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Want to make a difference? Understand the media

Every year, lobbying outfit Betty Gallo & Company host and coordinate an extraordinary event called the Connecticut Lobbying Conference at the Lyceum in Hartford.  With support from the Connecticut Health Foundation, I attended the conference last October.

Am I a legislative neophyte?  Definitely not.  I’m a lawyer, policy analyst, and communicator for the Connecticut Association of Directors of Health, so advocacy is a place I’m comfortable.  But championing local public health and health equity is never easy work.  And with a dismal financial outlook this legislative session, I knew I needed all the help I could get.

So where would my Conference journey take me?  Being a successful change agent starts with telling a successful story.  That’s why I chose an afternoon break-out session called “Working with the Press.”  Below are some key lessons learned:

  • Reporters will be your friend, but you won’t be theirs. Reporters are not there to champion your cause; they’re there to write a balanced, unbiased story. Accordingly, anticipate opposing views, and address them.
  • Relationships with the media are long-term. If a reporter ignores your press release today or writes an unsatisfactory story, move on.  Preserve the relationship and enjoy a “win” going forward.
  • Timing is everything. Pick a day and time that are likely to be “slow” and your story is more likely to be reported.
  • Ask yourself: what’s the news? Simply reporting on your cause or your good work is not enough. Tie it to the release of a new study, the anniversary of a significant event, or something else that makes it newsworthy.
  • Humanize the story. Who is impacted? How? Issues need a face.

So what does this mean for me?  It was an excellent reality check.  I am a passionate advocate for local public health and health equity.  These are my issues, so they matter to me; but not to everyone.  I am ready for some excellent self-scrutiny and salesmanship to my soon-to-be new found friends in the press.

Promotion of public health and health equity doesn’t have to be a hard sell. With the right twist, on the right day and with a human face, the story will sell itself.

Image credit iStock Photos

Health Justice CT provides a public forum for conversations, ideas and collective action. The opinion expressed on this site are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of HealthJusticeCT or our funder.

About Alyssa Norwood

Alyssa Norwood, JD, MPH is Project Manager for Connecticut’s Legislative Commission on Aging, a nonpartisan public policy and research office of the Connecticut General Assembly. Learn more about Alyssa here.

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