MEDIA ADVOCACY BASICS
A mini-guide for Hospice Advocates and professionals
Table of Contents
Getting Started in Media Advocacy……………..……………..…………………………….......3
What is Media Advocacy?……………………...……………………………………………………….4
Why Does Media Advocacy Matter?……………………………….…………….….…………….5
How Do You Tell Your Story?......................………………………………….………………....6
Media Advocacy Tools…………………………..............................................................8
Writing an Effective Media Advisory…………………………………………………..…9
Sample Media Advisory………………………………………………..............10
Writing an Effective News/Press Release……………….…………………………...11
Sample News/Press Release……………….......................................12
Writing an Effective Letter to the Editor…..............................................13
Sample Letter to the Editor……………….........................................14
Writing an Effective Op-Ed…………………………………….………………………….…15
Getting Your Media Advocacy Tools into the Right Hands……………………………….18
Top 10 Tips for Effective Media Advocacy………………………………………………………..20
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Getting Started in Media Advocacy
As you know, the news media are a key gateway to reaching the greater public and influencing policy makers.
As such, effective advocacy should include a plan for engaging the press. At the local level, news outlets have a
considerable and often untapped potential to impact public opinion and policy making. Additionally, local
news outlets are more likely to take the time to listen, especially if the person speaking is a member of the
community. Hence, hospice providers and Hospice Advocates like you have an advantage when contacting
media representatives in your local area.
Though working with the media can seem intimidating at first, there’s no need for you to worry. This guide is
designed to help you through the process and give you the tools you need to effectively use the media to
educate and influence policy makers and the general public on policy issues impacting the hospice community.
The examples of impactful media advocacy efforts by hospice professionals and Hospice Advocates in this
guide prove that the hospice community can embrace and excel media advocacy. So don’t count yourself out,
you too can successfully launch media advocacy efforts on behalf of hospice!
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What is Media Advocacy?
Media advocacy is formally defined by the Encyclopedia of Public Health as “the strategic use of mass media
(newspapers, radio, television, blogs and other online news outlets) to influence policy initiatives.” More simply
put, it’s the process of sharing policy-related information through the communications media, with the aim to
affect action, a change of public policy, or to alter the public's view of an issue. That means that with the
proper tools and a little savvy, you can manipulate the press to convey your message to the greater public and
by extension, our nation’s key decision makers.
As you know, many national trade organizations and their advocacy affiliates like NHPCO and the Hospice
Action Network use media advocacy to muster Congressional support and influence public opinion on policy
issues. However, it can also be extremely effective on a grassroots level when utilized by professionals in the
field like you to build support for upcoming legislative issues impacting hospice. There are many examples of
successful media advocacy that you can look to for inspiration within the hospice community.
A recent example of effective multi-tiered media advocacy is NHPCO’s ongoing “Two Cuts are Too Much”
campaign, which was first launched in late 2009 on a national level and has been subsequently picked up
locally throughout the country by several member hospices. Certain information in this campaign (online
articles and blog posts) is geared towards politicians and other opinion leaders whose support is needed to
repeal cuts to funding, while slightly different but related information (letters to the editor) is aimed at current
or potential Hospice Advocates. While the first is aimed at changing policy, the second seeks to rally
supporters to advocate for hospice on the current policy issue and well into the future. Both, however, share
the overall goal of protecting continued access to quality, end-of-life care nationwide. In the “Media Advocacy
Tools” section of this guide, you’ll find sample resources used by a few NHPCO member hospices and Hospice
Advocates in their local area media advocacy efforts.
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Why does Media Advocacy Matter?
Members of Congress are elected by people –including you, your staff, patients and families — in their local
areas to represent and protect the best interests of their states in the process of lawmaking. What does that
mean for your media advocacy efforts?
It’s simple, if the public is made aware of a story through the media, such as newspapers, daily blog posts or
on the nightly television news, politicians must take heed. These outlets reach broad audiences and the public
will assume that, if a story is in the news, it must be important. Policymakers and their staff make it a priority
to stay abreast of the goings-on not only on Capitol Hill, but especially in their local communities. Legislators
depend on this local and national media coverage to reflect the views of their constituents. In light of this, the
media can help you generate support for an issue and provide a forum for you to present and discuss your
Well-educated members of the media and your community make enthusiastic Hospice Advocates. Therefore,
by increasing the public’s understanding of the unique pressures faced by hospice, your media advocacy
efforts are likely to gain momentum and meet with great success.
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How Do You Tell Your Story?
Establishing, Maintaining and Utilizing Relationships with Local Media
The key to developing lasting relationships with the media is ensuring that your interactions with reporters are
mutually beneficial. That means that you are providing them with worthwhile news while drawing appropriate
attention to the policy issues impacting hospice or hospice-related advocacy events you are promoting. Here
are a few things that you can do to ensure you’re covering both bases:
1. Do your research. More often than not, before a reporter calls on you as a source of information, he or
she has already done some general background information on you and your level of expertise on the
subject of his/her article. In the interest of valuing your time and theirs, it’s of utmost importance that
you extend the same courtesy to reporters. Take the time out to:
Read health and health policy stories in your local papers as often as they publish (include daily,
weekly, and monthly news outlets). Learn which reporters consistently report on these issues
and look up their contact information either on the publication masthead or online and make
note of it so that you can make contact with them later.
Become familiar with local blogs that focus on hospice and end-of-life care issues. As you would
with any news source, read the blog sites’ “About the blogger” or “About me” sections to be
sure that you’d be comfortable being associated with any content being posted from the
author. Find three or four that you are comfortable with, preferably that focus on hospice in
your local area, and email the bloggers about the issue you feel is newsworthy. Provide them
some background information and tell them how it would impact your hospice staff, patients
and families. You’ll be surprised at how much interest you’ll generate around an issue if a
popular blog posts about it.
Watch local television news programs with your pen and paper handy so that you can write
down where and to whom you can send your story ideas and press materials; local stations will
normally provide an email address and/or phone number for area residents to alert them
about newsworthy happenings.
Listen to local radio talk shows for upcoming health care and health policy-related
programming. Write down station phone numbers so that you can call to pitch* your topic for
these shows, or for opportunities to call in and engage in the debate when issues impacting
your hospice surface as the topic of discussion.
2. Have actual conversations. In this age of quick and constant communication – through email, text
messaging and social media – the art of good old fashioned talking seems to have been lost on many of
us. However, some members of the media prefer a little human contact every now and then. So you
are likely to stand out if you email or call and ask a local reporter/blogger to meet you for a cup of
coffee to discuss area health policy news and issues impacting your hospice. During these chats,
facilitate the spirit of reciprocity by asking if there are any stories they are working on that you can
serve as a source for or offer background information on.
3. Create and maintain a database. As you become more familiar with and develop relationships with
members of the local press, recording their information will be a crucial part of utilizing the media in
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your advocacy outreach efforts. When gathering information about media contacts, you should store it
in a spreadsheet, including the following fields:
Medium (Newspaper, Newsletter, Blog, Television, Radio)
Reporter/Media Contact Full Name
Beat (Health, Lifestyle, Health Policy)
Preferred method of contact (how contact would like to receive information, i.e.
email, fax, etc.)
Notes (here you’ll want to record notes about any conversations you’ve had with
the media representative, dates of contact, follow-up thoughts
As your media advocacy efforts expand, your database will evolve and likely become one of your most
4. Be Responsive. When members of the media reach out to you, respond promptly and with accurate
information. When you are responsive to their needs, they will reciprocate the effort by following up
on your press materials and be more receptive to writing about issues of concern to you. If you are
unable to assist them by commenting or providing background information, find out whom in your
organization can and tell them you’ll get back to them. It’s okay to tell a reporter that you are not
familiar enough with an issue to comment or provide insight so don’t feel compelled to speak about
something that you are uncomfortable addressing. As long as you respond promptly and politely, they
will appreciate your efforts to help even if you’re unable to do so.
Making those four steps common practice in implementing your media advocacy plan will go a long way in
helping you cultivate meaningful relationships with your local media.
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Media Advocacy Tools
If you haven’t done it before, introducing your organization, events or issues you feel are newsworthy to your
local media can sometimes seem daunting or overwhelming. Here are a few key, accepted tools that you can
use to effectively garner news coverage:
Media Advisory: a brief announcement about an activity or event issued to the media several days
in advance – for local media, 1-2 days notice is sufficient.
Press Release: a timely, one-page announcement about breaking news, a newsworthy policy
issue/statement, activity or event issued to the media immediately following the occurrence.
Letter to the Editor: a letter written to a newspaper editor by a private citizen in response to
content or an issue covered by the press outlet. Generally, no more than 250 words in length.
Op-Ed: an opinion piece written by a newspaper or magazine’s reader on issues relevant to the
outlet’s audience. Typically no longer than 750 words in length and published opposite to the
Now that you know the tools you’ll need to approach the media, in the following pages, you’ll find tips on how
to effectively craft each tool as well as examples of each.
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Writing an Effective Media Advisory
Follow these tips when crafting your media advisories:
1. Start by typing "MEDIA ADVISORY" in bold, capital letters in the top left-hand corner of the page.
Underneath that, put the date. Make sure you include month, day and year.
2. Place your contact information in the top right-hand corner of the page. This includes your name (or the
name of the person who will be handling media inquiries), a phone number, and your email address.
3. Then, you’ll need to craft and add your headline. To do this, skip a line and type your headline. Format it to
be centered and bold. This headline should briefly describe your event, and grab the media's attention.
Example: Congressman Visits Local Hospice Program
4. Next, write the word "WHAT" in bold, capital letters. Tab over. Write what the event is. Limit the
information to one or two lines. Write in the briefest way possible, giving the media only what is essential
5. Next, space down. Write the word "WHO" in bold, capital letters. Tab over and write who will be involved
or who is invited. Keep it brief and limit it to one line if possible. Follow suit for “WHEN” and “WHERE.”
6. Add a space, and center "###" or “-30-” at the bottom of the page. This indicates to the press that the
media advisory is over.
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SAMPLE MEDIA ADVISORY
For Immediate Release
January 24, 2010
Phone #(207) 555-3641
Email: [email protected]
Local Hospice Hosts Congresswoman for Site Tour
Maine Representative Takes a Closer Look at Hospice
Hospice of Southern Maine (HSM) is proud to announce that Congresswoman
Chellie Pingree and her local aide will be participating in a tour of the hospice’s
18-bed facility, hosted by HSM Director of Finance Mary Pinto. The
Congresswoman will also attend an afternoon reception with HSM staff and local
end-of-life care advocates.
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-1st-ME),
Mary Pinto, Director of Finance, HSM
Jackie Potter, Maine Aide to Congresswoman Pingree
HSM Clinical and Assistant Medical Directors
Monday, February 1, 2010 at 1:00 p.m.
Gosnell Memorial Hospice House
11 Hunnewell Road, Scarborough
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Writing an Effective News/Press Release
Follow these steps when writing your news/press release:
1. Start with the “Release Date.” This tells the reporter when the information on the release can be
published or broadcasted. The document can be released immediately to the public, in which case you
can put “For Immediate Release: 00/00/00” at the top of the page with the current date. Reporters can
also hold the information until a future date. In that case, you would need to put “Embargoed Until:
00/00/00” with the date the information is to be released. The release date is typically located on the
top left-hand corner.
2. Place your contact information in the top right-hand corner of the page. This includes your name (or
the name of the person handling media inquiries), a phone number, and your email address.
3. Next, write your headline. A headline is a short phrase summing up the essence of the release.
Example: Congressman Visits Local Hospice Program
4. Then, include a “dateline.” The dateline is the location of the story, which usually includes the
city/town and state. Example: ALBANY, NY – A bill signed into law today ensures access to quality and
compassionate end-of-life care for the 1.4 million patients and families who seek hospice care each
5. The body of your press release will follow the dateline. This is where you will tell the reporter/editor
the “who, what, where, when and why” of your story. Your release should follow a ‘pyramid’ style of
writing, where the most important information or newsworthy “hook” appears first, and is followed by
supporting information. This writing style is necessary for any news materials, because your readers
(reporter/editor) are busy and receive many different pieces of news. The reader may not have time to
get through the entire page, so you must give the most important information – the reason why they
should pursue a story – at the beginning.
6. The first paragraph, the “lead,” should be the most powerful. This is where you should tell the most
important information of the release, in order to get the interest of the reporter/editor reading it.
7. Keep your sentences and paragraphs short and use plain language. Avoid acronyms and jargon. Also,
you should try to keep your release to one page.
8. Be sure to include a quote. This puts a human face on the news you write. The quote should
substantiate the lead, be from a significant person, and add value to the point of the release. Try to
place the quote in the first three or four paragraphs of the release.
9. Finish with a “tag.” This is usually one paragraph of “boiler plate” information about your organization
and its involvement with the issue covered in the release.
10. End. Reporters/editors look for a symbol (### or -30-) at the end of a release to let them know that the
release is complete. If your release is more than one page, it is important to add “—more—” at the
bottom of the first page to indicate that there is another page to the release. These symbols (### or 30-) and instructions (--more--) should be centered at the bottom of the page.
11. Photos. Photos from a meeting or an event can be helpful in getting coverage. Digital copies are the
easiest to submit. Include a brief caption that has information about is the people in the photo, and the
purpose of the event. (Note: Notify your contact that you will be emailing a photo before you send it.
Emailed photos often weigh down a system, or may get caught up in a “spam” filter file.)
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SAMPLE PRESS/NEWS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
April 21, 2010
CONTACT: Dawn Teachey
Ph: (803) 555-4444
Email: [email protected]
SOUTH CAROLINA HOSPICE CEO ADVOCATES ON CAPITOL HILL
FOR PATIENTS & FAMILIES FACING END-OF-LIFE
Dawn Teachey asks Congress to Protect Access to Compassionate and High-Quality End-of-Life Care
Spartanburg, S.C. – Dawn Teachey, CEO of Hospice Care of South Carolina and over 400 other
Hospice Advocates from across the nation this week urged Congress to protect access to
compassionate and high-quality end-of-life care for all Americans. Teachey joined her fellow
advocates in Washington, D.C. as part of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s
(NHPCO) Capitol Hill Day 2010.
Teachey met with Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) to discuss the value of hospice care to patients
and their families in South Carolina. During the meeting, she encouraged Congress to support
efforts to stop cuts to hospice programs nationwide especially smaller programs in more rural
“Following health care reform and the cuts the hospice community are slated to sustain as a
result of Medicare payment reform, Hill Day was a great opportunity to educate our Members
of Congress about the value that we as hospice providers bring to [Insert state] patients and
families facing the end-of-life.” Teachey said.
Over the past two years, the hospice community has been facing rate cuts on two fronts —
regulatory cuts enacted in October 2009 that eliminated a key component of the Medicare
hospice reimbursement known as the Budget Neutrality Adjustment Factor (BNAF) and more
recently, cuts slated to be enacted in 2013 as a result of the health care reform bill passed last
month. This year, they are working together to educate policy makers on how the hospice
community will be impacted by the combined 14.3% reductions.
“In the aftermath of health care reform, NHPCO’s Capitol Hill Day 2010 was just the beginning
of our efforts this year to educate Members of Congress on the hospice community’s value and
uniqueness as compared with other health care provider groups. Over 1.4 million patients and
their families depend on compassionate end-of-life care from hospice programs in communities
throughout the country,” said J. Donald Schumacher, NHPCO president and CEO. “It is
important that Congress know the importance of hospice to their constituents so they can take
an active role in preserving compassionate end-of-life care for generations to come.”
For more information on Hospice Care of South Carolina, visit www.hospicecare.net, and to
learn more about NHPCO’s Hospice Action Network and the hospice community’s advocacy
efforts nationwide, visit www.hospiceactionnetwork.org.
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Writing an Effective Letter to the Editor (LTE)
Here are a few things to keep in mind, before you start crafting your LTE:
A letter to the editor can be used to:
Generate Coverage of an Issue
Set the Record Straight
Deliver a Message
Tips for writing a letter to the editor:
Before writing, be clear about what message you want to convey
Refute or support specific statements; address relevant facts that are ignored.
Support your facts but keep it concise.
Make it pointed and punchy.
Keep your letter to 250 words or less
Now that you’re prepped on those key points, here are the steps you should follow to write your letter to the
1. Start with the salutation “Dear Editor”
2. Choose ONE ISSUE for your letter.
Example: Two cuts are too much for the hospice community to absorb and continue to effectively provide
compassionate and quality, end-of-life care.
3. Write a sentence or two identifying your organization and/or interest in the issue.
Example: As an employee of hospice I have learned and studies have shown that, when faced with a life-limiting
illness, most people are more concerned about the impact it will have on their family, not themselves. Hospice care,
like that provided by Hospice of Central Iowa, allows patients to live their last days completely and without pain
while helping their families treasure final moments.
4. Write one or two sentences of background information.
Example: November is also National Hospice Month, a time to raise awareness of quality end-of-life care. With the
hospice system currently facing two big cuts—a regulatory cut proposed last year and enacted last month as well as
the projected health care reform reductions—this is more important than ever.
5. Write one or two sentences on your opinion. Write a sentence or two about your story if you feel
Example: If passed, many Iowa hospices will be forced to close our operations or severely limit service areas. This is
particularly so for those living in rural areas, where hospice care is often the most expensive to deliver.
6. In one or two sentences, offer a solution and encourage readers, policy makers, etc. to take a specific action
(i.e., contacting an elected official, voting a certain way, etc.).
Example: I urge everyone in our state to contact Senator Charles Grassley and Senator Tom Harkin to tell them that
“Two Cuts are Too Much for Hospice!”
7. Add your full name and contact information (phone, address, and email) to the end of your letter.
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SAMPLE LETTER TO THE EDITOR
November 18, 2009
RE: Health Care Reform and Hospice, National Hospice Month
November starts the season of reuniting and celebrating with loved ones. As an employee of hospice I
have learned and studies have shown that, when faced with a life-limiting illness, most people are
more concerned about the impact it will have on their family, not themselves. Hospice care, like that
provided by Hospice of Central Iowa, allows patients to live their last days completely and without pain
while helping their families treasure final moments. Thus, hospice plays a critical role in the lives of
millions of people nationwide.
November is also National Hospice Month, a time to raise awareness of quality end-of-life care. With
the hospice system currently facing two big cuts—a regulatory cut proposed last year and enacted last
month as well as the projected health care reform reductions—this is more important than ever. If
passed, many Iowa hospices will be forced to close our operations or severely limit service areas. This
is particularly concerning for those living in rural areas, where hospice care is often the most expensive
to deliver. Therefore, I urge everyone in our state to contact Senator Charles Grassley and Senator
Tom Harkin to tell them that “Two Cuts are Too Much for Hospice!”
As a community, we need to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves and ensure that hospice is
available now and for generations to come. Everyone can do this easily by following the link from
www.hospiceofcentraliowa.org. Less than five minutes of time can make a difference.
Katie Smith McIntyre
Community Relations Coordinator
Hospice of Central Iowa
Phone: (515) 336-4258
Email: [email protected]
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Writing an Effective Op-Ed
Here are a few things to keep in mind, before you start crafting your op-ed:
An op-ed can be used to:
Generate Coverage of an Issue
Set the Record Straight
Deliver a Message
Tips for writing an op-ed:
Before writing, be clear about what message you want to convey
Keep your op-ed between 500-750 words (most newspapers and online publications have guidelines
that fall within this range, but it might be worthwhile to contact your local media outlet to find out
what their limit is before you start writing)
Follow these general steps when writing your Op-Ed:
1. Choose ONE ISSUE for your Op-Ed. Make sure you present the information in a way that qualifies you
as an expert on this issue, highlighting relevant knowledge, background and supporting data.
2. Identify a significant problem. Search for a specific problem within your issue that clearly threatens
the general public or at least some large segment of that public. You must focus. Clearly identify the
problem, the audience it affects and how you might go about solving it.
Example: Before hospice, I had a series of frequent, short-term hospitalizations, followed by periods of
being at home with no support services. Now, with in-home hospice care, I have intensive support from
a nurse, social worker, physical therapist, chaplain, and volunteers, with family members providing
ongoing care, and a hospice doctor providing overall supervision in consultation with my primary care
doctor. Hospice staff is available on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If these programs are cut,
patients like me will be forced to revert back to constant, costly short-term hospital care with no inhome support – we will suffer!
3. Write a bold opening statement. Open your op-ed by making a bold statement or asking a pointed
question that forces the reader to read on. Make sure it is punchy and hard-hitting because the
opening statement is you one chance to grab the reader. It will determine the focus of your article. It
will dictate the evidence you offer to support your statement.
Example: Insurance companies and drug companies make billions of dollars in profits, but when
Congress has gone looking to cut “waste, fraud, and abuse” in the health care sector why have they
focused instead on programs that operate on tiny budgets such as hospice programs.
4. Continue writing your first paragraph. You should spend a lot of time on this. Weigh whether or not
you would read-on if you saw the first paragraph of your piece in the paper. It never hurts to have a
friend or trusted acquaintance read the paragraph to see how it flows.
5. Defend your statement. Use facts and statistics, but only those that apply directly to your statement.
Don't go off on tangents. Space is limited so you will need to craft clear, concise arguments in support
of your bold opening statement.
6. Cite sources and be emotive. To prove that your assertions can be proven include references to
documents, studies, surveys, public statements, white papers, books, articles and the like to mirror
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your point. Keep in mind that facts provide the reasons to agree with the statement, but emotion
moves people to take action. No emotion, no action. That's just how the human mind works.
7. Propose a solution Wrap up your story by proposing at least one clear, bold and practical solution to
the problem you have identified. Proposing a solution to the problem demonstrates that you aren’t
just complaining, but that you actually have crafted a solid advocacy argument. Sidestep proposing a
solution and you will lose your audience.
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DON’T CUT HOSPICE TO FINANCE HEALTH CARE REFORM
Insurance companies and drug companies make billions of dollars in profits. But when Congress has
gone looking to cut “waste, fraud, and abuse” in the health care sector, why have they focused
instead on programs that operate on a tiny budgets, such as hospice programs? Could it perhaps be
because these programs lack the millions of dollars that lobbyists are spending daily to protect big
As a hospice patient diagnosed with end stage COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), I
have a unique view as to the value of these services, both in saving money and improving quality of
life. Unfortunately, because of the taboos around open and frank discussions about death and
dying (exactly the kind of counseling that became demonized as "death panels" during the whipped
up hysteria of last summer) many families don't get the opportunity for a realistic discussion of their
options as a person nears death. Because of the slow and unpredictable course of my disease, I
have now been in hospice care for nearly a year; most people enter hospice programs within only
the last few weeks of life, and therefore are less able to advocate for these programs.
I have benefited enormously from being a hospice patient. Before hospice, I had a series of
frequent, short-term hospitalizations, followed by periods of being at home with no support
services. Now, with in-home hospice care, I have intensive support from a nurse, social worker,
physical therapist, chaplain, and volunteers, with family members providing ongoing care, and a
hospice doctor providing overall supervision in consultation with my primary care doctor. Hospice
staff is available on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. My medicines and durable medical
equipment are provided with no out of pocket costs, through the Medicare "hospice option." The
hospice philosophy is focused on quality of life—as defined by the patient—which helps me achieve
my self-defined goals. Hospice staff has provided support that has enabled my partner and I to go
away for weekends, to attend social and cultural events in the community, and to fulfill as many of
my wishes as possible during my final months of life. The guiding philosophy of hospice staff is
“what can we do to help you achieve your goals?”
Hospice care is not only cheaper than my frequent hospitalizations, it is also better for dying people
who have chosen to focus on quality of life rather than pursuing an elusive "cure." (Of course,
patients who wish to continue receiving intensive medical and surgical interventions, rather than
hospice care, should continue to receive the services they choose.) Why, then, when Congress is
looking to find "extra" money to fund health care reform has it zeroed in on home care and hospice
programs, which would appear to promote exactly the values embodied by reform? Helping people
to access the care best suited to their needs, and which are cost-effective, are the kinds of
programs we need more of, not less! Every dollar that is saved keeping people out of expensive
hospitals and nursing homes when they can get the care they prefer should be used to enlarge
these programs so they can meet demand. Indeed, surveys show that most people would prefer to
die at home while in fact the majority of deaths take place in hospitals., Instead, small agencies are
forced to struggle to serve the patients they now have, and may not be able to meet current need,
let alone expand to reach all the people who can benefit from their services.
Judi Chamberlin is a hospice patient. She blogs about her experiences at http://judilifeasahospicepatient.blogspot.com
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Getting Your Media Advocacy Tools into the Right Hands
Media Advisories and Press/News Releases
Once your media advisory or press release is written, getting it into the right peoples’ hands is of utmost
importance. Here are a few things you should consider when determining how to disseminate your press
Social media is becoming an increasingly comfortable and convenient way to engage within
communities and expand professional and personal networks. Reporters for newspapers and
publications – both big and small – have embraced social media tools as a way to disseminate and
more importantly, receive news and story ideas. Twitter is currently among the most popular forms of
release. So you’ll want to tap into the power of this media source, to get your news published in local
papers. If your hospice has an existing Twitter account:
1. You’ll want to make sure you are following a few (at least two) health/health
policy reporters at your local papers, or general reporters if you’re in a
smaller city or town. Make note of their Twitter handles.
2. Develop a “hook” or short description of the information you are submitting
as news (no more than 100 characters in length).
Example: “Hospice Care of SC Pres meets with Sen. Jim DeMint about hospice
and health policy on the Hill” (95 characters)
3. After you’ve developed your “hook,” you will want to post your advisory or
press release to a landing page on your hospice Web site and copy and paste
the URL for that landing page.
4. Then, go to www.tiny.cc (or another Web site that will shrink your URL) and
input the link into the input area and click the “tiny” button. Copy your new
tiny URL; add it to the end of your “hook.” Example: “Hospice Care of SC Pres
meets with Sen. Jim DeMint about hospice and health policy on the Hill
5. Next, you can EITHER
Tweet to the specific reporter you are interested in approaching
about your story by adding his/her handle to the beginning of
your tweet. Example: [email protected]: Hospice Care of SC Pres
meets with Sen. Jim DeMint about hospice and health policy on
the Hill http://tiny.cc/x5yjl”
Do a broad tweet to all of your followers. Example: “Hospice Care
of SC Pres meets with Sen. Jim DeMint about hospice and health
policy on the Hill http://tiny.cc/x5yjl” AND send a private direct
message [click “Direct Messages” on the right hand side of your
page, type the message in the box and click send] to the reporters
including your tweet and your contact info.
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6. Then monitor those publications to see if your tweets result in a story.
Email and Fax are more traditional and still very effective means of disseminating your media tools if
social media is not an option for you (depending on the reporter preferred contact method). If
emailing a press release, it’s most important to put the text of the release into the body of the email.
Avoid sending emails with attachments to reporters as they are likely to be caught by spam filters and
may not be delivered to the intended recipient.
Letters to the Editor and Op-Eds
After you’ve spent hours crafting the perfect letter to the editor (LTE) or op-ed, getting it printed can be a little
tricky. Here are a few things you should keep in mind when trying to get your pieces placed in local media:
Only send one LTE or op-ed at a time. Editors prefer not to be inundated with opinion pieces from a
Do not send query letters or call editors to discuss op-ed ideas.
In most cases, completed LTE or op-eds should be sent by fax or e-mail, especially if the piece is timely
and could become dated quickly. Check the newspaper's submission policies.
Op-ed editors are busy people. Many will call to let you know they plan to use a piece, but very few will
contact you if they reject your submission. You should keep phone calls to editors to a minimum, and
definitely not make them near the end of the day when the editor is working hard to meet his
While inundating an editor is taboo, you can consider following up with the editor a week or so after
submission to ask if the op-ed is under consideration. Think of your follow-up call as an opportunity to
educate the editor about the issue -- even if your op-ed is not published. If your rapport is good,
suggest a meeting or ask if there is a reporter who should get a copy as background on the issue. The
result could be a relationship with the editor, which will prove helpful for the future.
If your op-ed is published, make sure to clip it, make a copy including the name of the paper and date it
was published, and send it to the policy makers you hope to influence, and NHPCO Hospice Action
Submitting the same LTEs or op-eds to multiple news outlets is strongly discouraged as most news
outlets want to publish exclusive, original content. If you would like to submit opinion pieces to
different outlets on the same topic, it is strongly encouraged that you craft differing letters highlighting
the same key points.
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Top 10 Tips for Effective Media Advocacy
1. Stay local.
One strong article in your hometown newspaper may be worth 10 in the New York Times.
2. Keep it focused.
You may have many issues to bring to the media, but stick to one at a time or they will get buried.
3. Clip and use your good press.
A good article can have a long life. Make sure to send press clippings to your members of Congress, other
decision-makers (regulators, local representatives), and NHPCO Hospice Action Network.
4. Don't forget your own communications media.
Take advantage of your in-house newsletters, publications, local radio and cable programs to educate
and get others involved in your advocacy efforts.
5. Just the facts.
Stick to what you know and never exaggerate. Remember, you can always get back to media contacts
(reporters, producers, etc.) after finding the right answer.
6. Don't just say it, show it.
A demonstration or real-life testimonial goes a long way to illustrate your point and make it more colorful.
7. Build media relationships.
Get to know the reporters who cover hospice and health policy issues and take time to meet editorial boards.
Relationships develop over time through mutual respect, so be responsive to media inquiries and do
8. Put media relations into your advocacy agenda.
Media advocacy should be a year-round function objective of your hospice's overall advocacy campaign.
9. Appoint a press spokesperson for your hospice.
This contact person must be fully informed about your advocacy agenda to know what to say and what not to
10. Take advantage of all media outlets.
Congressional offices may read newspapers most often, but radio, television, and blogs have a powerful impact
on public opinion. As you know, public opinion (the views of policymakers’ local constituents) sways legislators.
Need more help with your media advocacy efforts?
Contact Angie Truesdale, Vice President for Public Policy, via phone at (703) 647-5163 or via email at
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