Having press attend and report on an event will greatly expand the audience that hears the message of “Imagine A Day Without Water.” If you are planning an event with the intent of inviting press, it is important to give press the best material possible to create an engaging story. Help them help you.
Media needs a few things to make a story work. In addition to the “who, what, when, where” that you typically put in an advisory to the press, you need to be sure to develop a message or narrative for your event that is very simple for the media to understand and report on.
What facts, stats, quotes, etc. are you providing? Reporters need interesting nuggets for their stories. Don’t overwhelm them with data, but give them a pithy quote and a few bullets – no more than a page – to help punch up their stories.
If television or still photographers are in attendance, the content they need is great “shots.” Let them film or take pictures of your facility, the workers, and the system at work. Offer something impressive that the public doesn’t usually see.
Explain how the situation in your area fits into a greater story about water infrastructure across the country. For example, the Value of Water Campaign's website has a number of resources and fact sheets about the state of our nation’s water systems:
There are more miles of water pipe than miles in our national highway system.
A water main breaks every two minutes somewhere in America.
Some major cities are sitting on top of wooden water pipes and have water systems that date back to the Civil War.
Use that information to put your system into context: How old is your water infrastructure? How big is it? How many customers do you serve?
News coverage hinges on conflict. Reporters want to know, what is at stake? What is at risk? What are you doing about it? The “Imagine A Day Without Water” theme sets up the opportunity to talk about conflict without resorting to scare tactics. It is important to explain the challenges and the solutions you are pursuing. What are the greatest challenges the water systems in your area face? What are you doing to address those challenges? What would happen if those challenges are not addressed?
Keep it brief. Stories on news radio are no more than two minutes, on public radio no more than four. Local television stories are also about two minutes and a local newspaper will only be able to write a few hundred words. So you need to keep the story that you’re providing to the media equally tight.
A tour of a facility should be limited to less than a half an hour. If you have a line-up of speakers, limit them to 3-5 minutes each for delivering remarks. Host your event in the late morning or early afternoon to give people time to file their stories for the evening news or tomorrow’s paper.