Nothing is stronger than hearing someone’s personal experience to highlight the importance of an issue and make a message hit home.
Putting a human face (a case study) to the topic helps frame the issue, entice the journalist and often has a powerful impact on readers. However, sourcing someone with a compelling story, who is prepared to talk about their experience is often easier said than done.
It often takes courage to share a personal experience and while you may know of someone who is happy to tell their story publically, the process of doing a media interview can still be a daunting one. Your case study will most likely have little (if any) experience with the media, and may not understand what the process will involve.
Over the years, we’ve worked with many clients to raise awareness about various social causes where case study management was crucial to media engagement. Below are a few tips that will help you manage the process smoothly.
Ethics and wellbeing come first
Your first priority is the wellbeing of your case study. Are they in a position to share their story publically? Are they directly or indirectly involved in any legal proceedings? If so, then the timing probably isn’t right.
Sharing personal experiences can often be highly emotional. How will publicising their experience impact them or their friends and family? Initial discussions should always seek to establish whether they are comfortable with having their face and story in the media, whether it is necessary to change names to protect the identity of those involved, or whether media engagement is in their best interests at all.
Connect, brief and prepare
It is helpful to walk people through the value of sharing their story, how it will help the issue, and what the process involves.
Ensure they know what to expect as part of sharing their story. Does the person confidently convey their experience? What is a journalist likely to want to know about?
Do your best to build a trusted connection. This may involve preparing a briefing pack, talking through and practicing the line of questioning a journalist is likely to use.
Once the interview is confirmed, provide all them with all the details of the interview – such as contact details of the journalist, the location of the interview and likely duration. This will make your case study feel more comfortable with the interview process, particularly for those with difficult stories to share. You may like to offer to be present during the interview, to offer support.
Select the right news outlets to cover your story
To ensure your story is pitched to right publication, think about the audience you want to reach. Will the publication or journalist sensationalise the issue or take an in-depth approach?
Targeted pitching also increases your chances of getting the story placed. Developing an extensive media list and a bank of connections helps with this process. Keep in mind that if someone has shared their story with the media before, this may limit chances of coverage.
Provide journalist background information
Journalists need to know what can and can’t be published about the case studies, as well as the issue. There are ethical considerations when covering some issues (for example, mental illness or organ donation) and these will need to be clearly conveyed in writing. Brief the journalists on sensitivities or areas that the case study does not want to discuss. Supply photos, with permission of the case study.
Ensure you always double-check the facts, especially the spelling and name of your case study.
After your case study has spoken with the journalist, ensure you debrief both parties to make sure everything went OK and that the journalist has all the information they need.
Tell your case study when their story will likely run, and send them a copy or link of the news piece once it has been published and of course, don’t forget to thank them for being involved!
It’s no doubt that case study development can be a lot more time consuming than pitching a standard release. However, sharing a powerful story is well worth it for your cause.
To chat to our team about media relations strategies, get in touch with Anna Chalko at firstname.lastname@example.org