Using the media

The 24 hour news cycle and increased online publishing of news stories provides opportunities to connect with local journalists during your election campaign.

However, getting yourself published in local papers or interviewed on the radio can be tough in a competitive environment.

You may have sitting councillors who are well known to the media and the local community which you hope to represent.

Meet with media representatives

Personally introduce yourself to media representatives as a local candidate for the relevant ward. Make sure you leave them with the correct spelling of your name, your mobile and landline telephone numbers, and a photo of yourself.

Take relevant written information with you, such as your campaign brochure.

Highlight your number-one issue for discussion. Make sure you don't talk about more than four key issues and be sure about your facts.

Use the 'letters to the editor' section of your local paper(s) to promote your key issues, but don't become a serial letter writer.

Media releases

Send out media releases relating to your issues on a regular basis, but don't send out too many.

Pick the issues you most want to be heard on. This will help stop journalists regarding your media releases as too frequent or junk mail.

Use your name

Never assume that the journalist knows who you are. Always introduce yourself in the media release, ‘Jane Smith, candidate in the upcoming Anywhere City Council elections, said today that…'

Once you've introduced yourself, refer back to yourself by name, ‘The prospect of massive rate increases is dire,' Ms Smith said.

At the end of the media release include: your name, address and contact details; and the name of the ward and council you are campaigning to represent.

Avoid using photographs on media releases.

Opening sentence

The opening sentence should always contain what the media release is about. You should answer these questions in the first sentence: who, what, where, when, how and why.

An example of a strong opening sentence is: "The reduction in swimming pool opening hours is unacceptable," Jane Smith, candidate in the upcoming Anywhere City Council elections said today.

Structuring the release

Try to keep the media release to one page. Journalists will rarely read more.

Once you've established what the media release is about in your first sentence, the rest of the release should be one-paragraph sentences, spoken or attributed to yourself.

The media release should try to answer all the questions a reasonable and inquiring person might ask. Also, try to pre-empt any claims or questions that may arise.

In a competitive campaign, it's easy to fall into the trap of criticising everything. Try to present yourself as a positive alternative for voters.

Radio interviews

Local radio may contact you because of articles published in the newspaper.

When they phone, you don't need to provide answers immediately. Ask them what they want to speak to you about and when their deadline is.

If the deadline is within the next 30 minutes, tell them you will ring them back in 10 minutes. This gives you breathing space to think about what you're going to say.

Remember, it is your interview and you need to plan what you want to say.