How non-profits can get the media interested

Trainer Jeff Lovit introduces the third partner of the Innovative Uzbekistan project, the New Diplomacy non-profit organization (Czech Republic). Jeff has known many participants of the program since the Winter School, which took place in January in Tashkent.

“In January, we learned how to advocate, that is, how to influence decision-making in the country. Working with the media is one of such channels of influence, therefore, my training can be called a continuation of the January block.” For a long time, Jeff worked as a journalist and editor, and then moved into the non-profit sector. Thanks to this unique experience, the trainer was able to tell the participants about how the work is arranged both on the part of a journalist and on the part of NGOs. Also an important part of the training was the integration of international experience into the context of Uzbekistan. The participants were very helpful here.

The summer school was held as part of "Innovative Uzbekistan" project, implemented by ODB Brussels (Belgium) in partnership with Eco Forum of Uzbekistan (Uzbekistan), the New Diplomacy (Czech Republic) with funding from the European Union.

Read more materials from the Summer School:

  1. What are the cross-cutting values of the project and how to put them into practice
  2. Let's chase the dream: a logical-framework approach to writing project proposals

Jeff worked as a journalist and editor in London for 12 years in various media and in several positions, including international correspondent in Central Europe. Later, the trainer continued to work with the media, but already in a large international NGO that deals with the fight against corruption and the study of corruption around the world Transparency International.

Through what contacts can I go to the media

Summarizing his many years of experience with media, Jeff advised the participants to pay attention first of all to the characteristics of the audience. Because each media, as a rule, has its own and well-defined audience. Moreover, each program is designed for a specific audience. Depending on this, NGO representatives prepare and think about what language to speak so that it is understandable.

The easiest way to check whether what you are talking about is understandable to ordinary people is to gather an independent focus group (for example, members of your family) and tell what you plan to say to a journalist. If your story is understandable to the family, then most likely the audience will hear your message.

The next important point is the creation of regular contacts with journalists of specific media. This is one of the main entry points to media. Journalists, as a rule, have their own sources of information, which include regular contacts. Another important contact is the person who invites guests to shows and events. To advance the NGO agenda, it would be very useful to get to know such a person and go on the air.

Do not overlook the technical staff - designers, editors, operators. Because when there is a story and an NGO wants, for example, to publish photos that show the picture best, such connections are very useful. In some cases, you can even get the organization's logo on the images or make sure that the video that will be broadcast on behalf of the organization is of good quality.

A very good contact for an NGO is a foreign correspondent. Firstly, it is access to an international audience, and secondly, they love to meet people, creating a wide base of contacts. Do not forget about the authors of the columns, as well as bloggers. The latter are now strong influencers in many countries. And Uzbekistan, as the participants of the School later said, is no exception.

How to build a communication strategy on your own

Local NGOs very often do not have the opportunity to hire a communications specialist, and it is necessary to work with the media constantly. At the training, we discussed what to do in such a situation. Jeff suggested several solutions. First, you can send employees who promote certain agendas to media training. As a rule, they teach how to write press releases or shoot video releases, present their stories, and work with social networks.

Secondly, volunteers can be involved in this work from among, for example, students. In recent years, there has been a tendency in large international NGOs to create media products themselves and then send them to the media. For example, when Jeff worked at Transparency International, his team created videos on the topic of international corruption and these videos were shown on CNN, the BBC and other major channels that provide airtime for public service announcements from non-profit organizations for free.

What media channels are important to promote in Uzbekistan

Of course, the experience of the European countries where Jeff worked is somehow different from the realities of Uzbekistan. To put into practice all the advice and recommendations received, it was important to make the experience relevant. Participants of the Summer School, who gathered from all over the country, actively helped in this. Anastasia Pavlenko, deputy editor-in-chief of the joint editorial office of the newspapers Zarafshon and Samarkand Vestnik (Samarkand city) noted that, in her opinion, blogs and Internet resources now have real influence in Uzbekistan.

“This also applies to the sphere of influence on a wide audience, and dialogue with the government. Online resources now reach a much wider audience than print media, whose circulation has plummeted in recent years. Separately, it is worth mentioning social networks with their multimedia format for presenting material - it is very difficult for traditional media to keep up with them. I myself work in the print media, but for several years now I have been running a newsgroup on the facebook social network, where there are about 20,000 subscribers, including representatives of local authorities and ministries.”

Many participants supported Anastasia in that the influence of newspapers in Uzbekistan is very weak now. And, if earlier, back in the days of the USSR, each article was discussed at a high level, but now this is not the case. And young people have stopped reading newspapers altogether. The older generation, on the contrary, finds it difficult to adapt to modern information technologies, but if an NGO wants to convey its message to a wide audience and get a response, then it is imperative to go online and actively develop social networks, including telegram channels and YouTube channels.

From the theoretical part of the training in the second half of the day, as well as in the first part of the next working day of the Summer School, they moved on to the practical. The participants split into small teams and developed roadmaps of where and with what stories they can submit to local media in order to convey their message.

We also separately worked on video interviews in practice in order to look at practical examples of the vocabulary and approaches that NGOs use when interacting with the media. “Many of you are very experienced professionals,” says Jeff, “but we have a lot to learn from each other. In order to get our message across to as many people as possible, we need to understand whether we are being understood and what could be improved. It takes practice to easily adapt the same story to different audiences. A good way to achieve this is constant practice and training.”

In conclusion, I would like to draw attention to one more point that the Czech trainer emphasized: if too many questions are asked in an interview, then do not feel obligated to answer everything. Answer the question that best conveys your message.

Text: Valeria Nikolaychik

Photo: Alyona Lis

The content is solely the responsibility of ODB Brussels and does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union. 

This material has been prepared within the framework of the project "Innovative Uzbekistan" implemented by ODB Brussels (Belgium) in partnership with Eco Forum of Uzbekistan (Uzbekistan), the New Diplomacy (Czech Republic) funded by the European Union.

ODB Brussels