Sierra Club: The Planet--1996
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The Planet
Getting the Most Out of Media Coverage

by Daniel Silverman
Media Associate

Anyone who has been involved in planning a conservation campaign knows that no brainstorm is complete until someone blurts out, "Let's be sure to get a lot of media coverage!" And for good reason: Garnering media coverage for our campaigns is one of the most powerful weapons in our arsenal. Whether you are trying to protect a wetland or elect an environmentalist, getting your story on TV, on the radio and in print is one of the best tactics you can use to win your campaign.

But, how? Dozens of Sierra Club activists gathered in the Midwest for a weekend in March to answer that very question. They braved the wintry winds to attend the Club's strategic media trainings in Omaha, Neb., and Sioux Falls, S.D., Those who sacrificed a day of hiking, biking or much-deserved R&R went home with a satchel full of skills they plan to use in this year's Environmental Public Education Campaign. By participating in workshops, brainstorming sessions and role- playing, and hearing presentations from reporters and media experts, the daylong trainings gave activists the tools to build and implement a strategic plan in their media markets. "I feel much more prepared to get strong media coverage now," said Tim Silsbee, political chair of Nebraska's Missouri Valley Group. "The combination of skills training and realistic role-plays made the sessions invaluable."

What makes these media trainings different from others is their focus on strategy and emphasis on planning.It's essential to have a plan before you shoot for the headlines. And don't start figuring out how to get on the evening news until you figure out why you want to be on the evening news. The answer is most often because you believe that you can influence some group of people to take some action if they see your story on the news. But which group of people? What action? There are four questions you should always ask before you begin looking for media coverage:

  • What is your message?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • Which media outlets, programs and/or journalists can deliver your message to your target audience?
  • What resources do you have available to make this happen?

      Some Sierra Club activists already thinking strategically about their media work are seeing results. In Sioux Falls, activists put their training to work by using a media plan to gain coverage for their Earth Week doorhanger rally. By thinking ahead and answering the right questions before they started, they got the results the y were looking for, including several stories on local television stations, a photo and announcement in the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader, appearances on two radio talk shows and public service announcements on a number of local radio stations.

      "The information from the trainings made the difference between getting some coverage and getting great coverage," said Karen Fogas, chair of the South Dakota East River Group. "We got our message out to our targeted audiences, and had a lot of fun doing it."

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