How To Advertise Your PolyActivism
by Joreth Innkeeper © 2009
Now that you've gone through some Media Training, you've come up with some Soundbites, you've practiced your approach, you want to jump in and start doing some interviews! But how do you get interviewed? How does the media even know how to find you?
First, you'll want to build an internet presence. Start by building a website or online blog, something where you can declare your poly-ness and how to reach you. You can make this look like anything you want and the content can be anything you want. Is this a journal to document your adventures in polyamory? Is this a soapbox where you can preach your poly wisdom? Is this more of an open forum that you host to discuss polyamory? Is this a mismash of everything you are and polyamory is just part of it? Whatever it is, this is where you will establish the baseline for who you are.
Create a page or a section that is specifically for the media. This is called a "press kit" or a "media kit" or a "media page" and contains all the information the media may need to do a story on you, and nothing else. This page should have your name, the easiest way to contact you (you may want to create a new email address for this purpose), and a VERY short bio about who you are with regards to polyamory that basically sells why the media would be doing a story on you. This should not be more than one or two paragraphs long. A picture or a few for use for print is also recommended. You can also include links to other media appearances you've been in, but this page should be short and to the point. The media only wants to know why you're important enough to contact and how to contact you, they do not want to wade through all your ramblings and rantings and sage advice, that's what the interview is for. They're on a deadline and they just want to line up interviewees at this point. This page will also be used by the media when they have done their story on you, to seed their story with the relevant biographical data.
Next, make sure that page is EASY to find from your main page. It can even be your ONLY page if you want, just make it so easy that a child or an inattentive end-user can find it with no more than a single mouse-click, two at the most.
Here are some examples of other polyactivists' Media Pages:
Once you have a base established, get online and become visible. If you have already been participating in online forums, keep doing that, and start making references to your webpage or blog whenever it's relevant. But don't create self-pimping ad-posts just for the sake of telling everyone you have a new blog. Most people find that annoying and it can get you banned or put on probation in some forums.
But go out and be visible. Join in online discussions, start calling yourself a "polyactivist" or "community leader" if it's applicable. Look up groups and forums specifically geared towards activism, outreach, or leadership. Keep your eyes peeled for any and all media requests that come through these channels. As you make yourself more public, eventually other leaders in the community will start recognizing your name and when media requests come up, they will keep you in mind.
Physically go out to organizations in your community and offer your services as a presenter or educator to those organizations that are relevant, like your local college campus's alt-relationship groups, your LGBTQIA centers, your UU churches. Pay attention to local events and write in to local newspaper editors and call radio stations to raise poly awareness. Wear something poly-themed in order to attract questions and talk about polyamory whenever it comes up (using socially acceptable language and topics for the place and time, of course).
Start or participate in your local poly groups and communities, and send press releases to your local media centers when a new group has started or a public event happens. Contact your local Gay Pride organization about starting or participating in a poly group table or parade sign for the event.
Keep an eye on internet news items that even tangentially relate to polyamory and leave comments and send letters to the editor. You can even contact news and media outlets and give them ideas and suggestions for articles or stories that you think their readers might be interested in.
Advertising that you are available for media attention is really not much more complicated than just being visible and available, but you can be more proactive by approaching the media outlets yourself and letting them know you're available.
The following is modified from Sex Work Awareness:
Develop a Press List - this is a list of members of the press that you can contact when you want to send a press release or pitch a story. Press lists are available for purchase, and depending on the reach you want, this may be an option. www.easymedialist.com is one place to get one. You can also keep track of all journalists from whom you get media inquiries, record their contact information, and make notes about their approach, the beat they cover, etc.
Look at bylines in articles you read that portray polyamory well and add these journalists to your press list. Visit http://polyinthemedia.blogspot.com/ for a comprehensive archive of polyamory coverage in the last 5 years. When adding a journalist or editor to your list, include his full name, title, beat (health, city, politics, crime, lifestyle, etc.), email, fax, phone, best time and best way to contact.
Contact your press contacts via fax. If you do not have a personal contact with a newspaper, many of them prefer faxes. Editors at papers still look through faxes every morning when prepping a day's assignments. If you don't have a fax machine and don't want to hang out at Kinko's, there are online fax services, which send and receive faxes from your computer desktop (right from Word, no scanning required). www.myfax.com is good and reasonably priced.
Email is the best option most of the time for press releases. Paste your press release into the body of the email, not as an attachment. You may attach the release as well, but never just send an attachment. Phone calls to a newsroom are good for making contact with television news shows that air on a daily basis and the method you should use if your story is very urgent, breaking news. Only call if you have a 15 second pitch all planned and ready to go.
Alternative weekly publications frequently cover "offbeat" news and may have a grand history with the LGBTQIA communities, so you can start by sending press releases and story pitches here. Search the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies to find papers in your area (http://aan.org). FAIR has a short list of big, national media outlets (newspapers, mags, TV, radio): www.fair.org/index.php?page=111. Your local paper should have easily accessible contact information for editors, and many news outlets have begun to post journalists email addresses at the end of their articles.
Pitch a Story. Story pitches should be about something. For example, a press release about the fact that polyamorists' rights are human rights is unlikely to get media hits. However, responding to an event which disrespects polyamorists' human rights with this message has a better chance of getting picked up. Polyamory events that raise awareness about a particular issue are probably the easiest things for which to get media coverage. An event creates something to talk about, plus it is a gathering where the reporter may get a chance to ogle actual polyamorists. Cheesy, but useful. Letters to the editor and writing an Op-Ed piece are also great ways to get publicity.
Press Releases are also good ways to get publicity. Like a newspaper article, the most important information in a press release comes first. Each sentence after the first is less important. Keep press releases short (one page or less), 3-4 paragraphs, each 2-3 sentences long. When you put on an event, send a press advisory several days before and then send the press release the day of. In the case of an event, the press release should be written in the past tense. Press releases should always include an attributed quote - if you have a good quote in the release, some journalists will just use that quote, or possibly whole chunks of text from the press release (it's a big success if that happens to you). Always list a phone number in addition to email address for the contact person. At the bottom of the page of the press release, put -30- or ###. This indicates the end of the document. This applies to press statements and advisories as well.
Press Statements are the perspective of an organization, not an individual, on an issue or event or piece of legislation. The whole piece should be placed in quotes, but it doesn't need to be attributed to an individual. When a journalist uses this in their piece, it will be credited as, "According to advocacy organization Polyamory Media Association...". The goal of a Press Statement is to get quotes from your organization into the next news cycle on a topic. It should be less than a page, preferably one paragraph all in quotes, in response to an event, with contact info for one or two people.
A Press Advisory is a very short (less than one page) piece, that gives basic information about an event. No details, no quotes, no flowery prose - just the facts. A Press Advisory is typically sent out 2-3 days before an event and is used to get media interested in doing coverage.
Press releases are important if you're trying to get coverage for an event, but they aren't always necessary. If you're trying to get coverage for breaking news, or have the inside scoop on something that would be useful for you or your group to break to the media, a short, polite email or phone call (2-5 sentences) about who you are, the story, your involvement, and potential sources is appropriate. A pitch can be more informal than a press release, and should be informal if you're pitching someone who you've built a relationship with.
Offer an exclusive - A media outlet may be more inclined to pick up your story if you're only telling it to them. the media can be useful in drawing attention to an issue in the community, like police abuse of polyamorists. Increasingly, there are people within the poly activist community who are also journalists and media makers who may be interested in covering your story or helping you to get coverage for it through their contacts. A short, to the point email is handy in these cases.
Press Conferences are still more common for government and legislation-related press announcements, but physical press conferences are becoming increasingly rare for other purposes. If your press conference is about a piece of legislation or other community issue, contact your local government representative and ask for assistance. Community locations like LGBT centers are good possible choices. If you plan to do a press conference in a public location (like a park or street corner), be sure to check into laws and regulations about public gatherings. Likewise if you plan to do a press conference on private property (like in front of a strip club), do your homework about your rights to gather and the rights of the property owner.
A good alternative for organizing a physical press conference is to organize a remote call. Non-profit organizations are increasingly utilizing new technology to do group calls. have a look at www.webex.com and www.gotomeeting.com - both offer "webinars" that will help to create an event that can be accessed through the web or by phone. Create a clear program, with talking points and clear roles for different people in your organization. Written speeches are totally appropriate for press conferences. Decide in advance how you want to manage questions. You can ask that questions be submitted in advance of the event if that makes you feel more in control. It is also a good idea to plant questions with strategic participants in the press conference.
A Public Service Announcement (PSA) is cheap to produce and is a useful tool. While radio stations and TV stations are under no obligation to play them, they can be useful for taking up empty air time and helping to fulfill the general obligations the stations have to providing free air time for public programming. Still, you will need to give a good argument for your PSA being played.
A PSA is usually 30 seconds, but sometimes as short as 10 seconds (30 seconds = ~65 words; 20 seconds = ~45 words; 15 seconds = ~30 words; 10 seconds = ~20 words). The length should be exact. A TV station will cut off the end of your PSA if it is over or leave a pause of nothing if it is short. You can put more than one PSA on a sheet for the station to read from, just space them out well.
A PSA Template:
|FOR USE: December 17th [or] IMMEDIATE [or] TFN
Polyamory Media Association
"A Day of Remembering"
The left column is where you will include directions, like camera angles, sound effects, etc.
The right column is where you will insert the dialog here to be read.
Don't use hyphens or abbreviations. You can send either the script by itself or prerecorded audio with the script to the station.
Another way to get publicity is to host a video or audio podcast or channel. These are regularly scheduled recordings that are uploaded to the web and people can subscribe to them. Create an account at http://libsyn.com for a relatively low monthly fee and that will give you the resources you need to get your podcast onto iTunes. It looks and functions a lot like blogging software. If you're going to go this route, it's worth spending money on a decent microphone, and also a camera if you're doing video podcasting. You can also create a YouTube channel for videos, which is completely free, but the quality is not as good as iTunes.
Resources: Making and Managing Media/Campaigns www.messageinabox.tacticaltech.org and Non-Profit Technology (NTEN) guide to Social Media www.wearemedia.org. are good resources.