Imagine 100 Christians in your country would contact the media on one of the issues that are so important to us as Christians today. Be it a letter to the editor, be it a phone call to a radio or TV show, be it only a personal conversation with a journalist: The public debate in your country would look very different!
Media acts as a megaphone of opinions. The Christian voice must not be lacking!
It is probably true: the media in Europe is more often hostile than friendly to Christianity. Nevertheless, most of the time a Christian voice will not be silenced. Instead it will be offered a platform to express its concerns. Let us use this possibility.
In the following text, we offer a variety of possibilities of working with the media. For brevity reasons, we will not go into detail but give you the sufficient main keywords.
For a renewed Christian Europe,
Your Europe for Christ Team
PS: Thank you for praying every day for a Christian Europe!
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A Christian Voice in the Megaphone of the Media
Compiled by Martin Kugler with special thanks to the Marin Institute, California, USA, which contributed certain elements of this text.
There are many efficient ways of working with the media. Find here some that everyone could use, also if you haven’t yet and if you do not have an organization you speak on behalf of.
- Call in at a radio (or TV) show.
Shows are widely watched or listened to. Callers are thought to resemble a certain proportion of the populations thinking. Therefore, by showing what you think between the lines of your question, you already influence public opinion. By asking a witty question, you might be able to put your finger into the wound and draw the audience your way.
In a debate on child care, the only issue being discussed is that women should be part of the work force.
Ask: “I am a mother of two small children. Every time I come home from something I had to do, I realise that they are so relieved that I am back. I would like to ask you whether it would not be necessary to include in this debate the question of the well-being of our children. Wouldn’t we have to find solutions that allow our small children to live without worries?”
· Your goal is to alert the audience. Don’t worry about the answer of the show guest you are questioning.
· What you say must be short, authentic and concerned, also a real question, not a statement, in order to win the sympathy of the audience.
Framing the Issue
It is important that you think through the best way to talk about your issue with the media. One of the keys to successful media advocacy is knowing exactly what you want to say, the best way to make your point, and who you are targeting with your message. Think about all the people that you see on TV and hear on the radio. They do a good job in making their case—they use clear language and short sentences to communicate their message and often emphasize their primary point by repeating it several times.
Here are some questions that you will want to answer in a clear, concise, and compelling way before talking with the media.
What is the issue at hand?
Write a statement that explains exactly what the issue is—using no more than two sentences. Consider the language that you are using—is it strong and direct? Does it avoid jargon that your audience might not understand?
What do you want to change?
Write down exactly what you want to see happen—using no more than two sentences. What are you asking for?
Who can make the change you are requesting?
Identify the target(s) of your message. Are you demanding that a specific beer maker stops an advertising campaign that targets underage youth? (In this case, you may ask the producer to pull the ads. You may also encourage community members to put pressure on local merchants not to feature the sales campaign in their stores.)
Staying “On Message”
Once you have framed the issue, you can practice staying “on-message.” This means that you always come back to the issue, the solution, and who you are asking to take action—like a broken record. While using the same language over and over again may seem boring to you, this is the way to build a consistent message that gets your point across. A clear, memorable message will help build momentum and support for your cause.
Write It Down
Write down the three major points that you want to make on a small card. Even seasoned media advocates use this technique to stay on message. If you have time, do not hesitate to repeat your main message.
Run through your message out loud in front of a mirror or, better yet, in front of some friends or family members. Change any words that you find difficult to pronounce. Revise your message until your friends understand what you want and why. If possible ask someone to act like a reporter asking you tough questions.
Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
Stay with the points that you want to make. Reporters often ask questions that are not central to what you are trying to communicate. Don’t answer questions that will take you away from your key points. Remember the principle ATM: Answer – Transition – Message. It’s okay to simply repeat why your goal is important and make one of the arguments supporting your position.
Keeping Your Cool Means Keeping Your Credibility
Remember to maintain a calm exterior even if you feel yourself getting frustrated or angry. Sometimes you may be responding to opponents or even reporters who ridicule or trivialize what you are trying to do. Stay cool and stick to your message.
Answer negative accusations clearly and switch right away to your message
Example: Question: “Christians always seem to be opposed when people free themselves from moral obligations. Do you Christians view sex as something dirty?”
Answer: No, not at all. Christians see sexuality and sex as a beautiful part of the human being. The bible says: After God created them, he saw that it was good. What we oppose is the misuse of sex, which is ultimately a misuse of the human person. Being used is the opposite of freedom. I believe that in order to be truly free, our sexuality needs the context of committed love.”
- Building relationships with the media
Relationship building is the key to the success to any media advocacy effort. If you put in the effort, you will become a credible source of information and the local community expert on the issue.
· Identify the journalists who cover related issues in your community.
· E-mail them, introduce yourself in a polite way and cultivate the relationship by bringing information, surveys, local events, other news reports to their attention. If possible give a positive feedback to some of their best articles or programs.
· Develop a Media Contact List: You will want to develop a list of media contacts so you are ready to make calls when there is a newsworthy opportunity to promote your cause.
If you speak on behalf of an NGO or a large group of people, consider to send a press release for specific news-worthy contributions.
· A daily needs all information for next day’s edition at the latest by 2pm the day before. All the media need news and not just opinions. Use figures and facts that support your message. Journalists do like a polemic only if it is brilliant.
· A press release must be short (at the longest one page), contain a good headline, a teaser, a date, a name, and contact details. Journalists get too much information every day. They tend to read just the beginning. If it attracts their attention, they continue.
· A press release should be written in a way that a journalist could copy – paste it as an article. It must contain all necessary information in a journalistic order.
· The best would be to email the press release to journalists in charge of your issue. If this is not possible, send it to the main email address. Try to find an NGO or a group of acknowledged people and send it on behalf of them.
· Send essential information also to your national press agency. If it is a very interesting issue, they will send it out to everyone for you.
The Marin Institute has most kindly offered to us to use their excellent „Action Packs“ for our „Letters for Europe“. They can be found online at this website: www.marininstitute.org.