Media Advocacy 101

Advocacy is an activity by an individual or group, which aims to influence decisions within political, economic, and social systems and institutions. Media advocacy, in a nutshell, is working with news media to share your message with members of the public.

Writing a letter to the editor

The opinion page is one of the most widely read pages in the newspaper, so it’s a great way to get your message out to the public.

You can write a letter to the editor in response to article which they published, or in response to another letter to the editor which you read in their paper. Usually people send letters to the editor by email, often on the same day so they can be published in the next day’s paper. They include the subject line ‘letter to the editor.’

Make your letter under 200 words, to the point, set out logically, and current. Because the original article will have been published on a different day, your letter needs to make sense on it’s own. Be concise, educational, and compelling – a well written letter is much more likely to get published. Facts and statistics are your friend.

Stick to just a couple of points, and explain them succinctly –  under 25 words per sentence, one to three sentences per paragraph, a three to five paragraphs total.

Name drop – if you want an MP to read your message, mention them. They care about how the public thinks about them, and whether their stance on an issue is appreciated or not. Choose your allies based on the stance they take on issues important to you, and let them know they’re doing a good job. Alternatively, slam any transphobia.

Your letter is most likely to be published if it offers a different perspective, however, the message is more important than the messenger (avoid ‘as a transgender person’ etc.)

Let people know  an action they can take or how they can contact you. You must write your name and full address, though your exact address/street will will not be published.

Contacts for editors of major newspapers:

Whangarei – Northern Advocate
Auckland – New Zealand Herald
Hamilton – Waikato Times
Tauranga – Bay of Plenty Times
Rotorua – Rotorua Daily Post
Gisborne – Gisborne Herald
Hawkes Bay – Hawkes Bay Today
Wanganui – Wanganui Chronicle
New Plymouth – Taranaki Daily News
Palmerston North – Manawatu Standard
Wairarapa – Wairarapa Times Age
Wellington – Dominion Post
Marlborough – Marlborough Express
Nelson – Nelson Mail
Westport – Westport News
Greymouth – Greymouth Evening Star
Christchurch – The Press
Ashburton – The Ashburton Guardian
Timaru – Timaru Herald
Oamaru – Oamaru Mail
Dunedin – Otago Daily Times
Invercargill – Southland Times

Writing a press release

A press release is a written statement to the media announcing news. It may be published as is or the information in it may be used  by the journalist to write a news story.

Start by considering whether your story is new, unique, surprising, or interesting.
Next identify who are your target and what are their interests, and taking a media angle which they will be interested in.

Lay out your statement in logical order, making it easy to follow, keeping on point, avoiding excess detail, and keeping it between 300 and 600 words. Keep it truthful and punchy with facts and figures. Short sentences, short paragraphs, no fancy jargon. Deal with who, what, when, where, why, and how. Remember to add human interest.

Get someone to check that your statement makes sense, is easy to understand, and has good grammar and no spelling mistakes. Journalists are very busy; so the more ready for press – the more likely it is to get published.

The following are our tips for getting published and for maximum impact:

  1. Time your press release to be published on an important Rainbow Community date, in the lead up to Rainbow Community event, or tie it in with a current issue which people are talking about.
  2. Send your release by email, in the subject line type your headline title, and ‘Press Release for immediate release/XXX date’ (no more than a couple of days in advance)
  3. Your headline needs to grab attention – it is a good idea to write your headline after your body text, using keywords from your statement: ”10 year wait for life saving surgery” rather than ”trans patients are put on a 10 year long waiting list” or ”transgender patients are unhappy about…”
  4. Capture your entire idea in the opening summary, elaborating on the headline: ”Transgender patients are placed on a 10 year waiting list for genital reconstruction surgeries – which the Professional Association for Transgender Health Aotearoa (PATHA) says is “unacceptable”.”
  5. In your next paragraph, cover your key messages. For example, your key messages might be: healthcare is a human right, stop anti-trans discrimination.
  6. Give a quote from an expert, community leader, researcher, or someone else who will lend credibility. Name public figures who you want to have read your press release – for example, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Health.
  7. Tie your point to current events: “Covid19 has given us a heightened awareness of vulnerable people, and shown us what the healthcare system can do if government puts it’s mind to something. We’re leading the world in our public health response. Surely we can do more to sort out the appalling neglect of transgender patients?”
  8. Add simple statistics, but not too many: ”with a waiting list of over 200 patients, at a rate of 12 surgeries a year, it will take a decade just to get to number 120. In the meantime, 1 in 3 trans people attempt suicide in NZ”.
  9. Summarise again: ”Trans people need access to medical treatment, so they can be happy and well and carry on with life’
  10. Give a positive aspiration and a call to action: ”Let’s take another step forward for trans communities, and clear the waiting list in 2021”.
  11. Give a contact: ”For further comment contact Alice on”

Follow this with some info about your organisation or group, and a phone number so the journalist can contact you easily. Under this line, either type ENDS in bold or ###.
Send it by email, in the body of the message rather than as an attachment.

There are various places you can publish your press release, including New Zealand’s Independent News Media Scoop, as well as Stuff and many other mainstream news outlets.