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How to influence decision makers?

Decision makers in the community pay close attention to media and social media coverage so you need to make sure your department or organization has a presence. And your newsletter and other publications are also great opportunities to share the message about the importance of parks and recreation to the community.

Media coverage: Strategize how to reach out to television, radio and print media about your organization or issue. If you don’t have an issue or an event with a news hook, make one. For example, National Watermelon Day is August 3 every year. You could secure some sponsors/funding and invite community members to the park for free slices of watermelon. It’s a great visual and a fun excuse for an event.

Use opportunities like these to share with the media your message about the importance of your parks and recreation to the health of the community. Release results from a new survey showing how many people use the parks, or how much economic development results from a strong parks and recreation program. The numbers are impressive and the photos are fun so you’ve got a great story to share with the media.

Make sure you have your logo or other graphic identity prominently displayed at events. And if you have sufficient financial resources, make sure your employees wear shirts with your logo. Parks and recreation departments are everywhere in the community. Make sure people see you and know the impact you make every day.

Social media outreach: While you have to convince the media that the story you have to share is newsworthy, social media lets you decide what to share. The same things still apply—you need to have a good visual and a compelling story/message—but you control the message.

The key to this approach is to have a strong following on social media (whether that’s facebook, twitter, instagram or other platforms) so your message gets spread widely.

It takes some time to develop a following so start now. Social media is a great way to reach out to your community quickly when you need their help to call an elected official about a policy or show up at a council meeting, or simply to sign up for your programs or attend your events.

Newsletters and other publications: Make sure all of the decision makers you’ve identified are on your mailing list. If you can, send their newsletters with a personal note highlighting an event or story they might find particularly interesting. And repost your newsletter stories on social media to reach people not on your newsletter mailing list.

Let the Media Help You Make Your Point

Reporters often seek out the local angle on how proposed legislation will affect the community. Your comments can help clarify for newspaper readers, radio listeners and television viewers the real life impact of state policies.

Following are some basic rules about dealing with the news media, how they operate and how to deal with reporters.

General Points To Remember

  • The news media is not the enemy.

Reporters ask tough questions. It’s their job. It’s easy to feel defensive. Don’t be.

  • This is your chance to be heard.

Thank the reporter for getting your side of the issue. Be friendly, helpful and sensitive to the time constraints some reporters will be under. If there is time, provide background on the issue before the tape is rolling.

  • Respond in a timely manner.

Be aware of the reporter’s deadlines.

  • If there is a microphone or camera, consider it on.
  • There is no such thing as “off the record.”

Everything you say is eligible for the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper. Do not make cracks about opponents or self deprecating remarks. They could be misinterpreted.

  • Nice people ask tough questions.

A reporter’s demeanor may change once discussion turns to the subject at hand. They may want to use their question to sound confrontational and cynical. Concentrate on the question and your answer.

  • You are in control.

If you don’t say something, it can’t be used. If you are asked a question about something irrelevant, answer politely and refer to the subject matter you were told you would be discussing.

  • Never say “no comment.”

If you do not know an answer to a question, say so. Promise the reporter you will find the answer and get back to him/her. Then do it.

  • A reporter’s responsibilities.

Conflict of opinion is one of the main ingredients of news. If you are criticized in a story, you should be given the chance to respond. Likewise, you must expect critics to respond to you. Make sure a reporter can get in touch with you after the interview in case he/ she needs more information.


  • Newspaper Reporters

It is common for newspaper reporters to conduct phone interviews. They may call back several times to make sure they have the details straight. Make the reporter feel welcome to get back in touch with you. If you are going to be away from the office, let him/her know how to contact you.


  • News

Many radio news interviews are conducted over the phone and reporters are required to tell you they want to record you on tape for airplay later. Have one or two of the key points ready and stick to them. A long radio story is 45 seconds. Your answers must be to the point. If the reporter can come to you or meet elsewhere, all the better. You will sound better without the phone line.

  • Talk Shows

Talk is among the highest rated formats in radio. It also is one of the rare times when you will not be edited. Listeners will hear everything you say, good and bad. Also, this format often pits one side against the other and callers often can add questions. If you go to the studio, you will sound better.


Most people get their news from television. It is immediate and visual, which can he dramatic and powerful. Expect a television crew to travel to you and to want to take pictures of anything that goes with the story. If there is a location that would be better, suggest meeting there.

  • How you look is important.

If your blouse, shirt or tie looks like a test pattern or your hair is bad, the viewer will concentrate on that and not on what you’re saying. The most important thing to remember: be comfortable. Wear what you normally would wear to work.

  • Sound bites

The typical television story will run about 80 seconds. Be concise. You will be lucky to get 10 to 15 seconds for your sound bite. Be wary of a reporter asking the same question in different ways. He/she may be trying to elicit a different response. Consider each response to be the one that will get on the air.

  • Live shots

A reporter may want to do a shot with you being interviewed on the air. Usually this involves a reporter’s introduction to a taped piece with questions of you afterward. You should have an earpiece that will allow you to hear the taped report. If the piece contains errors, correct them at the end of your first answer. Concentrate on the reporter’s questions.

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