5 step guide to media coverage

road safety in the media

Rungthip Chotnapalai is an anchor woman for Thai Television Channel 3 and is passionate about ensuring road safety is given the media coverage it deserves. She participates in training road safety campaigners to give effective road safety interviews. Rungthip says: "In Thailand we have one of the highest rates of deaths and injuries and despite increasing awareness there is still not enough coverage in the media. Road safety campaigners are critical in getting the message "out there". Journalists need to have access to communities and victims to hear their stories. It is vital that campaigners, journalists and NGOs are trained in understanding road safety messages and communicating them clearly and effectively in the media."

Read on for our guide to help you gain media coverage. 

5-step guide to save lives through media coverage

Getting media coverage may feel daunting. But you don't have to be a communications specialist to achieve it. You just need a great story, a few tips, and a lot of passion. This is important work. Coverage of road safety and sustainable transport in the media is vital for raising awareness among everyone and supporting any government efforts to effect change through positive policies and regulation. Communities and NGOs across the globe are getting road safety and sustainable transport on the media agenda. You can help. Read on. 

1. Have a strong story

Your story needs to make people "sit up and listen". What is your "did you know?" Consider having a selection of the following elements in your story.

  • Evidence: emerging data about collision rates and deaths and injuries, or increasing traffic and air pollution 
  • Human angle: victim case studies - access to families bereaved and seriously injured in crashes and their stories
  • Calls to action: a clear campaign agenda for change - routes for people on foot and bicycles, low speed limits, buses and trains, rules for drivers, police enforcement of traffic regulation
  • Supportive evidence: survey results you have undertaken - for example "9 out of 10 people in our community are scared of traffic and say it is too fast"
  • Support for your campaign from people who are known locally - officials / celebrities 
  • Support for your campaign from children and young people - they are powerful advocates for change and speak simply about the need for safety and sustainable mobility
  • A photo call. For example, a group of people representing the number of people killed on your streets in a given time period 

2. Write your story

Write your story into a press release. A press release should have a "news hook" at the start which "grabs" the journalist's attention. Why is this news? What is new and interesting about what you are saying? A great way to learn how to write press releases is to look at other people's press releases. Go to online NGO newsrooms to find out how a press release looks. A press release also: 

  • Has a strong headline
  • Usually has one or more quotes on it from an identified spokesperson. This is useful for print / online journalists to use
  • Has a "notes for editors" section at the end that explains who you are and how to contact you for more information. This section is not for publication or broadcast
  • Is issued by email to all journalists that it might be of interest to. This can include print, broadcast and online. It might include media with a specialist interest eg. media for companies operating fleets of vehicles, or media specifically for a consumer audience, such as parents. Make sure you think about all media opportunities when distributing your press release
  • Keep an easy list of journalists' email addresses to enable you to send out your press release quickly. 

3. Talk to journalists

It is important to talk to journalists and build relationships with them, particularly when you have a strong story to sell. Journalists may tell you they are busy or can't talk right now. Don't worry. Ask them when it is a good time to call. Be ready to answer their questions. Be prepared to go away and do more work for them; for example find out more information that they want. 

Don't ring your journalist contacts every day however. They are busy people. Only contact them when you have something important to say that you think they may want to hear. 

4. Excel in broadcast interviews

Read our basic advice on being interviewed on TV. Many of these tips also apply to being interviewed on radio. 

  • Unless they are the same word in your language, talk about road crashes, deaths, injuries - not accidents. Accidents suggests no blame. 
  • Use strong language - eg catastrophe, carnage, disaster
  • Plan what you are going to talk about. Remember to mention all elements of your campaign: why it's important (the evidence) and what you want. 
  • If you are representing a community group or NGO and need your brand to be heard, make sure you mention its name - or wear its T shirt! 
  • Talk in threes - eg "We need speed limits. We need speed guns/cameras to catch speeding drivers. We need all drivers to stop speeding by slowing down today and every day."
  • Emphasise words that are important. eg. "NO death is acceptable. EVERY child's life matters. We ALL use the same roads. If it's not your child who dies today it could be TOMORROW."
  • Be inclusive and talk about the humanitarian aspect of road safety. eg. "Lives matter and we all have people we love, who we wouldn't want to be hurt or killed on roads. So there's no excuse for any of us to drink alcohol and drive." 
  • Talk calmly and clearly. You may need to talk slower than you normally talk. Articulate every word. Use simple language. Do not overcomplicate with road safety "jargon". eg. say "killed" or "dead", not "fatalities". 
  • Unless told otherwise, look at the person interviewing you. Do not look at the camera, or flick your eyes to the camera at any point in the interview. 
  • Stick to the facts and your story. Make sure you know what you want to say and then say it, even if the interviewer throws questions at you that you are not expecting. If you don't know the answer to a question, deflect the question and give an answer that you do know. "I don't have the facts on me about that, but what I can talk about is...." 
  • It's not appropriate to laugh or be overly happy if talking about deaths and injuries on roads. However, be yourself. You will be a better interviewee if you act as naturally as possible, while also talking passionately about your cause. 
  • Make sure you can be heard. Don't agree to do interviews too close to very busy, loud roads. Move away. 
  • Wear something sensible. If you are wearing something unusual then it will detract from what you are saying. However, it's very appropriate to wear a road safety T shirt carrying a simple road safety slogan such as 'Slow Down'. 
  • Learn from others. Watch broadcast interviews. Think about how interviewees say things to get their messages across. What works? What doesn't?
  • Practice doing fake media interviews with your friends. 
  • If you have been bereaved or seriously injured in a road crash, or you are campaigning alongside someone who has, consider how being interviewed may stir up emotions. Consider any steps that can be taken to protect emotional wellbeing. This could be as simple as attending the interview with a friend. 

5. What could we do better next time? Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E)

Monitor and evaluate. Did you get media coverage from your press release? Record what happened - how many pieces of coverage did you get in print, online and broadcast. How does this compare with the previous press release you issued? 

Was there any coverage that "went wrong"? Did any journalists misunderstand the story or portray you in a poor light? How can you stop that happening next time? 

What can you do better next time? How can you make your stories stronger, or your photo calls more interesting? How can you engage more journalists? Seek creative ideas from the people around you and your wider community. 

Don't be disappointed if you do not get much media coverage. Learn from your efforts, and move on. You may have been competing with stories that the journalist thought were more important on that day, but tomorrow you might have a story that they think is the most important. Think positively and keep trying. You will quickly build your reputation as someone who works effectively with the media. 

Copyright Brake 2017