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Effective Media Strategy

Effective Media Strategy

If you run an NGO, an effective media strategy is essential for getting your voice heard and making a wider audience interested in important social issues. In this respect, managing an NGO is no different to running a company – in both cases you need media recognition to find new donors/customers to support your cause. One of such media is television, which according to The American Press Institute Report 2014 is still on top of the list of the most frequently used devices for following the news in the US (87% of respondents reported using it during the week) and is also the most preferable one (24%).

As Tom Maddocs states, the

“M-Factor is not about you trying to take on the media and coming out the winner: it is more about partnership – you understanding what reporters and editors are looking for, and where possible being able to deliver it, to the benefit of both sides”.

What should we remember before and during our first TV appearance to make it beneficial for us, our interviewers and the audience?

Before the show …

Photo by Madi Robson

First of all, we must ensure that we know what our core message is – what we’re standing for and whether this message is clear and consistent with our coworkers’ ideas. What’s so notable about us? What are our strengths and successes? What are our aims and plans? In a nutshell, what would we like the audience to know about our organization?

Next we must carefully prepare what we’re going to say during this particular TV appearance. We have to consider:

  • Who is the audience? E.g. if you were an animal activist, your talk for a vegan audience would be different when it comes to arguments and the choice of words than if you were on a program sponsored by the meat industry.   

  • What is the angle? Apart from always having our core message prepared, we have to think about the main point we want to convey with respect to the particular theme of the TV program.

  • What are the question areas (or even just the anticipated ones)?  

  • What is the style of interview? Formal or informal?

  • Is it a prerecorded or a live show?

Don't forget the EQuALS

When preparing the content for a talk, we can’t forget about:

  • the EQuALS formula:

    • Examples. We need them to illustrate and visualize our point. E.g. if we’re speaking about poor sanitary conditions in  Africa, we should mention that toilets in public places have no doors or that there’s no efficient garbage disposal.

    • Quotes. We should try to prepare in advance a soundbite - a punchy sentence that can be used by our interviewer or by other reporters as a brief quote summing up our stance, a vivid comment on the problem we’re dealing with.

    • Anecdotes. Personal and real life stories always make our agenda believable.

    • Likenesses. Similes, metaphors and comparisons will make our speech more understandable and straightforward.

    • Statistics. Reliable data increase our credibility. E.g. instead of saying that many people in Kenya suffer from famine, give the exact number if it’s possible.  

  • Ordinary language. The less technical, scientific or branch-related jargon, the better for us, as it will help us not to be misunderstood.

  • Repetitions and flagging. There’s nothing wrong with repeating our main points from time to time, to indicate what the most important idea we want to convey is. We can do this e.g. by saying “My key point is…”.  

  • Emotive language. E.g. it’s more engaging and attention grabbing to say “dire consequences” or “disastrous effects” than just “negative outcomes”. As UNICEF  points out, we must touch our audience’s heart, gain their compassion for our cause, inspire them.

Read more in M-Factor

Another important aspect is the impression we’d like to make as an interviewee – how we’d like to be perceived by the audience. Unicef suggests making a list of the personality traits and approaches of interviewees that we have been most impressed with and least impressed with. Then we should try to follow the positive examples and avoid the mistakes of the negative one. Our positive list may include, for instance, honesty, enthusiasm, energy, sincerity or passion as traits of a good interviewee.

The book is judged by its cover

Photo by Ben Rosett

Apart from what we’re going to say, how we’ll look is also quite important, especially when you consider that in high definition everything is sharper and more visible:

  • Face and hair. We’ll need powder not to shine under the TV lights. A close shave is required for men. Our hairstyle should be neat and tidy.

  • Clothes. Plain shades are preferable. Try to avoid clothes that make noise when we move, have stripes, dots, other vivid dazzling patterns or high contrasts like black and white sets. Shiny and clanking jewelry may also distract the audience. Jackets are recommended for both women and men – they’re more convenient for attaching the microphone. We must remember that glasses – especially with thick frames – may act as a barrier between us and the audience so it’s better to take them off if we can manage without.

What can we not forget about during the show?

Photo by WonHo Sung
  • Positive impression: build believability and trust. We must try to be open and honest in our communication with the interviewer. Be friendly and polite no matter what.

  • Credibility. If we carefully prepare before, consistency and accuracy in our remarks and arguments will be our asset. We have to also know our boundaries – it may happen that we aren’t able to answer an interviewer’s question. In such a case the worst scenario is to say ‘no comment’. Instead, explain why you can’t give the answer, or that you just don’t know and would have to check, or it’s not your area of expertise.

  • Keep calm and stay focused. It’s important not to rush and to give ourselves time to think by e.g. taking a pause for breath. Talking calmly and being composed makes us sound more deliberate and authoritative. An interview is a stressful situation, but we have to fight the urge to finish it as soon as possible by rushing or avoiding comments. It’s helpful to give ourselves plenty of time before the show to relax and talk with our interviewer. We must try not to let ourselves become intimidated and overwhelmed with the surroundings (cameras, lights, people).

  • Body language. We have to careful to avoid giving off ‘away’ signals such as frowning or folding arms as well as signs of nervousness that may distract the audience, e.g. having tics, moving from side to side, fiddling with a pen or making wild hand movements. Giving the impression of being too relaxed by slouching on the sofa is also not the best option. It’s better to sit straight and move as little as possible. Keeping the eye-line steady either with the interviewer or the camera is also important.

What do you think of this story?

Heart eyes Beautiful  
Thinking face Thought-provoking 1
Nerd face Inspiring  
Grinning Entertaining  
Open mouth Jaw-dropping  
Cry Moving  
Money mouth face Biased  
Triumph Annoying