Effective publicity is vital in ensuring that your event is a success, so try to think as broadly as possible for where you may be able to publicise your event. Tell everyone you know and use Facebook and Twitter to spread the word. Put up information on noticeboards in community centres, libraries, shops, churches, schools, universities, doctors’ surgeries, restaurants and your workplace (although make sure that you get permission first, and don’t forget that fly-posting is illegal!). You may want to organise ads in local magazines and newspapers, though of course it all depends on the size of your event and your budget.
Remember to encourage everyone who is involved in organising the event to promote it through their own personal and professional networks, including any newsletters or meetings that they may be involved with. Make sure you take advantage of the posters that are available from RCOA.
If appropriate, think about inviting VIPs to your event, such as government officials, well-known community figures and celebrities. Ensure that they are mentioned in any publicity about the event as this may encourage others to attend.
Getting Media Coverage
Refugee Week is a great opportunity to get your organisation or school into the local media. The easiest and most immediate way to draw attention to your event is to have it listed in the “what’s on” section of your local newspaper, where you can advertise your event for free. Make sure you ring the newspaper well in advance to find out when their deadline is for this section and what the process is to ensure your event is listed.
Refugee Week is also the perfect time to get some more extensive coverage of refugee issues and to celebrate the contribution that refugees make to Australian society. Below are some tips on how to get the media to feature your event and/or discuss pertinent refugee issues.
If you want media coverage you have to find a way to grab a journalist’s attention – you need to convince them that you have something newsworthy to offer. If you have an enormous event that will bring in hundreds of people from the area, then you immediately have something they will want to cover. However, even if your event is small there are ways to make it interesting.
Consider the following suggestions on how to develop a story angle:
- Pitch your event as being part of an international celebration, and highlight that it is one of hundreds of events going on across Australia as part of national Refugee Week. Explain how it shows that your community is part of a country-wide effort, and that it’s important for your community’s contribution to be covered. Make sure you are aware of any other events that might be going on in your area.
- Enlist the support of refugees in your community. Perhaps identify an individual refugee with an interesting story to tell who is open, chatty and comfortable telling their story. The media love profiling colourful characters, and this person can be the ‘local face’ of Refugee Week.
- Do the work for them. Journalists are busy, so the more information you can provide them with, the better. Prepare some stats and information about refugees in your area. Have contact details, photos and stories from local refugees at the ready, and make sure you know who is happy to talk to the media and who isn’t. You could even write up some interviews or refugee profiles yourself.
Once you’ve decided on your story angle you need to decide which media you’d like to approach. Local media can be divided into print (newspapers and magazines), television and radio. Newspapers and local radio are the easiest to get coverage in. For TV, you need something that is visually very strong and/or a charismatic speaker who is comfortable in front of the camera. Whichever media you select, you will need to identify a spokesperson who can talk to the media in detail about your event, organisation and broader refugee issues.
The main tool used to approach media is the media release: a one page document providing the essential information that you wish to convey. Unfortunately, most releases end up going straight into the bin because they haven’t been addressed to the right person or because they have failed to grab the attention of the reader in the first few paragraphs, so it’s important to make sure that you get your media release right. Make sure you know the deadlines for the different media. How much warning do they need? When do you need to send your release? If you send it too early it may be ignored, but if you send it too late then you’ll miss your chance. The norm is seven to ten days before the event, but some media may have longer lead times.
Media releases should be short and snappy, use simple language, and be limited to one page only. They should be broken up in the following way:
Dateline: The date should be included at the top of the release.
Headline: The headline must summarise the key points you wish to convey. It must also be interesting enough to catch the attention of your target audience. Aiming for a complete but short sentence is best. Try imagining the headline you’d expect to see in your local paper.
Lead/Opening Paragraph: The lead is the most important part of the media release and needs to contain the basic information concerning Who? What? Where? When? Why?
Body: This section is the place to put more info about your event and Refugee Week. Why are you holding an event? Why do you think refugee issues are relevant to the community? How does it fit in with Refugee Week more broadly? Start with what’s most important, using short sentences and short paragraphs. Include direct and conclusive quotes to illustrate key points, and include the name and title or position in the organisation of the person quoted. You may spell out the name of the organisation initially, followed by an abbreviation afterwards.
End: The end paragraph summarises facts and background information.
Contacts: Always end your media release with the name and contact details of the person the journalist should contact for more information and interviews. It is also worth detailing any other relevant information which may be of interest to the journalist. For instance, the names and a short descriptive sentence about other people who are available for interview, photos you might be able to provide or speakers who you think would work particularly well on TV or radio. If you think your event will make a good photograph, include a note to picture editors describing when, where and what photos can be taken.
A day or two after you’ve sent your press release, follow it up with a phone call to whomever you addressed the media release to. Always make sure that they have time to take your call first, and offer to call back at a more convenient time if necessary. Be relaxed and friendly and draw their attention to the release if they haven’t opened it yet. Remember that when you are speaking to a journalist everything you say could be attributed to you and your organisation.
If a journalist comes to your event, make sure that somebody is assigned to look after them and help them speak to the right people. Be clear about what your event is going to involve and who it is aimed at. Think about what key messages you are trying to get across through your event. If a photographer is coming, check beforehand who is happy to have their photo taken and who is not. All participants should be briefed about the arrival of journalists and what that will mean. If refugees or asylum seekers have agreed to talk to journalists about their experiences, ensure that they are properly briefed and know exactly what to expect and what is involved. Discuss the implications with them. They may want to remain anonymous rather than use their real name, as it is possible that identifying themselves may put them at risk.
When a radio or TV journalist contacts you and wants to do an interview, find out as much as possible about what they want before you agree to do it. Ask if the interview will be live or pre-recorded. Live interviews are broadcast as you do them, therefore you have to get them right the first time as they cannot be edited like pre-recorded interviews. Before the interview think about the message that you want to convey and rehearse what you want to say. Have about three or four key points that you aim to get across. If you are doing a radio interview you can write these on a card and have this with you.