Samhain Press Kit
Article ID: 2024
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 8,083
Times Read: 26,836
Posted: September 1st. 1997
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Introduction: Many of you are "pros" at talking to the media. Many others have never had the experience. If you or your group is planning to either attend a public event or simply celebrate in your own neighborhood, you may find yourself answering the question "Are YOU a Witch"? during this Samhain season. Suddenly, there is a microphone under your nose and a camera in your face-What will you say? And even if there is no reporter standing there-just some ordinary "concerned" citizen with a question about Samhain and Witches- at that moment, you ARE the spokesperson.
Here are some guidelines that may help you prepare-not just for this time when we are all suddenly "visible"-but anytime that you are questioned about your religious beliefs.
How to Talk to the Media:
This section offers some guidelines on developing and executing an effective strategy for attaining the results that you want when talking with media personnel.
YOU - THE SPEAKER:
WHAT ARE THE MESSAGES? Develop your interview into one key message, with one or two supporting messages. Refine and distill the main themes into concise, essential messages that can be picked up by the press. Return to and emphasize the key messages over and over during interviews and in press releases. Make a point of briefly and concisely refuting the "special rights" arguments we perpetually face. "We do not seek any rights other than the same civil rights and the same right to freedom of religion that all citizens desire."
- REMEMBER DIVERSITY: You may not be speaking for all the Witches, Wiccans and Pagans in your area, so restrain from making wide ranging statements, such as, "All Witches....." Use phrases such as 'some" or "many" instead. Use examples from your personal area of knowledge or training, but do not attempt to answer questions on Paths which in you have no direct knowledge. If someone from that Path is present, defer the question to him/her. Speakers that represent the diversity of your group and the community honestly gain the respect of the listeners and fellow community members.
- PICK THE RIGHT PERSON: Find the most articulate, "telegenic, " media-savvy spokespersons best qualified to speak on the issue. It is a sad, but true fact that those who "come off well" in front of the camera or microphone may have the best shot at having their message aired. The message should be what is important-not who gets to be on the television news at eleven!
- INCLUDE NON-PAGAN AUTHORITIES: Those from other communities (religious, civil rights, academic, law enforcement) can reinforce your message in many ways.
- ENHANCE HUMAN INTEREST: The message must be interesting to gain attention.
- IDENTIFY YOURSELF: In the conversation, if you represent a group or have an official title, use the name somewhere in the message. "As a High Priest of...." As the Chairperson of ...."
Have a "bio" sheet or information about yourself or your organization handy to give out. The reporters will remember you from the crowd and they will have your contact information should they wish to talk further at a later date.
- KEEP STATEMENTS VERY BRIEF: Five minutes maximum. Give lots of pithy, quotable "soundbites." Deliver your key messages over and over.
- KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE: Every statement you make to the media can either bring your message closer to people who will want to support you, or distance you from them. Be careful! Remember who you want to reach and then target your messages so they understand you.
- KEEP TO THE TRUTH! False information will destroy your credibility with the news media, which is the basis of your relationship. If you don't know an answer to a question, just say so. Don't guess. Say you don't know and offer to get an answer by a specified time - THEN DO IT!
- DON'T TALK IN PARAGRAPHS! On radio and TV, time is the big factor; in newspapers its space. This means you must be brief and to the point.
- EVERYTHING IS FOR THE RECORD!: A reporter is always working, even in social situations. In other words: don't say anything you don't want to read in the paper. If you wish to speak "off the record" it must be made clear from the start.
- PLAIN TALK FOR PLAIN PEOPLE: People come from all walks of life. Many people don't understand Pagan based rhetoric. Plain talk is always best. Show that you are really "just like them."
- TALK TO THE REPORTER. You look goofy if you look directly into the camera!
- KNOW DEADLINES: All news media operate on deadlines. Your news won't get out if you miss deadlines.
- KEEP TO ONE STORY.: Don't go off on issues not directly related to your major points. You confuse reporters and destroy your credibility by being unfocused or soap boxing too much.
- THINK ABOUT YOUR ANSWERS: Don't allow yourself to ramble about things the media finds uninteresting or unrelated.
- "NO COMMENT" IS THE WORST COMMENT: It implies you're hiding something. Instead, use those times when you cannot comment further as opportunities to restate your most important points.
- RESPOND TO REPORTERS' QUESTIONS, don't simply answer them. Take the question as an opportunity to restate your key messages and use a critical point or soundbite.
- BE PREPARED. Don't be set up! Don't be misled by false smiles. Be on guard. You never know what the next question will be. For self-confidence, try to rehearse a list of likely questions, and beready to answer every one.
THE BASIC PRESS KIT
THE BASIC PRESS KIT
- Press Release including who, what, where, when, and why, background on the issue, and important quotes
- Fact Sheets on the issues and basic message statement.
- Fact Sheet on your organization and its purpose/programs Contact names and numbers of your spokespeople
- Press clips from previous newspaper stories, editorials
- Statements of Support, list of endorsements from other groups or officials
- Mail or hand deliver the press kits to reporters, producers, editors, assignment desks, wire service managers, "daybooks" (media calendars) for local Associated Press (AP) and United Press International (UPI), and other media sources.
- Start by preparing a well thought out brochure or handout. The handout should be brief (one to two pages).
- Distribute the handout to all potential allies and encourage them to share it with others. Pass out the handout at meetings and other events.
- Display the handout at galleries, museums, book stores, video stores, libraries, universities, etc.
- Adopt a constructive tone. People are more likely to be receptive if they receive a persuasive message, not an attack.
Media Advisory: If you are doing a press conference or visibility event (e.g., demonstration, candlelight vigil), send a media advisory out at least one week before to invite reporters. The short advisory should inform reporters and assignment editors of the time, place and purpose of the event as listed above.
Our thanks go to: Robert Bray, Fight the Right Media Trainer, National Gay & Lesbian Task Force from whose materials the above guidelines were adapted.
SPECIAL TIPS FOR CALLING RADIO STATIONS:
BEFORE YOU CALL:
HOW TO GET YOUR MESSAGE ACROSS ON THE AIR:
- If you have Call Waiting, then cancel that function.
- Do not use a cordless or cellular phone. All untethered phones, including digital models, have lower fidelity as compared to hard-wired units.
- Turn off all noisy appliances, including your air conditioner, computer, TV and radio receiver, fan, etc. You way want to go into a room where there are no other people and no pets. Shut the door.
- If an attack on the Witches or Witchcraft occurs in your city or state, then get on the air immediately.
- The broadcast audience is constantly tuning in and out. Therefore, you should make your presentation free-standing, insofar as the listener's ability to understand it. For example, you should not begin your call with anything that sounds like this: "I just want to say that I disagree with the previous caller. He is entirely wrong."
- Don't throw away your time reiterating what the other caller just said. Use the time to make YOUR statement of the facts.
- Refrain from using these non words: "uh, ah, er"
- Use one or two of these words to describe the argument that you are refuting-snooping, censorship, government censorship, prude, prudish, repression, extreme, extremist, intrusive, nosy, intolerant, uneducated, unhealthy, repressed, suppressed, busybodies, superstitious, needless guilt, belief, backward, medieval, primitive, unsophisticated, opinion.
- Use one or two of these words when sharing information about YOUR views::-freedom, free, guarantees, liberties, Bill of Rights, First Amendment, Founding Fathers, choice, choose, decide, research findings, separation of church and state, free society, fact, facts, objective.
- Do not interrupt the host nor the guest.
- Do not try to introduce too many topics. Just one is fine. You don't want to sound pushy. You don't want to sound like a nut. If you make one point, fine. In most cases, that is your goal.
- Don't waste time "beating around the bush." People who are not professional communicators might say "Am I on the air? Oh." - Also, do not throw away precious seconds thanking everyone at the station for the opportunity to speak. Instead, get to the substance.
- At the same time, you should know that TV viewers and radio listeners need a few seconds to get used to your voice. In the opening seconds of your speech, listeners will be thinking about your voice, not the substance of what you're saying. The bottom line is simple: Don't present the most vital information during the opening seconds. Nobody will be able to comprehend it. (This phenomenon is true for radio and TV. It is not valid for print media nor Internet content.)
- Never say these words: I, me, my, in my opinion, I feel, it's my opinion that, I guess. State facts and figures firmly and stick to what you know to be true. Sometimes a radio host will try to frame your contribution as if it's your personal opinion. If you fall into that trap, then your credibility will shrink.
Some Local "Pagan Awareness Campaign" Hints
1. DON'T GET BOGGED DOWN IN MEETINGS- Set an agenda and stick to it. Choose spokespeople. Set realistic goals. Give people tasks to do and hold them accountable.
2. SPEAK IN ONE VOICE.-Whatever the message is, everyone should know and adhere to it. Be creative in how you express the message, but stick to the one point that you want to get across.
3. FOUR BASIC QUESTIONS NEED TO BE ANSWERED for message development and delivery.
A. What are you trying to accomplish? 4. What is the best way, given your resources, to get the message to the people you want to reach?
B. Whom do you have to reach to accomplish your goals?
C. What do you have to tell the people you want to reach and so gain their support or acknowledgment?
If you can answer these rather basic questions with good solutions, you win. Ask them again as time goes by to check where you stand.
Whatever message you develop, you'll want to make sure everyone on your side who speaks to the public or the press knows it and can articulate it. And until you get a different answer to the four basic questions, you'll want to hammer that message home, time after time after time. A classic mistake is to get bored with your message. You may have heard it a thousand times. The reporter you're talking to, the group you're speaking in front of, may be hearing it for the first time.
IF YOUR GROUP IS FACING A PUBLIC "FUNDAMENTAL CONFRONTATION":
1. OFFENSE, OFFENSE, OFFENSE. -Never get defensive. Never, for example, get caught up in the arguments or "statistics" over the decline of morality and the removal of prayer in schools or the religious beliefs of the "Founding Fathers". Instead, emphasize religious freedom issues that protect ALL citizens. But never, ever get defensive.
2. TALK ABOUT THEM, NOT US.-If the "problem" is contained in THEIR message, we stand a good chance of winning over some support. If it is about us, we will probably lose. You can't undo in thirty seconds fears that have taken 2000 years to build up.
3. NEVER TALK TO THE OTHER SIDE.-The other side believes that it is right. Period. The Bible tells them so. You cannot change people like this. Don't even try. Avoid one-on-one meetings. They will only frustrate you and ruin your sleep. In forums, where there is an audience open to argument, talk to the audience. Talk ABOUT the other side and their message. But don't talk TO them.
1. PLAN AHEAD: When you have time on your side, you have the chance to educate people on the issue. You can then afford to be proactive. You can promote the visibility of Witches and Pagans. We have no better tool than our own visibility. If we indeed "walk our talk", everything we do will diminish the arguments of the Right about the alleged 'dangers' that we "represent." (It may be useful, for example, to point out that Witchcraft and the "New Age" is just another of the RR's latest organizing tool to instill fear of the "unknown" or "the other" in society.)
2. USE RESOURCES WISELY: There are some basic realities. You probably have a limited amount of time, limited personnel and limited financial resources. You have a limited ability to deliver your message. Your audience has a limited attention span. Time may be limited. Most importantly, on Witchcraft and Pagan issues, you still have a limited pool of favorable public opinion.
3. TAKE AN INCLUSIVE APPROACH: Frame THEIR message as an assault by extremists that pose a threat to everyone. One basic line may be: Religious Discrimination-It's a danger to us all.
Our thanks also go to: Pacy Markman of Zimmerman & Markman Political Consulting, Communications, & Advocacy from whose material this document was developed.
Again, Thank YOU for your help and do know the above guidelines are tried and true, take advantage of this "annual opportunity" to increase awareness about the craft of the wise.
Blessed Be & happy Samhain!
(Chairperson - Witches' Voice)
Location: Tampa, Florida
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