an individual supporter. Published letters to the editor are very useful because they have high visibility and readership.

How to Send a Letter to the Editor

  1. Call your local newspaper and find out to whom you should submit your letter. Make sure you get the correct spelling and title of the editor you wish to contact.
  2. Inquire about the newspaper's guidelines on length, deadlines and if an address and signature are required. Ask if the editor prefers a letter, FAX or E-mail.
  3. Use the sample Letter to the Editor (RTF) rtf format of    inhalant-letter-to-editor-sample.rtf  as a guide. Be sure to submit the letter to the editor on your own or your organization's letterhead. Feel free to change the letter and add your specific information to make it more interesting to your community. Be sure to add a contact name, an organization name and a telephone number where indicated.
  4. Mail, FAX or E-mail your release on time.

Tips: Stick to the issue at hand and avoid divisive remarks. Don't send generic or form letters. Editors are less inclined to print letters that are also going to another publication.

Public Service Announcements (PSAs) for Radio

What Is a Public Service Announcement for Radio?
PSAs are brief endorsements for a cause or an issue. Unlike advertising, the sponsor (you or your organization) does not pay the station to run the PSA. The station will decide when and if it will be aired.

How to Submit a Public Service Announcement for Radio or TV

  1. Contact the station's public affairs director and explain your issue to him or her to determine his or her interest in airing your PSA.
  2. Be prepared to present a compelling argument for your issue. Radio stations get these requests daily, so show them how this issue is beneficial to their listeners.
  3. Find out what format (pre-taped or written for a DJ to read) and what length (15, 30 or 60 seconds) they prefer.
  4. Find out to whom you should send your PSA. Find out how far in advance you need to submit your PSA.
  5. Follow the instructions of the public affairs director and submit the PSA to the right person on time.

Tips: After you submit your PSA to the station, call the public affairs director to let him or her know you have sent it.

Public Service Announcements (PSAs) for Print

What Is a Public Service Announcement for Print?
PSAs for newspapers are similar to PSAs for the radio, in that they are used to present an important issue to the general public. Although there is no charge for this announcement, the newspaper will decide when, where and if it will be printed.

How to Submit a Public Service Announcement for Print

  1. Contact the newspaper's public affairs director and explain your issue to him or her to determine his or her interest in running your PSA.
  2. Be prepared to present a compelling argument for your issue. Newspapers get these requests daily, so show them how this issue is beneficial to their readers.
  3. Make sure you find out the newspaper's requirements before submitting your PSA. What is the preferred size? Is camera-ready art work required? Will photos be accepted?
  4. Find out to whom you should submit your PSA and how far in advance he or she needs to receive it.
  5. Submit the PSA to the correct person on time. Include your contact information.
Tips: Send your PSA to the newspaper in advance of when you would like it to be run. Call and let the public affairs director know you are sending it.

A few days after you submit your PSA, call the public affairs director to see if there are any questions and find out whether the newspaper plans to run the PSA.

 


This information is provided by the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services within the Department of Public Health.