Media Contact Tips

Before you begin pitching your story to the media, find out what media outlets are located in your community and compile a list of the outlets you would like to target.

When making you list, consider the following questions:

  • What audience are you trying to reach with your messages? What media are popular with this group?
  • What health focused-media operate in your community?

Once you determine the outlets to contact, the next step is identifying the appropriate contact person. Finding the appropriate person to pitch your story to is important, as it will increase your chances of getting coverage. In order to identify the appropriate person, familiarize yourself with your local media outlets; take note of which reporters are writing about what topics. Stay on top of current issues, and look for opportunities to follow up with reporters.

  • Send the “pitch” email by explaining your story idea/why you want to speak to them
  • Provide background information and insight about the specific issue
  • Clearly explain the outcome you would like and how it will impact people in your community
  • Follow-up with a phone call a day or two later, unless it is a more urgent issue and explain to the reporter who you are and remind them of the email you sent. Briefly explain the content of your email and elaborate on your story idea
  • Suggest that you are available to speak with the reporter in more detail at a time convenient for them
  • If the reporter shows interest in the story idea, but is busy or on deadline, offer to call back at a more convenient time and be sure to follow-up

Media Interview Tips


As the person being interviewed, you must take responsibility for the messages and information that are presented in the interview and provide the reporter with the facts necessary to report the story that will help to change the current situation. The following information will help explain how you can prepare for your interview and ensure your messages are heard.

When a journalist calls 

Return the call as quickly as possible; journalists work on tight deadlines - not returning the call may result in a missed opportunity. 

Find out whatever you can about the interview:

  • What is the story angle?
  • Who else is being contacted? 
  • Will the interview be live, taped or over the phone?
  • What is the preferred time and location of the interview? How long will it be?
  • What is the deadline and when will the story run?
  • Any other details like the journalist’s phone number, email address, etc.

Important: If the reporter wishes to conduct the interview on the spot, don't hesitate to say you'd like to collect your thoughts first. Be sure to call back well before the specified deadline.

Preparing for an interview

  • Focus on three key messages and practice getting them across in short sound bites. Three strong messages are just enough to keep firmly in mind during the lively give-and-take of the interview process. Three points stand out clearly in your mind, making it easier to keep your focus on the story.
  • Consider the audience and remember that in most cases, you are communicating to a general audience of everyday people.
  • Express your ideas in simple terms and try to illustrate complex concepts by communicating them in everyday language
  • Anticipate questions and attitudes the reporter may have. Prepare answers that both defuse these questions and give you room to make transitions to or refocus attention on your message points. Use bridging phrases such as:
    • That’s an interesting question; let me remind you though...
    • Before I forget, I want to mention that...
    • Let me put that in perspective...
    • What’s important to remember, however...
  • Practice tough questions too. If you are prepared for them, you will feel more confident going into the interview.
  • Review your facts, statistics, or background information to support your key messages. Keep notes handy for phone interviews and ensure the material is well organized so that you are prepared but not over-rehearsed.
  • Look and feel great. For cameras, wear comfortable clothes in solid shades and a minimum of jewelry or anything else that might distract the viewer's eye. Women should wear light make-up. Remember to clean your glasses.
  • If the reporter doesn’t make it clear in the introduction, don’t be afraid to say, “As someone with lots of personal experience/I am a brain tumour survivor and…”
  • Keep your answers short: The average sound bite is seven seconds on television and 15 seconds on radio. Journalists are looking for concise quotes to include in their articles.
  • Be honest: If you don’t know the answer to the question, it’s okay to say so. But offer to help find the information after the interview.

 After the interview

  • When the interview is over, find out when the story will run.
  • If you have some additional thoughts, go ahead and contact the reporter right away.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself when you hear or see the story. Learning to control the media takes considerable practice. Think about what you could have done better, but also think about how well you did in preparing for your next interview.


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