GATE: Grassroots Advocacy Training Exchange

Grassroots Program Development

Working with Media

An integral part of any grassroots effort is attracting the attention of the widest possible audience for your cause. It not only helps you gather new recruits for the effort, it also brings messages and agenda into the consciousness of the culture. The most direct way of achieving this is through mass media.

Ironically, the legislative members — the eventual targets for your message — can be helpful in getting your message to the public. At least, their offices can be. Your public affairs coordinators seeking to approach media outlets for interviews and placement of position statements benefit from knowing which outlets are most likely to accept a media piece, and to identify the most receptive outlets. They may want to seek the assistance of the Press Secretary and Deputy Press Secretary in the offices of their Congressman and the two United States Senators. The press secretaries in Congressional offices seek media placements each day for over two hundred days each year. Over time, they come to know which media outlets are most likely to accept material and which material they accept.

As your coordinators build a relationship with these press secretaries, asking them to share their most helpful media outlets and the specific people to contact at each outlet will become more natural. The key is to develop a genuine relationship with the press secretaries. How is this relationship best developed?
  1. Introduce yourself to the press secretaries by phone, first, in person, second.
  2. Offer to assist them by providing information and/or labor to reduce the press secretaries' workload.
  3. Invite the press secretary to your local group or Association meetings or social events.
  4. Later, identify an issue where your group and the elected official share essentially the same position.
  5. When the Member of Congress wants to rollout a press release or a position statement, a radio and/or television feed on the shared issue, offer to assist with labor to complete the rollout.
  6. When the rollout is completed, ask the press secretary which outlets are most likely to use the material provided and why they accept certain kinds of media pieces.
  7. Note which outlets are the primary ones. Create an electronic computer file with the names, addresses, phone and fax numbers, of the stations, papers, and staff of the primary outlets. Prepare a diskette with the media list for distribution to your local organizations in the Congressional District. Identify a phone/fax feedback mechanism by which your organizations report on a weekly basis to note successes and failures.

Media Links

Washington Post

New York Times / Washington Politics

Los Angeles Times

Chicago Tribune

NBC Nightly News

CBS News


CNN Interactive

National Public Radio (NPR)

Congressional Quarterly

Roll Call Online

US News & World Report


Time Daily

The Nation

Media Week

Post Magazine

Radio-Television News Director's Communicator

Television Business International, U.K.

Via Satellite



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