Publicize Your Project
If you or your group are working for wildlife, for goodness sake, tell everybody! The more people who know about your efforts, the better. Besides inspiring others to follow suit, you’ll be educating many citizens about the significance of habitat conservation for wildlife and humanity.
If you live in a small town, your local newspaper may be very interested in doing a story on your project. Daily newspapers in larger centres may be less interested, but they’re still worth trying. Most dailies have human interest or local neighbourhood sections as well as personal comment or environmental columns, where your story might be appropriate.
In larger centres, there are often several small volunteer-run tabloids covering different areas of the city. These newspapers are perfect for bringing attention to your story.
Contact a Cable TV Station
Mny communities have their own cable TV stations. These stations are always interested in neighbourhood news, and your project could be just the thing. For example, an environmental club in Vernon, B.C., used cable to broadcast a message about the proper disposal of hazardous wastes.
Once you’ve completed the planning stages of your project, present your ideas and aims to a cable representative. Ask how the station could publicize your activities. But don’t wait till the day before you start your project — TV stations have to plan too!
Write a Newsletter or Newspaper Article
You could also publicize your project through a newsletter or environmental column in a newspaper. Both are good ways to keep your community up to date on conservation efforts.
- A newsletter should contain an interesting mix of brief articles, informative "Did-you-know...?" tidbits, graphics (such as cartoons), and advertisements for upcoming meetings, field trips, and so on.
- Use existing networks — such as your local newspaper or publications produced by your office, community association, and other organizations — to help distribute the newsletter.
- Ask for permission to post your newsletter on community notice-boards or in local businesses and medical establishments.
- Newspaper articles should be short, lively, newsy, and to the point — so enlist the help of a skilled writer in your group to do the job. Check with the news editor before you submit your piece. Some newspaper offices will now only accept articles submitted on computer disc as well as on paper.
Start a Wildlife Bulletin Board
Waiting in a line-up can be pretty boring. But you can make it more interesting — and help wildlife at the same time. Find a place, such as a bank, ministry of transport office, or post office, where people often wait in line. Approach the manager and ask for permission to put up a wildlife bulletin board. Offer to fill it with different items (including progress reports on your own community project) each month. Or, use your existing office bulletin board and keep it filled with interesting wildlife tidbits.
Hold a Special Media Event
A key way to get coverage from local newspapers and radio and TV stations is to plan a special media event connected with your community service project. Keep these tips in mind if you want the local media to cover a special event:
- Decide on a suitable event. A kick-off celebration, for example, would help bring attention to an ambitious long-term plan organized by a community group. It would be a perfect opportunity to invite the media and other members of your community. You could also ask a local celebrity, such as the mayor, to plant a tree for wildlife as part of the festivities.
- Assign a member of your group the responsibility of contacting local newspapers and radio and TV stations. Don’t forget cable stations.
- If possible, plan for your media event to take place between 9:30 and 11:00 a.m. That’s the best time to attract media attention. It will also help ensure that your event is covered in the afternoon edition of the newspaper and on the evening TV newscast.
- Phone the media two weeks before your event and brief them on your plans. Specify the date your activity will take place, the size of your project, and the number of participants. Tell them you’ll follow up with a media release.
- Prepare a concise and lively one-page, double-spaced news release. (Enlist the help of someone who writes well.)
- Answer the five W’s: who, what, when, where, and why. (And don’t forget "how"!)
- At the bottom of the page, provide a contact name and phone number. Indicate when the contact can be reached.
- Mail, fax of e-mail the media release to the assignment editor one week before your event.
- Fallow up by calling the media a few days later to remind them about the event and ask if they’ll be covering it. If not, offer to submit a story. For weekly or community papers, provide a black and white photo with an explanation on the back. (Enlist the help of a photographer. )
- If you expect a photographer of TV camera and crew, plan some visually stimulating activities and mention them in advance to the appropriate media contacts.
- Choose a spokesperson who doesn’t freeze up on camera or in front of a microphone. He or she should be prepared to discuss your activity, and its purpose.
- Follow up on any media coverage by sending a thank-you letter to the editor.
- Another great way to inform the media and general public about your special event is to issue a public service announcement (PSA). Your PSA should be typed double-spaced) on a regular sheet of typing paper. Include in the top left corner a contact name and phone number, and in the top right comer the date when you’d like the media to make the announcement. If you want the media to run it for a few days, specify how long; for example, "Run: July 5-11, 2001." Your PSA should take 15 or 30 seconds to read aloud and include a date, time, location, and brief description of your event. About two weeks ahead of time, send it to the editors of local newspapers as well as the PSA directors of local radio and TV stations.