Tips for Working with the Media

Most people are not familiar with Open Streets programs. In fact, many people make assumptions about what these programs will or should be like—that they will be like a sidewalk sale, a food festival, a parade—when in fact, Open Streets, especially health focused programs, are quite different. 

Having a clear, concise, and consistent message about your program is critical to gaining support within the community. Everyone on your team should all be able to sum up your message in a couple of sentences.

We suggest developing 3 or 4 key points that you consistently deliver to the media and other stakeholders. Your key points may be very simple. You should write these key points down and share them with your group.  When developing your key messages, think from the target audience’s perspective.  Ask yourself the following questions: “So what?” “Who cares?” “What’s in it for me?”

Key messages should be concise and to the point, and backed up by evidence whenever possible. Remember, the average TV soundbite is 7 seconds long and the average print quote is less than 40 words long so use the time you’re given wisely!

Here are some examples you are welcome to draw from: 

Key Message Examples:
  • This program is about providing free and accessible recreation to everyone in the city by opening the streets to people and closing them to cars. 
  • The program will help connect and build communities. It will give people the chance to explore new neighbourhoods. 
  • We want to invite everyone in the city to join us! This program is for people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. 

Ensure that everyone on your team is educated on your key messages!

Media Spokesperson

You will need to identify at least one media contact/spokesperson for your program. This may include an elected official, member of the business community, sponsor, community leader, volunteer, etc.  These members must be prepared for, and comfortable with, on-screen interviews, radio interviews, and speaking with reporters leading up to and during each program date in the early years of your program.

Share their contact information to reporters and include their contact information on your posters, press releases, and website/social media pages.

Next, develop a list of potential questions from the media and go over them with your spokesperson as it’s important to prepare in advance for media interviews and tricky questions. Click here for Potential Interview Questions

When Meeting with Members of the Media:
  • Answer their questions, but make sure you get your key messages out there.

  • Always be positive about your program, your support and volunteers!  

  • Make sure to get their contact information. Try to develop a relationship with them, especially if they reported positively on your program.
  • Review media coverage to gauge the general ‘tone’ of the conversations—is media generally positive, neutral, or negative? Keep a record of questions you were asked; they will help you prepare for future interviews.
  • Bring the following materials:
    • A flash drive with Open Streets videos (b-roll) that will help them understand the concept and use in their story.
    • Relevant documents—your general one-pager, route map, list of partners or sponsors, an activity schedule, or any other documents that will help them build useful detail into their story.
    • SWAG if available—a button, hat, or t-shirt may go a long way to developing a positive relationship with you and your program.
Other Media Tips:
  • Always make time for media! (Especially ones that are friendly to you). ‘Earned Media’ (media you don’t have to pay for like news pieces and magazine articles) is vital to your communications strategy. 
  • During interviews, always remember to invite the community to participate in your program! This is your chance to use the media to your advantage, and to reach the community with your message.