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Contacting the media

If there’s an issue with your housing and you’re not having success getting it fixed, press coverage can sometimes help.

Your local newspapers, radio, TV stations or online news providers are always on the look out for stories.

But not every story will interest them. They are likely to cover your issue if one of these applies:

  • People are being unfairly treated
  • The problem is one that other people are also likely to be experiencing in your area
  • There’s a good ‘human interest’ angle
  • There’s something visual that will make a good photograph
  • There is a controversial or emotive element to the story
  • There’s a ‘hook’ such as a march or sit-in that they can cover
  • You can provide interviews with people being affected by the issue
  • You can provide anything else that will help with the story, like statistics or quotes.

Some examples of good stories

  • ‘I can’t leave my flat because landlord won’t mend lifts’ says wheelchair user
  • ‘Cracks as wide as my hand’: resident can reach through into next flat
  • Tower block tenants call for fire safety action with march through city centre
  • 75% of local residents are living with mould or damp
  • The law doesn’t protect us from unscrupulous landlords, says tenant whose rent rose 300%

Large or small

If your issue is not as big as these, you could start small with a letter to the local newspaper, or an article on a local blog.

Sometimes, other press will pick up on the story if they think it is of wider interest, so it doesn’t hurt to start small.

However, if your issue is bigger, more urgent, or likely to affect a wider audience, you could try contacting a journalist directly to see what they think.

  • Start by finding which journalists have covered similar stories – you can search your local paper’s website, or look at Google News. Examine how they’ve framed previous articles.
  • Many journalists are on Twitter, where you can either find their contact details or send them a direct message.
  • Otherwise, look at the newspaper’s Contact page to find the right email address.
  • You don’t need a big press release for a simple story: best to just email two or three lines to describe the issue and ask if they would be interested in covering it.

Using a ‘hook’

You could consider holding a public meeting, a march or a protest to publicise your issue.

Plan ahead: make the event visually interesting with signs or banners; and consider having chants or songs that would give a flavour of the protest on TV or radio.

Invite the press in plenty of time so they can make sure they’re available.

You could also invite people such as your local MP or councillor, or people who are well known locally and are likely to support your cause. Ask them to say a few words.

Making your demands clear

Press coverage is good, but it’s even better if you can make sure it includes a ‘call for action’. Decide what you want to happen; a change in the law, or action from your landlord?

Once you have decided, make sure you state it clearly (perhaps more than once) during any interviews.

Things to consider

  • Do your homework on journalists – who is writing what and how? Humanising of the story can change the coverage.
  • Know your boundaries – a journalist will want to go and get all the information and share it. Think about who in your group feels comfortable to share their stories.
  • Think about why you are sharing your story – what are you trying to change?
  • Be clear about the terms of any interview – what is the journalist’s angle? Ask them what they are looking for. You need to be able to trust the journalist and have an element of control over the story and how it’s shared.
  • Be specific about your demands. What is your one main request?
  • Keep human characters at the forefront. People relate well to personal stories.
  • Continue building momentum and think about how you can demonstrate and cultivate community support. Could you start a petition to draw wider attention to the problem? Or encourage people to share the story on social media?
  • Pick your moment. Is today the right day to share your story? Or would it gain more attention being linked in with any upcoming themes, events or significant dates?

Pitching to journalists

  • Think about where your story would fit. Is it a news story, or a longer feature piece?
  • 10am or earlier is a good time to contact journalists. After this time they will be trying to get stories out.
  • Make it personal
  • Keep it simple: what? where? when? who?
  • Be kind. Begin building a good relationship with the journalist.
  • Let the journalist know you’re coming to them with the story first. Ask if they can get back to you by a certain time.
  • If unsuccessful, try and try again.

Links to read

Related guides

A letter box. Image by Dele Oke A letter box. Image by Dele Oke

Tools you can use

Contacting your local councillor or MP

Your elected representatives, like MPs and Councillors, can help you with your housing issues. Here’s information on how to get in touch.
Two women discussing over a laptoip. Image by WOCintechchat Two women discussing over a laptoip. Image by WOCintechchat

Tools you can use

Starting or joining a Residents’ Association or an Action Group

Joining together with other residents in your block or community can make you much more powerful.

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