L05: Communication Strategies: Building
Support for Community Initiatives
National League of Cities
Building Support for
Trainer(s): Michele Anapol
National Housing Conference and
Center for Housing Policy
1801 K Street, NW, Suite M-100
Washington, DC 20006-
New Media Associate
National Housing Conference and
Center for Housing Policy
1801 K Street, NW, Suite M-100
Washington, DC 20006-
National League of Cities Leadership Training Institute
sponsored seminar held March 13, 2010
in conjunction with the Congressional City Conference, Washington, DC
Building Support for Community Initiatives:
Implementing and Integrating Traditional and Web 2.0 Communications Strategies
Michele Anapol, National Housing Conference and Center for Housing Policy
Beth Lacey Gill, Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.
Laura Woods, National Housing Conference and Center for Housing Policy
**Please raise your hand and ask questions at any time during this workshop!
Welcome and Introduction 9 a.m.
In this workshop, we’ll use traditional and Web 2.0 communications tools to address a real-world
challenge that many state and local officials face when it comes to the development of affordable housing:
the “Not in My Back Yard” sentiment, also known as “NIMBYism.”
Part I: Getting the Message Right 9:05 a.m.
• Identify your issue
• Determine your goal
• Identify your audience
• Create a honed message
Part II: Traditional Media Hands-On Activity – Develop a “Hook” 9:15 a.m.
Part III: Building Your Networks and Using the Tools to Further Your Message
• Track 1: Traditional Media
o Develop a targeted media list
o Overview of traditional media tools
o Media release
o Fact Sheet
o Opinion Editorial
• Track 2: Web 2.0 Media
o Overview of Web 2.0 tools
o Other Tools
o Identify online audiences
Part IV: Integrating Traditional and Web 2.0 Communications Tools 10:30 a.m.
• First steps: Responding to the issue at hand with traditional media tools
o Traditional outreach includes:
Distributing the release and your key information to the media, decision-makers and
members of the public
Using physical events as an opportunity to further educate the community
• Expanding your reach with Web 2.0 tools
o Blogs: Enable you to synthesize media releases, Op Eds and letters-to-the-editor
o Facebook: Serves as a one-stop-shop for posting relevant content
o Twitter: Ability to share a variety of information with interested publics
o YouTube: Allows you to share news clips featuring your organization and also upload your
o LinkedIn: Allows you to broadcast information to your professional networks
o Other Tools: Expand your reach using social bookmarking sites, presentation sharing sites,
Google products, etc.
Part V: Hands-On Activity – Adapting Your Traditional Media Messages for Online
Audiences – Creating a “Tweet” for Twitter 10:50 a.m.
Part VI: A Closer Look – How to Implement Web 2.0 Media Strategies
Learn first-hand how to apply the lessons learned in this presentation to the Web by posting content to
different new and social media outlets. 11:10 a.m.
• Blog post
• Facebook post
• Twitter “Tweet”
Part VII: Outcomes of an Integrated Communications Strategy 11:45 a.m.
• A balanced communications plan
• Expanded influence across many mediums
• Measurability of both traditional and new media efforts
o Web 2.0
Blog placements, but also scope of influence on the Web
Built-in and third party application tracking tools for social media sites
Conclusion 12:00 p.m.
Don’t forget to visit our wiki after the conference to learn more about the information referenced in this
Traditional Media “Takeaways” and Additional Information
Building Support for Community Initiatives: Implementing and Integrating
Traditional and Web 2.0 Communications Strategies
Saturday, March 13, 2010, 9 a.m to 12 p.m.
Keys to Media Relations Success
Know the News Media
Communicating with the media starts with knowing how their operation works, what they need and
how they need it. You must know what they are looking for and structure your information to fit
They need to know who, what, when, where and why. Also, the best outreach focuses on stating a
broad point and then backing it up. And remember “quotability!”
Know the Partnership and Your Role:
You and reporters have the same goal: accurate, timely communication of information.
Misunderstandings occur because of a lack of understanding of how the media works and of
what a reporter needs. Unfortunately, faults charged to the media are often a reflection of an
industry or person who made the job tougher or did little to help the reporter “get the facts.”
The news media is comprised of individuals who have a job or assignment to do. They have
individual biases, as well all do, but the vast majority are reasonable and receptive.
The good reporter is the one who asks questions. You will find working with the news media
much easier if you understand that asking the tough question is part of their job.
Reporters seldom have the time to research a subject as much as you or they would like.
Instead, they depend on you to work with them in getting the full picture.
Many reporters are skeptical, by training if not by nature, so accept it. Your part of the
equation is to supply useful, accurate and meaningful data without losing sight of your point
The success of your approach depends largely upon your ability to understand the
relationship between you and the reporter and your knowledge of your role.
Meet with reporters and editors one-on-one, prior to when you need coverage (an editorial
backgrounder) and keep the presentation as short as possible. You lose effectiveness if you
talk too long and may miss an opportunity to learn what they want to know from their
questions. Your purpose is to establish a dialogue, rather than a speech. Listen to them. Try
to elicit the tough questions while you are there to answer.
Know What is News:
Not everything is going to be news. One of the keys to success is to be able to judge that. One firm,
Cohn & Wolfe, developed a model that helps them look at the news value of each story opportunity
from a reporter’s point of view and judge whether it’s a:
A I’ve seen it before
A tell me more, or
A really story news story or “hook”
That’s important because in the first instance, you’re going to have to find a special niche for the
story and in essence create the news yourself. If there’s some meat to the story (human interest,
here’s where some of your opportunities land) but it’s not new, you have to do something that’s going
to show what’s different about your news. If you’ve got a tell-me-more story, you have to pique their
curiosity and build excitement. And, finally, if you’ve got real hard NEWS, you have to move
strategically to control the news for your benefit, focus it so it tells your story, and sustain interest.
Differs from one audience to the next. For example, a new factory opening means:
• More jobs for the residents of the community.
• Balance sheet implications for investors.
• Shorter delivery times for customers.
The news item from the communications professional perspective:
• Must interest and motivate the journalist that would use it.
• Must inform the reader, listener or viewer.
• From our point of view, must be used as a vehicle for conveying the planned media
message(s) agreed on.
The communications professional’s job is to identify angles that will do the job. The most obvious,
and in fact the most self-serving angle, may not. And what may be news to one reporter is not to
another and vice versa.
So we go back to knowing the reporter and his or her job and publication again:
Read and watch: Stay alert to:
Bylines: Who is writing what kinds of stories and the angles they typically take.
Who is quoted and who is not.
How a story is covered: For example, what was left out and why do you think it was left out?
Overall tone of a publication or other news source, compared to its competitors.
Where a publication is going over time: Does it give less space to a beat than previously?
What topics are getting more attention and why?
Some Do’s and Don’ts in Dealing With the Media:
Have research to back up what you’re saying.
If you don’t know something, say so. Promise to get back quickly with the correct information
– and do it.
Never play reporters off against each other or threaten to go to another reporter with a story.
Reporters are people too, so little things are important, like:
• A personal note on a fine story a reporter has written.
• A tip on a matter unrelated to what you are doing.
• A personal invitation to a social event.
Be aware of how the same reporters can “pop up” covering different beats within one, or
different media organizations.
Never lie or attempt to answer a question you don’t really know the answer to. Again, if you
don’t know something, say so, and get back to the reporter with the correct information.
For TV and online media:
Think visually: Use exhibits, signage and demonstrations at news conferences and special
Make it easy for television and online media to get visuals.
Make available a summary video of the key message in a short spoken statement by a
credible spokesperson (this applies to uploading video on social media Web sites like
Facebook and YouTube, too).
Television and Radio Interviews:
Understanding Your Role
Broadcast (television and radio) is a headline service. Make your point and stop. TV news is
to journalism what bumper stickers are to philosophy.
Broadcast needs “talking heads.” It needs a spokesperson, a voice, a face.
Working with Television
The News Division:
The news director and producer determine what is to be covered, in coordination with the
The assignment editor is the primary contact for news; the producer is the primary contact
for feature shows.
There is a weekend staff, as well as an after 7 p.m. staff, with the weekend and evening shift
making assignments and news decisions for their segments.
News reporters are looking for the action/conflict in the story. The evening news is drama –
visual and moving.
TV news looks also for the local angle to the national story of the day.
Primarily, TV wants it in 30 second segments, no time to “background” the reporter.
News reporters have a maximum of three hours to spend on the average story, most of the
time far less, including the filming of the story. This produces only a couple of minutes on
air, and boils down to around 30 seconds for your message.
News interviews or segments are short, to the point, concise.
“Cutaway” or “Reverse Shots” can be expected, where the spokesperson is asked to remain on
camera while other angles are shot for later insertion in the interview, showing your reporter
listening, nodding, etc.
The Interview/Talk Show:
The “host,” who frequently is not the person who produces the show or schedules the guests,
has an image or personality as either a nice person or controversial one. There will usually
be a representative from the opposition; sometimes you are event asked to suggest a
representative from the other side.
Topics need to be broad enough to fill 15 minutes.
The Panel/Call-in Shows:
More in-depth coverage of issues.
Usually no longer than 30 minutes and frequently include a representative from the
Sometimes segments are excerpted from these shows for use on news segments.
Frequently interrupted by commercial breaks.
Most often, these shows are taped on weekdays and shown on weekends or mornings.
Some shows with audiences are live and some accept call-in questions from viewers.
The person contacted to make the arrangements for the show, usually the producer, initially
receives the information and forwards on to the show host what he or she thinks is necessary
for the interview.
The personality and preparation of the host/interviewer varies widely, as does the extent to
which one can promote a cause or position.
The Remote Interview:
The host is in one studio and the guest is in another, which can be distracting.
Must look at the active camera (the one with the red light on) directly and imagine that the
lens is the person seeing you, to simulate a feeling of “someone out there.”
Tips for the spokesperson: Don’t feel glued to same position; gesture or move just as you
would if someone were there. Reinforce your remarks with gestures, facial expressions, and
the pacing of your response.
If the earpiece goes off and you can’t hear the questions, don’t show your irritation or
confusion. One way is to think about how upset the interviewer is at the distraction, feel
sympathy for him or her and in fact, focus on making them feel at ease about the problem.
Preparing for a TV Appearance
(Partially Applicable to Radio Interviews)
The key to a successful TV appearance is confidence. Anticipate as many questions as possible
and be prepared to make sure you have your say.
“Bridging:” A negative question – answer it fast, if it’s answerable at all, and move on to
something positive that makes a point you want to make. (See further details in the “Bridging
Techniques” section of this document.)
Set objectives; Prepare “mini-speeches” you can bridge into.
Don’t rehearse remarks until they sound canned.
If you decide to use visuals, check with the producer and director in advance on size and
appropriate color or tonal contrast.
Analyze the potential audience. Consider the type of situation, time of day, nature of the
community and possible audience attitudes toward the subject. Plan comments to appeal to this
Analyze your data. Don’t speak in generalities. Determine ahead of time specific examples you can
use to illustrate major points. If you have the statistics, have them available, IF you can make
them meaningful to the average person.
If possible, determine in advance how much ground the subject area will cover and which topics
will be presented. Is the interviewer interested in a representative opinion from the “industry” or
your company’s specific policies? Are your personal views of chief interest?
Allow time for equipment setup. This will take a minimum of ten minutes.
Use this time to get to know the reporter or get your point across and indicate the focus you want
to establish. The reporter will be grateful because a line of questioning may not have been
prepared and he or she may not know much about you or your topic.
Often the reporter will be interested in talking to you privately to narrow the area of questioning
down, generally in the interest of saving time and film. This can usually be done while the crew
sets the camera up. Take the reporter into another room but remember not to say anything that
you wouldn’t want repeated on the air. And even though the reporter outlines the interview for
you, don’t be surprised if he or she brings something else up in the course of actual questioning.
When everything is ready, let them tell you (or the designated interviewee) where to sit. Let the
technicians attach the microphone on you if they are using lavalieres (a small microphone pinned
to the shirt of the interviewee). Try to forget it’s there until everything is done, and then let a
technician take it off for you.
The interviewer may ask for a “voice level” at the very beginning of the interview. This means they
want to preset the volume on your microphone. Simply talk in a natural voice until you’re told to
stop. Do not mumble three or four works and then ask, “Is that enough?”
At the end of a filmed interview in your office, the reporter may want to film “cut-aways” also
known as “B-Roll.” These are short segments of film that can later be inserted between your
responses. This allows the station to rearrange the whole interview to fit any time slot. So the
reporter will probably ask the questions all over again, this time with the camera trained on him
Stick around just long enough to satisfy yourself that substantially the same questions are being
asked. Then feel free to excuse yourself. They would probably rather pack up their equipment in
A news crew can be one or two people, with very portable equipment, including lights. They will
light up your office or other location quickly and easily with a few portable lights. Normally two
lights are used. Since TV lights are very bright, you should ask that they be turned on a few
minutes before the interview begins so your eyes can get used to them. You may have trouble
seeing at first. It’s a bit like coming out of a dark theater into bright sunlight, but after a few
minutes your eyes will get used to the light. If the light is shining directly on your face and it still
bothers you, ask the technician to change the angle of the light a bit.
10 Key Media Interview Tips
1. Establish ground rules. Don’t hesitate to speak to the reporter ahead of time about
the duration of the interview and the topics you will or will not address.
2. Identify yourself. Give your full title and provide biographical information when
3. Stick to the point. During the interview stay focused, use short and concise sentences,
and use everyday language. Formulate each response to make your point upfront,
followed by supporting and explanations.
4. Be clear. Avoid acronyms and jargon. Imagine that you are speaking to a neighbor or
relative who is not close to the issue.
5. Avoid saying anything “off the record.” It is better not to tell a reporter anything
you do not want to see in print or on television. Remember, off-the-record isn’t
retroactive. You can’t tell a reporter something and then take it back.
6. Use humor carefully. A facetious remark often seems sarcastic on the air or printed
7. Maximize non-verbal communications. What you wear, your body language, and
your gesticulations should support your message and build your credibility as an expert.
8. Take control. Always remember, you don’t have to answer the questions they ask!
Understand and utilize bridging phrases to transition from the question that was asked to
the message point you want to make (see more detail on bridging in the last section of
9. Offer to check the facts. Always offer to review factual information and quotes for
accuracy. If the reporter declines to let you review copy for a printed article and you are
concerned about being misquoted, ask the reporter what he or she intends to quote from
10. Provide informational materials. Never send a reporter away empty-handed.
Provide news releases, journal articles, a biographical sketch, or a summary of your main
Confirm placement date. Ask a reporter when the story will air or be published.
Recognize a job well done. If the story is good, write a note to that effect to the reporter.
This can help build a positive relationship.
Address mistakes. If the reporter gets it wrong, you can consider calling the reporter to
correct a misunderstanding or mistake.
“Bridging” Techniques for Media Interviews
A variety of “bridging” techniques can be helpful in media interviews when you are asked difficult
questions or questions that are not related to your key message points or the topic you would like to
Bridging techniques, or more specifically, phrases, can also be used to reframe or redefine
controversial issues so you are not just responding to an opponent’s arguments, but are effectively
recasting how the issue is viewed and discussed by the media, your target audiences, and ultimately,
(if applicable) your opponents:
Examples of phrases that can be used as a “bridge” in interviews:
I can speak to…
My particular expertise is in…
Let me put that in context…
You make a good point, however…
Let me get back to you in…
I can’t respond to a hypothetical, but what I can tell you is that…
I appreciate that perspective, but my experience has been…
Our research and analysis show…
The real danger lies with…
What is not being talked about is…
What is important to understand is…
Let’s put the issue in a broader context…
There may be consequences that need further examination. For instance…
Housing Rift Built on Fear
April 19, 2006
By Deborah Horan
Summary of article:
Project Description: $10 Million Darrow Street Affordable Rental Housing Project
Developer: Housing Opportunity Development Corp.
Location: Evanston, IL (Population 70,000)
Residents of an Evanston neighborhood that once struggled with crime and concentrated poverty have
recently seen signs of a positive transformation through their own vigilance and that of policy. They are
concerned about plans for a new $10 million project to build 27 rent-to-own apartments on the corner of
Darrow Avenue and Church Street. They would prefer to see owner-occupied condos built because they
believe renters will not have a stake in the community.
Experts say that residents’ fears are unfounded because the housing is for teachers, secretaries, police
officers, bus drivers – anyone who has a household income between $20,000 and $50,000 annually who
would otherwise be forced out of the city due to soaring housing prices.
Sgt. Thomas Guenther with the Evanston police department is quoted in the article saying that rental
property does not necessarily lead to a higher crime rate. William Apgar, a senior scholar with Harvard’s
Joint Center for Housing Studies, is also quoted saying that studies have found that projects like this one
could actually help an area grow. He notes that building quality affordable housing can actually improve
the neighborhood through more people and more money spent at places like the local grocery store.
Todd Smith, a neighbor and landlord who opposes the project, says he thinks a mix of apartments and
owner-occupied condos would be best because he believes owners tend to put more into the community.
Under the current project, a renter would not be able to buy the apartment for 15 years and residents
complain that’s too far in the future. According to the article, the problem with building condos is financing
because the developer, the Housing Opportunity Development Corp., is relying on federal tax credits to
finance 60 percent of the project.
The Evanston City Council’s own Plan Commission recently voted against the new project, but the council
decided to ignore the commission’s recommendation and created a subcommittee to try and make it work.
The subcommittee recently met to discuss financing, building management and the possibility of building a
library on the first floor.
Key Communications Goal:
The goal of our communications outreach is to help ensure the development of the Darrow Street Project
by securing the critical support necessary from decision-makers, media and residents based on the need to
provide affordable housing for key community workers such as policy officers, firefighters and nurses. In
addition, our message must emphasize the importance of the project to the neighborhood’s future by
touching on the overall economic opportunities – such as drawing new residents and businesses to the
On Saturday nights, Vince Walker would sit on the front porch of his two-flat in west Evanston keeping an
eye on the neighborhood. Sometimes his tenants would sit with him, shooting the breeze until well past
It was Walker's way of keeping drug dealers from loitering on the corner of Lyons Street and Darrow
Avenue, he said. The tactic seemed to work, and with the vigilance of other renters and police, Walker said,
a run-down slice of Evanston slowly transformed into a more pleasant place to be.
"Me being there has stopped them from being on that corner, yes," said Walker, who said he grew up in
Chicago's Cabrini-Green public housing development.
But as Walker sees it, a new $10 million project to build 27 rent-to-own apartments on a corner of Darrow
Avenue and Church Street threatens to undermine his efforts by attracting renters who may not have a
stake in the neighborhood. Other landlords and neighbors would rather see owner-occupied condos on the
lot, they said.
Developers and city aldermen said residents' fears are unfounded. The housing is for teachers, secretaries,
police officers, bus drivers--anyone whose household income falls between $20,000 and $50,000 annually
who might otherwise be forced out of Evanston by soaring home prices and rents.
And they balk at the suggestion that poverty, or low wages, equals crime.
"I get very insulted by that notion," said Ald. Delores Holmes. "Just because someone is poor doesn't mean
they're a criminal."
Affordable housing has been loosely defined as anything costing $185,000 or less for a family of four,
Evanston officials said.
In the works for more than three years, the Darrow Street project has provoked an endless stream of
controversy in Evanston. Aldermen, developers and many residents all agree on the idea of affordable
housing. But they disagree on how to build it without creating a concentration of poverty that some
residents fear could drag down a struggling neighborhood.
It's a perennial question facing cities across the United States, including Chicago, which also has grappled
with where to place affordable housing. The answer often has been to build in economically marginal areas
rather than middle-class communities, experts say.
In Evanston, a city of 70,000, the scale of such projects is smaller, but the dilemma is the same.
Of five affordable-housing projects in the city that are owned by Housing Opportunity Development Corp.,
a non-profit organization that is developing the Church and Darrow site, at least two are in neighborhoods
where Evanston police say they often allocate extra patrols.
The Darrow Street area is not high on the police radar, said police Sgt. Thomas Guenther, who played down
a connection between rental property and crime.
"We've got rental property all over the city. It doesn't necessarily lead to a high rate of crime," he said.
Analysts who specialize in subsidized-housing issues challenge the assumption that low-rent property
necessarily creates problems in a neighborhood.
William Apgar, a senior scholar with the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, said
studies on the subject suggest such housing could help an area grow.
"Most of the studies suggest that in an area that's marginal ... that building quality affordable housing will
lead to upgrading of the neighborhood, bring more people into the neighborhood, more money spent in the
grocery store," Apgar said.
Still, the Evanston City Council's own Plan Commission voted against the project, citing concerns about
creating a concentration of poverty and fear that the timing and location of the project could undermine a
neighborhood rejuvenation plan, said commission Chairman Al Hunter.
This month, the City Council voted to ignore the commission's recommendation and create a subcommittee
charged with finding a way to make the project work.
On Monday night, the subcommittee met to discuss details such as financing, building management and
the possibility of building a library on the first floor.
Those opposed to the project said those details, particularly proper building management, might help
ensure that the project runs smoothly. But they would still like to see some kind of financing that would
allow tenants to buy the units sooner rather than later.
Todd Smith, a neighbor and landlord who opposes the project, said he thought a mix of apartments and
owner-occupied condos would be best.
"People tend to put more into the community if they own," he said.
The problem with building condos is financing, the developers say.
To make the units affordable--between $500 and $900 to rent one- to three-bedroom apartments--the
developers are relying on federal tax credits to finance roughly 60 percent of the project.
Under the plan, a renter would not be able to buy the apartment for 15 years.
Residents complain that 15 years is too far in the future. But other financing plans that could include a
shorter rental period have proved too expensive for potential tenants, said Richard Koenig, executive
director of Housing Opportunity Development.
"We're trying to serve people who make below $40,000," Koenig said.
Traditional Media – Key Communications Messages
Building Support for Community Initiatives: Implementing and Integrating
Traditional and Web 2.0 Communications Strategies
Task: Develop your top communications messages for media outreach on behalf of the Housing
Opportunity Development Corporation. Please note that these messages will also be adapted for
use on new and social media Web sites, including posts on blogs, Facebook and Twitter.
Goal: The goal of our communications outreach is to help ensure the development of the
Darrow Street Project by securing the critical support necessary from decision-makers, media
and residents based on the need to provide affordable housing for key community workers such
as policy officers, firefighters and nurses. In addition, our message must emphasize the
importance of the project to the neighborhood’s future by touching on the overall economic
opportunities – such as drawing new residents and businesses to the community.
Develop the Headline (or Top-Tier) Message for Your Media Release:
Develop the Subhead (or Second-Tier) Message for Your Media Release: