While everyone may recall the catchy tune from Schoolhouse Rock’s “I’m Just a Bill,” most people are not intimately familiar with the legislative process. Storytelling is different in the political arena. Whether advocating for federal, state or local policy – there are some time-proven tips and tricks to working with the media.
Focus on the big picture. Lobbyists and policy wonks are too close to policy changes to summarize a 287 page bill into a headline. Take a step back to evaluate the impact of the policy from the outside looking in. A PR practitioner can help you determine why the media and average citizen at home should care.
Use real people to humanize policy. If you’re advocating against education cuts, an economist talking about budget deficits is likely to fall on deaf ears. A child willing to talk to a reporter about losing their art class will generate more interest. Plus, your lobbying team can take these spokespersons to the Capitol to drive the message home with legislators.
Include visuals. Infographics help the general public and reporters digest complicated statistics and sell key messages. It is important to tie these numbers back to who is impacted by the policy change. The elderly? Babies? Veterans? A picture of constituencies will tug on heartstrings, garner attention and build support.
Educate reporters. Parliamentary procedure and legislative rules are not easily understood. While a reporter might know there’s an upcoming vote, explain the significance of each stage in the process and where your bill is headed next.
Find third-party advocates. After the first several rounds of media stories, reporters will tire of the same spokesperson and messaging. Work to provide fresh angles and new voices. For example, if you’re advocating for a health care policy, limit use of hospital administrators and activate patient advocacy groups. See tip #2!
Know your audience. Messages are often targeted to the general public to contact all of their legislators, but other times the message is focused on changing one representative’s mind.
Pro-actively comment. Toward the end of a legislative session or during a political campaign season, reporters struggle to cover it all. Providing a quote and context immediately after a vote makes the story easier to write and might bump your news up on a reporter’s priority list.
Leverage earned media coverage. Share stories found on TV and in the newspaper on social media. Print copies to take to the Capitol or share with influencers and advocates. Keep a running list of news coverage on the organization’s website. These media stories can be repurposed throughout the campaign, especially compelling quotes and headlines.