Tips for Generating Media on Poverty

Ginnie Vogts, RESULTS Board member, regional coordinator, and volunteer (Columbus, OH)
June 11, 2013

This is Ginnie Vogts from the Columbus, Ohio, group. I am also a regional coordinator or RC for RESULTS, supporting a number of groups around the country. As part of that role, I co-lead a team of RCs that are tasked with increasing the number of media hits for RESULTS this year. Our goal is to double the number of media successes this year, which means getting 100 pieces published pieces published concerning U.S. poverty.

This month we are working to generate media about protecting SNAP. I’ve been doing media advocacy for a while now but I still get intimidated by it sometimes and have to remind myself of the basics. When I do that, I realize it’s easier than I thought it was. So let me share with you my tips for getting media published, which I’ve learned from RESULTS and my own personal experience.

  1. Make a plan. One of the biggest obstacles to doing this work is simply making the choice to do it. But if you take a few minutes to plan out what you want to do, it makes it much easier. This means being intentional about it and setting aside time to do it. It also means understanding what your local paper prefers. What’s the word limit for letters or op-eds? Do they prefer you submit them online or via e-mail of fax? You can normally find the answers to these questions on your local paper’s website under the Opinion section.
  2. Have a buddy. Pair up with people in your group or find a friend who will help you. Brainstorm ideas for what you want to write, give each other feedback on what you write, and encourage each other through the process. One of the best inspirations to action is simply knowing you’re not alone in doing it.
  3. Gather and use resources. You can see some talking points about hunger and SNAP in the PowerPoint. These can help educate readers about the importance of protecting SNAP in the Farm Bill. I won’t go through them here but will post them in the call summary and in next Tuesday’s Weekly Update. You can also get resources by reading your local paper for columns, articles, editorials, and letters that you can use to relate to hunger or SNAP. When you reference previous items in the paper, you increase your chances of getting published. Also, remember that RESULTS has a wealth of information on the website. Look at the Issues section, as well as the May and June Actions for great information about SNAP.

    Talking Points about Hunger

    • Malnutrition is responsible for half of all child deaths under 5 worldwide — 3.1 million deaths each year.
    • 1 in 4 children in the U.S. are food insecure.
    • According to the LSU AgCenter:
      • hungry children are more likely to develop frequent illnesses and infections such as sore throats, colds, stomachaches, headaches and iron deficiency anemia.
      • Insufficient food supply is associated with an increased incidence of behavior problems in adolescents, including higher levels of aggression, hyperactivity, and anxiety.
      • Research demonstrates that even the mildest form of malnutrition can limit a child’s ability to understand basic skills and reduce overall learning potential.
      • Elementary school children from food-insufficient families were more likely to have repeated a grade in school.

    Talking Points about SNAP

    • Nearly half of all SNAP recipients are children.
    • SNAP lifted 4.7 million people out of poverty in 2011.
    • Recent study shows that SNAP reduces food insecurity in children by 20 percent and poor health by 35 percent.
    • SNAP is good for the economy — in an economic downturn, SNAP generates $1.73 in economic activity for every $1 spent.
    • SNAP is one of the most effectively run federal programs, with a 96 percent accuracy rate.
    Find SNAP state fact sheets at http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=3886.
  4. Remember EPIC. The RESULTS EPIC Laser Talk is one of the best tools you have for your media work. The format of Engaging the reader, stating the Problem, Informing about the solution, and ending with the Call to Action will help you write a powerful letter or op-ed this month. And don’t forget to list your members of Congress by name when calling on them to act. They’ll see it if you do.
  5. Make it personal. Lead from your heart, not your head. People respond to stories more than facts. So tell yours. Talk about you or someone you know who has struggled with hunger or received SNAP. Talk about any work you’ve done with families in poverty through your job or charitable work. If you’re doing the SNAP Challenge, talk about your experience. People want to know WHY you’re doing this, WHY you care. So tell them.
  6. Don’t give up. If your piece does not get published, be persistent. Call the paper and ask why? If they have feedback for you, use it and try again. Also, send your letter to different papers. If one paper doesn’t want to print it, send it to another one in your city or state. You can find local media outlets in our online Media Guide. And here’s a handy tip for op-eds — if they don’t want to print it, ask if you can shorten it to a letter to the editor. That way, you can get a letter in that paper and then submit your op-ed to a different one.
  7. Celebrate. When you do get published, celebrate it and share. Send it your group members to let them know. Send it to Jos ([email protected]) to put it in our 2013 successes tracking. Share it on Facebook so your friends can celebrate with you (and perhaps take action themselves). And send a copy to your members of Congress. Make sure they know you are paying attention and taking action.

These are just a few things I’ve found helpful and I hope you do too. And remember, the RESULTS Activist Toolkit has a whole section about working with the media. It gives you step-by-step instructions on various ways to get media coverage of our issues. If you would like coaching in you media work this month, please contact me, Ginnie Vogts ([email protected]) or Jos Linn ([email protected]).