Welcome to ASAAA's
Legislator Education and Awareness Program

Easy to Use Guide to Help Your Association / Company
Communicate Industry Messages to State Legislatures Nationwide

Working with the Media


Guide to Working with the Media


Below are descriptions and tips for using the most common media relations tools.  Over time a combination of these tools is the basis of a good media relations campaign.  Use these available channels of communication to get your message out to lawmakers and the community.  Always look for fresh “hooks” to increase media exposure.   Always make sure to include a contact name, phone number and email address on all media documents so interested reporters can get in contact with you. 


All materials being sent to the media should be on letterhead .



News Release


A news release is a news story, written in third person, that seeks to demonstrate to an editor or reporter the newsworthiness of a particular person, event, service or product. 

Important Tips: 


  • Be sure to organize your news release in order of importance – with the most pertinent information for the public to know positioned at the top and supporting information toward the bottom.
  • All key information should be in the first two paragraphs. 
  • Include quotes from local authorities or well known community leaders to support your story. 

  •  When possible use digital pictures to complement a news release and provide interest in the subject.


  • News releases are often sent alone, by e-mail, fax or snail mail. They can also be part of a full press kit, or may be accompanied by a pitch letter. All releases attached to emails need a few sentences in the body of the email and a subject line both of which should tell the reporter why they want to read your release.


  • Contact the publication or station and ask for the name of the News Assignment Editor who should always receive the release.  Some stations may choose not to give you a name and instruct you to send information directly to the news desk. 


  • Stay away from hype-bloated phrases like "breakthrough", "unique", "state-of-the art", etc.


  • Always write it from a journalist's perspective. Never use "I" or "we" unless it's in a quote.


  • Shorter is better. Limit your release to one page – no longer than two.   


Opinion Editorial


An opinion editorial or op-ed, is a newspaper article that expresses the opinions of a named writer who is usually unaffiliated with the newspaper's editorial board.   Commentaries submitted to newspapers addressing news events or subjects of public concern. Op-Ed articles are typically run on the newspaper page opposite the editorial page. They are written by people who are perceived as having expertise or special insight on the subject being addressed.


Important Tips

  • Op-Eds should be written in a news article format, but in an opinionated fashion, outlining your organization’s persuasive points and solutions to issues and citing necessary statistics and facts as back up to your opinions and/or arguments.


  • Op-Eds should be typed and signed and submitted to the Editorial Page Editor of a newspaper .


  • Maximum length is generally 450 – 600 words (check with each publication to confirm length and submission requirements).  


Letter to the Editor


A Letter to the Editor is a letter written for and sent to a newspaper or magazine about issues of concern to readers to present an organization's position, make a correction or respond to another story or letter.


Important Tips


  • Letters to the Editor should be submitted within a few days of the event or activity to which you are responding.  Timeliness is key in whether or not your letter will be printed. 


  • Letters should be well-written, succinct and to the point.


  • Generally, 75 – 100 words is the maximum length recommended


  • Find what is the preferred format (fax, email, etc.) for submitting letters to the editor for each publication to ensure your letter will receive the best chance of running. 


  • Letters should be typed, signed and include a contact name and phone number. 



Public Service Announcement


A public service announcement (PSA) or public service ad is a type of advertisement usually featured on television, radio, or cable. Whereas the objective of a standard advertisement is to market a product, a PSA is intended to benefit the public interest by raising awareness of an issue affecting public attitudes or health and safety, and potentially stimulating action. 

Important Tips

  • PSA’s are generally, 15, 20, 30 or 60 seconds in length and run on the radio free of charge. 


  • To inquire about placing a PSA, call the station’s public affairs director and ask about their PSA policy.  Stations have different requirements. 


Tips on Talking with the Media


Your attitude with a reporter often can be as important as what you say. The more you know about his/her job, the more comfortable you will feel with what is happening. The more you understand your position in an interview, the more you will feel in control. The more second nature the mechanics of an interview situation become, the more you can concentrate on getting your point across.


Following are some general points to remember when dealing with the news media.


  • The news media is not the enemy.

  • Reporters will ask tough questions — it’s their job. It’s easy to begin feeling defensive. Don’t be.


  • This is your chance to be heard.

  • Thank the reporter for making the effort to get your side of the issue. Be friendly, helpful and sensitive to the time constraints and deadlines some reporters will be under. If there is time, sit down with a broadcast reporter to provide background information 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.”

  • Consider everything you say to be eligible for the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper. Do not make cracks about opponents or even self-deprecating remarks about your company or organization. Even a well-meaning reporter could misinterpret you; a mean-spirited reporter could make you look horrible.


  • Nice people ask tough questions.

  • Do not be surprised if a reporter’s demeanor changes drastically once discussion turns to the subject at hand. Radio and television reporters may want to use their question as part of the story and so they want it to sound confrontational and cynical. Concentrate on the question and your answer and remain measured and calm in your response.


  • You are in control.

  • This is the most important point to remember. If you don’t say something, it can’t be used. If you are asked a question about something irrelevant to the issue, answer politely that that was not what you understood the interview was about and indicate 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. You have agreed to be interviewed on a certain subject. If you refuse to answer questions, you will appear to be stonewalling.

  •  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 your points. Make sure a reporter knows how to get in touch with you after the interview in case he/she needs more information or a response to a new development.


Tips for Preparing an Association Member/Company Executive for a Media Interview 


  • Understand the publication – including what topics are covered and the target audience.


  • Understand the journalist – including type of articles written, has he/she written about your company, industry or topic before?


  • Develop three key message points about the interview topic and don’t deviate from them – even if the reporter tries to get you off-topic.


  • Integrate industry terminology - project positive image about your association/company.  


  • Never repeat a negative – always respond with a positive statement.


  • Use Blocking & Bridging Techniques - If the conversation is taking you in the wrong direction, use phrases like the following to get back on track:
    • I think what you’re really asking is…..
    • That speaks to a much larger issue…


  • Be Honest – Don’t make anything up.  If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so and promise to get back with an answer if the question is relevant to the interview subject.


  • Take time to prepare for your interview before phoning or meeting with the reporter.


  • Remember you know more about the topic than the person interviewing you – you are the expert, provide reliable, concrete, expert information.


  • It’s ok to ask for a copy of the article or any quotes prior to the article being published.


  • Don’t respond with supposition or what you believe someone else thinks. Use your own experience and expertise to respond.





Click here for a list of industry trade press Contacts 





1.       News Release Sample


2.       Opinion Editorial Sample #1


3.       Opinion Editorial  Sample #2


4.       Letter to the Editor Sample #1


5.       Letter to the Editor Sample #2


6.       Radio Public Service Announcement













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State Legislatures Nationwide
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