News Conferences

From Media for Social Change: A Resource Guide for Community Groups (Revised edition, 1986), published by the Community Forum on Shared Responsibility, Toronto.

News Conferences are worthwhile when you something newsworthy to say. Generally, this means only when you have a crisis on your hands. Few reporters attend the average news conference, and to lure them to yours, you must convince them that it is big news, and that their competitors will be there.

Some guidelines:

- the preferred times are 10 a.m. Tuesday to Friday

- 10 am is early enough to make the deadlines of most papers

- hold it at a convenient or significant location. A convenient location would be the Press Club, City Hall, hotels, Queen's Park, Ottawa Press Gallery. A significant location for your group, for example, might be the Litton Systems plant.

- send out a news release a few days before your news conference; follow it up with phone calls to assignments editors, producers, reporters, etc.

- you must have electricity for camera crews

- have plenty of copies of your remarks, and backgrounders

- make the conference into an event: invite a celebrity sympathetic to your concern as quest speaker

- make it a fun occasion: have a feed-in, a work-in
involve the committed arts community, such as A Space
be innovative: people can sometimes walk on the air when shows are transmitted live

Public Service Announcements

Free time and free space are allotted by most media outlets for announcements by non-profit organizations which offer a service to the public. And many newspapers have free community calendars. For addresses, see The Toronto Media Directory chapter or the Media Names & Numbers directory.

Broadcast PSAs: The normal public service announcement (PSA) for broadcast is typed one page to fit 30 or 50 second time slots. It must be written in conversational style and in manageable chunks. Thirty characters equal three seconds. Type your announcement in capital letters, double-spaced. Maximum 100-200 words. Material may be edited.

Smaller stations may broadcast taped material with background music. Clear the music with the station, and they are usually willing to say yes to non-profit groups.

You can also produce your own videotapes for television public service slots. TV stations often have time to screen them outside prime time.

Guidelines for self-produced video material:

- use two-inch or three-quarter-inch video tape. 35mm slides will also do

- you must prove to the Canadian Association of Broadcasters that you do not have a budget for advertising. They have a form for you to fill out. Write: CAB, 85 Sparks St., Ste 909, Ottawa, Ont. K1P 5S2; 1-800-267-4211.

Following CAB endorsement, script storyboard should be sent to the public service department or the telecaster committee of the network or station. Product identification or corporate endorsement for a service or organization could render the commercial unacceptable as a PSA. The stations are concerned that material be integrated, in good taste, and not contain unsubstantiated or extravagant claims. The PAS must inform but not attempt to sway the public.

Each station and network has its own set or rules. Global, for example, accepts only PSAs from groups with a federal or provincial non-profit charter. For more information, contact the station or network.

PSAs for magazines: Very few magazines provide an allotment of space for PSAs, but they occasionally have space to fill due to last minute cancellations, etc. Supply your information well in advance and they will (hopefully) keep them on file.

There are no regulations for magazines, other than approval by the Magazine Association of Canada for some magazines. Their guidelines are that a group must be approved by the association's directors as a bona fide non-profit group; that they not be an advocacy group; and that they deal only with physical and mental health issues. However, only big magazines, such as Comac Publications, Maclean's, etc., are members of the association. Smaller magazines often have space.

Make your magazine PSAs look like ads, and make them as attractive as possible.

Community calendars in newspapers: Each of the daily papers has a weekly column, usually located in the entertainment section. They may or may not print your announcement if it seems "too political."

Most community newspapers have calendar listings, as do most alternative newspapers. Noteworthy are the monthly calendars in Issues & Actions and Cross Cultural Communications Centre newsletter. Also, Now magazine publishes calendar items every week.

Sources Calendar - If you are promoting an upcoming event that you want the media to cover, you can list it in the Sources Calendar, which reaches journalists across Canada. Listings are free if your organization is listed in Sources; there is a small fee if you aren't.


Related Resources:

When & How to Hold a News Conference - Do it right, or don't do it at all.

Media Names & Numbers - If you're going to contact the media, you need a good media list. This directory (in print, online, and also available as a database and mailing list) has listings and contact information for all print and online media in Canada. Also available as a database and mailing list.

Sources - The directory which connects organizations with messages to get out to journalists looking for spokespeople and experts on the issues they are covering. Both the online and print versions of Sources are widely used by reporters, editors, producers and freelancers working on stories. - Web site featuring practical articles about media relations and public relations.


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