Securing Program Spokespeople
Spokespeople are a great resource when you are planning to work with the media. By already having several program spokespeople lined up, you are helping the media out by arranging interviews for their story. At the same time, you should work to ensure these individuals offer a consistent, positive message about your Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program. Spokespeople can also find other ways to promote the program, such as writing letters to the editor or submitting op-ed pieces to the local newspaper.
Preparation is Key
When planning an event or story idea, think in advance of who you would like to speak with the media. Line up several individuals in advance and make sure they are comfortable speaking with the media.
Do your best to inform the spokesperson about the aspects of your SRTS program, if they are not already aware of them. Provide them with a program brochure and talking points. A spokesperson’s lack of knowledge could present itself during a media interview. Imagine inviting a prominent figure to speak at a Walk to School event. During an interview the reporter asks “How do you think the program impacts the community?” and their response is “I’m not exactly sure what the program does, they just invited me to the event.”
Draft talking points for the SRTS program so that everyone will be on the same page when communicating information about the program. Distribute the talking points to your spokespeople. These talking points can also have other uses, such as for meetings with parents or any other communications planned surrounding your program.
For general talking points about SRTS and International Walk to School Day, please visit the National Center’s Resource Center.
The Faces of SRTS
There are many options for securing a spokesperson for your SRTS program. The most important element is that they are knowledgeable of the program. Here are a few options for spokespeople:
- Parents can offer a unique perspective on a SRTS program, whether they are coordinating an entire program or simply walking to school with their children once a year during Walk to School Day. Parents can comment on the importance of safety surrounding a school and the reasons why they choose to walk or bike with their children. Encourage parents to speak about the benefits they see in walking or bicycling.
- There is nothing cuter - and more attractive to the media - than a child talking about how they love to walk or bicycling to school. It really gets at the heart of why SRTS is such an important initiative – the impact on the children. Make sure you have the permission of the child’s parent or guardian before putting them in front of the camera.
- Teachers can also offer good anecdotal information about how a SRTS program affects the children in their classroom. Many times teachers are the driving force behind a school-based SRTS program and can speak to the history and details of the program.
- Community Leaders and Other Prominent Figures
- Given their prominence, community leaders are a great ally to have when arranging media interviews. If the individual is unaware of the program, provide them with supplemental information about SRTS, such as talking points or a brochure.
- The news media will also be interested in speaking to experts on the elements of SRTS, such as pedestrian safety, engineering, evaluation, environment, etc. Members of a state or local SRTS advisory committee can be a great resource for expert spokespeople.