Media Tips for Green Candidates
By Scott McLarty, Media Committee, Green Party of the United States
For a lot of the public, a candidate doesn’t really exist until they see the candidate’s name in the newspaper or on TV.
Setting up a functioning media operation is essential for any Green candidate. Using the media right will give your campaign a strong public presence. For a lot of the public, a candidate doesn’t really exist until they see the candidate’s name in the newspaper or on TV.
Here are some suggestions for setting up a media operation for a Green campaign for state and local Green Parties:
Get someone to be your media director.
Candidates running for local-level office in the same area can share a single media director, if one person is willing to do media work for multiple candidates. Party media directors also serve as campaign media directors.
Media directors should compile lists of local reporters and editors, with their phone numbers and e-mail addresses. They should also develop a campaign relationship with reporters and editors, becoming familiar enough to call them directly with news and information about the campaign.
Set up a campaign web site.
Place the address prominently in all party literature, including press releases, posters, bumper stickers, etc. Place all the contact information, especially phone number and e-mail address for your media director on your home page. Don’t make reporters have to search your web site for this information. Get a professional looking head shot and upload a high resolution JPEG of the photo to your home page, so any reporter visiting the site can easily download it for publication.
Upload video clips of your candidate to the web site. The Media Committee can provide advice and assistance on video clips, viral video marketing over the Internet, public access TV, and other important and effective kinds of outreach to the media and the public on request.
Put out media releases.
You will want to issue media releases from time to time with information about the campaign. Make sure the candidates’ name, office he or she is seeking, location, and web site are at the top of every release. The campaign media director’s name, phone number, and e-mail address should be listed as a contact.
Releases are short, concise announcements about the candidate, a position taken by the candidate, or a campaign action or event. They are not op-ed columns, position papers, manifestos, or graduate dissertations.
The chief topic of every release is the candidate. Don’t write a release on rent control or recycling, write a press release on the candidate’s position on rent control or recycling. The candidate’s name should be in the e-mail subject line, the heading, and in the first line of the first paragraph. Have at least one quote from the candidate in every release. The quote should be quotable—a really good line or two that a reporter or editor can lift from the release and use in a news article. Use releases to emphasize what distinguishes your campaign from the competition. If other candidates also support recycling or rent control, show what makes your support for recycling or rent control different and more significant. Stand out from the crowd!
Check and recheck all facts, grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc. in the release. Don’t send out sloppy work!
Distribute releases not only to major newspapers, TV and radio stations, news sites, etc. in your area, but also to small publications, specialty and niche media, online community bulletin boards, etc. Sometimes the small publications will give you coverage when the major media ignore you. Don’t hesitate to send releases to conservative publications—always treat reporters as friends, and remember that sometimes conservative publications give Greens publicity when progressive and liberal publications won’t. Distribute your releases to lists of Green supporters and campaign volunteers, too.
Call reporters and editors to pitch stories that they might want to cover, such as a rally at which the candidate is speaking, a candidate’s unique personal involvement on a particular issue, a project the candidate is working on—whatever might be newsworthy.
Allow adequate lead time. Make sure you get your release, ads, announcements, etc. out to the media early enough. For a press conference or other newsworthy event, send out at least two releases: one 7-9 days before the event and one 1-2 days before the event. In general, avoiding sending out releases on Friday or Saturday.
Set up a release page on the campaign web site, where all releases are archived. Don’t place your releases on the web site in pdf format, which discourages reporters and other visitors from clicking on the link. Keep ‘clippings’ of online media coverage of your campaign, post or link positive articles about the campaign on your web site and forward them to your supporters.
Hold press conferences.
Hold press conferences when you have something to announce—something newsworthy, not just to declare that you support recycling or rent control. Reporters prefer not to attend press conferences if they don’t have to. Some good reasons for press conferences: announcement of your campaign; you organized 300 tenants to march on City Hall for rent control; you’ve filed a lawsuit against an unfair election policy in your district. If you can make the press conference visually interesting (unique location; people in unusual costumes; catchy graphics or props on display), let reporters know, especially TV reporters, who look for stimulating images to fill up newscasts.
Campaign announcement press conferences should focus on the candidate. Don’t talk about your competition, talk about yourself. Make sure the issue to be addressed at the press conference is relevant—city council candidates shouldn’t talk about the Middle East; school board candidates shouldn’t talk about global warming.
Press conference program: Have someone briefly introduce the candidate, then let the candidate talk for a few minutes. Two minutes of really good, memorable, quotable lines is better than a 15-minute lecture. Be specific, not abstract, and be relevant to the state or town in which you’re running. Don’t recite your platform— reporters aren’t interested in laundry lists. Be personal, e.g., tell a story about how health care policies have affected you. Don’t hesitate to discuss mundane neighborhood issues that are important to voters, like constituent services, which can make or break a campaign. Say something funny. Make eye contact with your audience. Speak up and don’t mumble. Set aside politics for a moment and study what made Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton effective speakers. Follow the candidate’s presentation with Q&A for reporters. Know your material and prepare for challenges. If you don’t know something, say “I don’t know—I’ll get back to you.” (Make sure you get back to them.) Rehearse. Look professional—don’t give anyone an excuse not to take you seriously!
Have a press kit available for reporters. It should contain an introductory statement with a list of talking points on the issue addressed in the press conference; a couple of recent press releases; a bio of the candidate; and (if it’s a campaign kick-off press conference) the candidate’s photo.
Remember that a press conference is for the media, campaign rallies are for supporters. If supporters attend your press conference, they should not applaud or ask questions.
Get your candidate’s name in the news.
Good ways to get the candidate’s name in the news include guest op-ed columns, articles, letters to the editor written by the candidate on timely topics. The media director can help submit them. If major newspapers refuse to publish them, then submit them to smaller community papers.
Remember that politics is theater.
Look for theatrical events, public occasions, rallies, etc. that help define your campaign. Do something daring and imaginative—create your own media event.
Consult more resources.
Media Committee of the Green Party:
(The Media Committee can provide a longer version of this article on request)
Coordinated Campaign Committee page www.gp.org/committees/campaign
Media & Publicity for Green candidates, courtesy of the Green Party of California:
www.cagreens.org/ (click on Organizing Resources for Greens)
cagreens.org/grow/ (click on Media & Publicity)
“Dare to Win”, article by Phil Tajitsu Nash, Common Dreams, March 22, 2006: www.commondreams.org/views06/0322-25.htm
Winning Campaigns Online: Strategies for Candidates and Causes, book by Emilienne Ireland & Phil Tajitsu Nash.
Science Writers Pr; 2nd edition, 2001. www.campaignadvantage.com
The Candidate’s Handbook