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Last updated November 30, 2014

While Online Social Media is recognised as one of the most effective channels to promote your cause, traditional media such as newspapers, radio and television still definitely have their place. If you want to make the most of these channels, it pays to have a policy to make sure everyone understands why and how this media should be used. In writing your media policy, make sure you:

1. Clearly identify the purpose of the policy.
For example: The purpose of this policy is to ensure that all communication with the media is accurate, consistent and meets all legal requirements to our stakeholders. Defining the purpose puts the policy into context and helps staff and volunteers understand its importance.

2. Define the term ‘media’ as it relates to YOUR policy.
This could mean all traditional media such as newspaper, radio or television, but it could also include magazines, community newsletters and digital media such as internet news sites and / or social media pages. While your media policy can cover all of these media avenues, it is useful to have a separate and specific policy for the use of Social Media.

3. State what your organisation hopes to achieve by talking to the media at all.
Is it to raise the profile of your organisation in the community? Is it to provide transparency in your operations? Is it to inform community stakeholders? It could be all of these things or something else altogether. By letting your team know what you hope to achieve, they can draft any comments or responses with a clear direction in mind.

4. Identify who is responsible for media promotion.
While many people may contribute to the media promotion, you need to be clear about who is ultimately responsible  for both planning and implementation. Can media releases be sent as matter of course, or do they need to be authorised by the board, or manager, before sending?

5. Clearly state the procedure for sending images to the media.
This is particularly important if you work with vulnerable clients or service users, but in all cases, it is important to pay attention to people’s privacy and in some cases, safety. If the photograph has been taken in a public place, you are not legally required to get permission to publish, however it is best practice (and good manners) to do so.

6. State who is authorised to respond to the media and in what context.
Some organisations choose to allow just one or two people to speak to the media, where as others allow specific people to speak about specific topics or programmes. Make sure you clearly define any boundaries that exist for individuals.

7. Set clear procedures for responding to the media in relation to controversial issues.
The best way to respond to controversial issues is to be prepared ahead of time. Don’t wait until you are in a time of crisis to prepare your position. Decide how you will deal with controversy before it happens.

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