a. Goals of a Media Plan
b. Audience and Message
d. Key Activities
Developing a Media Plan30 30. Anne Seymour and Linda Lowrance, 1990, Media Relations, Washington, DC: National Center for Victims of Crime (formerly known as National Victim Center), (adapted in part with permission).
One of the greatest assets of a victim assistance organization is a media plan. A well-developed plan that is executed and evaluated on a continual basis can have a positive effect on all aspects of an organization, and can positively affect—
- Public knowledge and perception of an organization and its services.
- Outreach to victims and survivors of crime, including those who are traditionally underserved or unserved.
- Public policy initiatives that strengthen victims’ rights and services.
- Volunteer recruitment.
- Special events sponsored by an organization.
- Fundraising efforts.
- The public’s overall understanding of victimization, the impact of crime on victims, victims’ rights, and victim services.
A good media plan requires a strong organization to make it happen. Victim assistance organizations or departments must be clear about who they are and what they seek to do before they can reach out to the public, which requires a strong foundation that clearly articulates a vision, mission, values, goals, and measurable objectives. OVC has published a “Strategic Planning Toolkit” that helps organizations develop guiding statements and promote structure that is based upon measurable successes. The Toolkit can be accessed at https://www.ovcttac.org/views/resources/dspStrategicPlan.cfm.
The overall goals of a media plan guide its implementation. Goals should be clearly written and be measurable to ensure their achievement. They should focus on establishing primary audiences, messages, and the most important media to carry the message to the audiences. Goals should also determine key activities or events that merit public outreach and the resources needed to successfully achieve the plan.
Most media plans are developed on a 1- or 2-year basis, with periodic evaluations and necessary revisions every 6 months.
Victims and survivors of crime are perhaps the most important audience for victim assistance organizations. However, it’s important to recognize that virtually everyone is at risk of being affected by crime, and many people have family members and friends who have been victimized.
Media plans that target “the general public” cannot be truly effective. This is not only too broad, it’s a goal that is usually impossible to fulfill.
Your audience may vary based upon issues and events you are promoting and the messages you seek to send. In developing a media plan, it helps to link target audiences to messages. For example, awareness of—
- Youth victimization, alcohol, and other drug use can target teenagers and young adults.
- Fraud and scams can target elderly people and businesses that fall susceptible to such crimes.
- The psychological impact of crime can target mental health and allied professionals.
- Violence against women can target women of all ages, and engage men as partners in prevention.
Print and broadcast media are usually the prime dissemination vehicles within a media plan. Geographic considerations will also determine the most effective media: is the jurisdiction at the national, state, county, city, or smaller community level? It’s fairly simple to match geographic boundaries with the reach of various media by visiting their Web sites to determine the outreach scope of the publication or station.
The audience and message can help narrow down the field to media that are most effective for public outreach. Many media Web sites offer demographic information about their readers, listeners, and viewers that can help victim advocates focus on target audiences for specific messages. This can also include programming and publications that target—
- Readers and viewers by gender. For example, outreach about violence against women can focus on television and radio programs with primarily female audiences, or feature sections of newspapers that address women’s issues and concerns.
- Readers and viewers by age. For example, many newspapers have sections for young readers that are appropriate for messages about teen violence, and some television programs (especially on cable television) are focused on audiences based upon age.
- Audiences that are distinct by culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and geography. For example, weekly news publications geared toward a specific language or culture, or radio and cable television programs that reach a specific neighborhood.
A media plan must include an annual calendar with key activities weighted in order of their priority for public outreach. Usually, two to four major events a year can help keep an organization in the public eye. These can include—
- The introduction of new programs and services.
- Victims who wish to speak publicly about their experiences and the support they received from your organization.
- Membership drives.
- Information about major crime or victimization research (this can include providing a local angle to national research findings).
- New unique partnerships that promote assistance to underserved victim populations.
- Major fundraising events (and hopefully, reaching development goals).
- The introduction of local public policy or state legislative agendas.
- Special honors a program has received.
- Activities linked to national commemorative observances (see below).
Many public awareness efforts occur in conjunction with key national observances that commemorate different victimization issues:
- National Stalking Awareness Month in January.
- National Crime Victims’ Rights Week in April.
- National Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April.
- National Child Abuse Prevention Month in April.
- National Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.
- National Drunk and Drugged Driving Awareness Month in December.
Public awareness resource guides that contain sample strategies and documents to enhance victim outreach and public awareness are available for many commemorative observances.
A good media plan should also consider promoting awareness linked to seasonal activities in which the community is already engaged. For example:
- August is a good time to promote safety in schools and on college campuses.
- The holidays can focus on the difficulties that victims often endure, especially those who have a family member who was murdered.
- Each new year can promote “new beginnings” related to violence prevention and victim assistance.
- Awareness themes can link to sports seasons (“Tackle Violence Against Women” in the fall, and “Hit a Home Run for Crime Victim Assistance” in the spring and summer).
The media will look to a victim assistance organization as a reliable source not only for news stories but also as a resource for their audiences to tap if victim assistance is ever needed. There are five essential resources needed to effectively implement a media plan. These resources should be relevant to and easily understood by all target audiences identified in the media plan.
- A Web site that contains basic information about its programs and services and provides contact information for more assistance. This can also include e-groups and listservs, bulletin boards, educational Web forums, and interactive surveys in which visitors can register their “vote” on key issues (see “Creating an Internet Strategy”).
- A brochure that describes a program’s mission, goals, programs, and services.
- A regular newsletter—either electronic or paper-based—to keep readers informed of current events and activities sponsored by an organization, as well as trends in crime, victims’ rights, and services.
- Reliable spokespersons who can represent an organization to the community and in media interviews.
- Standardized victim awareness and public outreach presentations that promote an organization’s mission and programs to the community.
Efforts should be made to provide these resources in the various languages spoken by members of a community, and to have representatives who are culturally diverse.
In addition, specific strategies to seek media coverage are included in the “Tools of the Trade” section of this guide.
Media Planning for Crises31 31. Ibid., 23.
Organizations seldom expect a crisis to happen and often fail to plan for one. Even a crisis-free organizational history does not preclude the possibility that something bad can happen.
Crises can involve an entire organization, members of its staff, or even volunteers. When the media get involved, something that appears insignificant can become a full-blown crisis that may affect the very integrity of any organization.
Good recordkeeping is a standard “best practice” for organizations and, in times of crisis, critically important for documentation. In addition to fiduciary and personnel records, it helps to adopt a policy for all staff that encourages—
- Telephone logs that document the key information of phone calls (without violating any client/staff confidentiality).
- Writing all e-mails in a professional manner and refraining from using work e-mail accounts for personal use.
A big part of being prepared for a crisis involves routine procedures:
- Determine a spokesperson for emergency situations.
- Establish a clear “chain of command” in case the spokesperson is unavailable or personally involved with the crisis at hand.
- Prepare materials with background information about the organization:
- Brief biographies of key staff and, for nonprofit organizations, board members.
- A written history of the organization, focusing on its contributions to the community.
- A detailed list of key accomplishments to date.
- A database that documents anything positive that others have said about the organization, including victims and survivors, and civic and legislative leaders.
When dealing with the media in times of crisis, here are some general rules to follow:
- Know all of the facts. Never rely upon hearsay or secondhand information.
- Don’t be evasive. Honesty is the best policy. If you try to hide or minimize relevant facts, it will appear that a cover-up is occurring.
- Thoroughly brief all of the organization’s principals about the situation, its cause(s), and possible outcomes.
- Require that staff and volunteers refrain from speaking to the media or others about the incident at hand. This will prevent discrepancies in public statements.
- If the crisis is of major significance, call a press conference to present your organization’s view of the situation.
- Always present your views in writing to avoid any misinterpretation of your perspectives.
- Avoid being defensive or argumentative, and never say “no comment.”
- Refrain from publicly attacking another individual or organization.
When a crisis occurs, it will seem like the worst possible thing that could happen to an organization. By following these guidelines and approaching the crisis with confidence and honesty, even the most significant hurdles can be overcome.