Media lessons from the federal election

Posted on 11 May 2022

By Brett de Hoedt

Zoe daniels media
Independent "teal" candidate Zoe Daniels pulls a crowd for her campaign launch. Picture: Zoe Daniels/Twitter

All politicians, whatever their stripe, are media tarts. Why? No media = no exposure. No exposure = no relevance. No relevance = no parliamentary dining room privileges.

The same goes for you, dear voter. You need to secure media coverage to shape the agenda, influence perceptions and prove to supporters and strangers alike that you are important.

So what can we learn from the campaign trail and how can we take advantage of election season?

Visuals matter. Many marginal stories get the green light from media based on the promise of strong visuals. Can you locate yourself somewhere appropriate and visually interesting – a childcare centre, outside the emergency room, the building site?

Can you do something interesting? Preferably beyond the cake cutting, cheque presenting and balloon releasing.

Can you surround yourself with the people you are representing – kids, seniors, people with disability? We need more than people in suits.

Can you bring the media opportunity to some sort of climax?

Can you bring together people with different perspectives or positions for media to interview? The expert, the CEO and the case study? And if you are gathering a crowd of supporters be sure that they show up en masse – it’s better to have no supporters than a handful.

The slew of teal independents sure know how to pull a crowd and it’s a good look.

Prison cell

Can a visual help you deliver your message? A chart? A process flow-chart? A model? A three-dimensional structure?

Focus on key electorates

During election campaigns there is a lot of competition for media coverage but the media are particularly focused on anything with a political angle. Journalists will pay closer attention to you if you can give your story a connection to a marginal seat or the seat of a leader. How many bulk billing doctors remain in Scott Morrison’s seat of Cook? How tight is the rental market in the Treasurer’s seat of Kooyong? You get the idea.

The media loves a bit of data to play with.

Data delivers

The media love a bit of data. Polls of voting intentions reign supreme at election time but you probably have access to a set of numbers that will capture the cold heart of a journalist. It needn’t be a peer-reviewed study – just a survey, a trend, a customer satisfaction survey may suffice.

Survey 100 NDIS clients about whether the much heralded program has delivered what was promised. Compare waiting times for access to your service now to four years ago. Ask the members of your professional association if they are planning to retire soon or if their experience in your sector will influence their voting intentions.

That’s data. You now have the heart of a story.

Studies are very similar – they crystallise a situation and show you to be an authority. Studies also justify bringing a new(ish) issue to the media’s attention, such as the plight of female AFL umpires.

Climate change
Climate action protestors took over the streets to make their point.

Hail Marys and Moonshots

Takeovers of large companies by investor activists, demanding of high profile resignations, High Court challenges, strikes and boycotts rarely lead to the desired result but they do generate headlines which draw attention to your issue. This is a win in itself.

What’s something audacious you could aim for? It has to be bold, cause discomfort and be something you’re willing to fight for – even if you are likely to lose.

Video camera
Make it easier for the media, and they'll make it easier for you.

Facilitate the media

Despite the default media interest in their campaigns, political parties go to great trouble to enable media to cover them. Hell – they charter planes, trains and automobiles. This may be surplus to your requirements but you too need to make it easy for media. Pick a central location for your media events, choose a mid-morning timeslot giving them time to file their stories, and give them plenty of notice. Note – at other times timing your event to enable a live cross may prove beneficial.

In short, there’s plenty of media coverage to be had no matter what your cause or circumstance. It’s low cost, high impact. It just takes a little confidence, a willingness to risk rejection and a media-savvy mindset.

More information

Seeking more media wisdom? Replay Brett’s lively and practical How To Get Media Coverage webinar (first shown in May, 2022).

Social marketer Brett de Hoedt challenges NFPs to ‘Ask me anything’

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