How can social entrepreneurs get their stories into the mainstream media?

Thursday, 9 May 2013 15:45 GMT

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Getting your stories into the media can be hugely beneficial as a social entrepreneur. It raises your public profile, spreads awareness about your cause and can even lead to funding opportunities or new investment. But how can smaller social enterprises compete with the PR machines of big NGOs and corporations?

 At Oxford Jam 2013, a fringe conference that “creates a space for the nurturing of social economy and social finance projects,” Daniel Rostrup and Jason Mollring from the Thomson Reuters Foundation hosted a session on how social entrepreneurs can get their stories into the mainstream media. Three social organisations had sixty seconds to pitch their stories to a panel who then provided valuable feedback and recommendations.

 So, what did we learn?

Tim West, Editor and Founder of Pioneers Post, stressed the need for social entrepreneurs to ensure that the stories they pitch actually fit with the targeted organisation’s strategy. Essentially, don’t try to get a story into the mainstream media just for the sake of it - make sure it makes sense within the broader strategy. He also told the audience to tailor a pitch to each journalist. Pitching to someone who typically writes about finance and business should be different from pitching to someone who focuses on social and environmental issues, etc.

 Laurie Goering, Climate Change Editor at Thomson Reuters Foundation, highlighted that news is defined as new and interesting and a story should take readers on a journey with a beginning, middle and solutions-focused end. The narrative should be jargon-free and understandable as if it were told to a neighbour. Finally, make it surprising, if possible.  Journalists love a counter-intuitive story..

 Here’s a summary of the top advice from our panel: 

  • Personify big issues by “putting a face” on them while also approaching them from a “macro” level. For example, a pitch about famine in Sudan could begin with a close look at one family’s plight and then talk about the wider macro factors affecting the situation.
  • Journalists want the specifics and they want them quickly!  Make their life easy by giving them what they want.  Can you offer an “exclusive”? 
  • What sort of journalist are you targeting?  Think long term and build relationships with journalists.  They’ll be more likely to help in the long-run.
  • Define your “ask” and know how to position each story for a specific audience. Make the story visual, if possible. For example, n Rebecca Sweetman from TutuDesk showed the panellists the innovative desk that her organisation had designed which made for a compelling visual.
  • Why is it a story and what is the reason to report on the story now? 
  •  “News is new and interesting.” Is your story?
  • Avoid jargon.  Imagine talking with your neighbour.
  • If you are pitching your social enterprise’s solution to a particular social problem, then what are the results?  What is your specific impact?
  • If you substitute yourself with your main competitor in the story, would it still be interesting?
  • Is it a marketing pitch or news pitch?
  • Journalists love counter-intuitive things.
  • Every story has a beginning, middle and end. Does yours?

 Participants

  • Jason Mollring, Head of Communities, Thomson Reuters Foundation (session facilitator)
  • Daniel Rostrup, Outreach Manager, TrustLaw Connect, Thomson Reuters Foundation (session facilitator)
  • Tim West, Editor and Founder, Pioneers Post (panellist)
  • Laurie Goering, Journalist and Head of Climate Programme, Thomson Reuters Foundation (panellist)
  • Rebecca Sweetman, CEO, Tutudesk UK
  • Caroline Berger, Regional Digital Media and Communications Coordinator, Oxfam GB
  • Benita Matofska, Chief Sharer, The People Who Share

 

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