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Breaking News! How to engage with the media

Are you in the midst of an ICS fundraising frenzy? Have you planned an amazing event and want to get some extra support?

Engaging with the media is a good way to let more people know what you’re doing and why, and might even bring you closer to reaching your fundraising target.

Headline of an article featured in The Star newspaper with title 'Sheffield volunteer helps make a difference in Tanzania'. The headline also features a photograph of a the volunteer standing in a classroom in Tanzania.
© TheStar
This volunteer was able to talk about their ICS experience in the local media. So can you!

ICS volunteers who generate media coverage related to their fundraising efforts on average raise more money than those who don’t do this!

Contacting journalists and selling your story to the press may seem a daunting task at first, but it doesn’t have to be. Almost every day, we see stories of ICS volunteers featured in newspapers across the UK. This guide will help you to join them in raising awareness of ICS.

What do you mean by ‘engaging with the media’?

In a nutshell, it’s all about getting your story out to the general public. Local newspapers and radio stations love to hear about local people doing interesting things – so they’ll love to hear about you doing ICS!

Bear in mind that this local angle is really important, so you should always make it clear that you’re from the area, that your event is happening locally, or that what you’re doing benefits your local community in some way. Your story is more likely to get picked up if you can clearly show this connection.

A volunteer sat on a bike completing a sponsored challenged in the middle of the high street.
If you're doing a public event or challenge, advertising it in your local media is a great way to raise awareness of it.

Why should I engage with the media?

You’ve probably already told your family and friends all about ICS and what you’ll be doing during your volunteering placement. Engaging with the media enables you to raise awareness of ICS to a much wider audience.

Someone holding a tablet with the text 'share your story' written on it.
© GustavoFrazai/Shutterstock
“I got myself into my local paper and within an hour of receiving my copy I had a phone call from someone wanting to donate. I’d definitely recommend doing this – you’ve got nothing to lose!”
Bryony - VSO Volunteer

This will include people who’ve never heard of ICS before and those who may be sceptical of the government spending money on foreign aid. This is a great opportunity for you to demonstrate the positive impact of ICS, and can help build support of international development in general.

If you’re fundraising, this additional publicity will hopefully result in more people supporting your efforts and boosting your donations!

Screen shot of the ICS Media centre on the ICS website.
© ICS

How can I get in touch with my local media?

To make your life simple, we’ve created a selection of press release templates for you to use at all the different stages of your ICS journey – from fundraising, to whilst you’re on your placement, to during your Action At Home activities. Just visit the media centre on the ICS website and choose the one that’s most relevant to what you’re currently doing.

It should take you about ten minutes to create your bespoke press release. Once you’re done, it’s sent automatically to newspapers in your local area, so make sure you include everything you want to say before hitting submit.

Watch this video below for a detailed, step by step, guide on how to create our press release

What makes a good press release?

We’ve created the press release templates to stand the best chance of getting into the paper, but it’s still important that you think about the story that you want to tell and what’s going to grab people’s attention.

There’s space in the press release for you to talk about what you’re doing, so take this opportunity to explain a bit more about your ICS project, give details of your fundraising efforts – and of course share how you’re feeling about it all! You’re more likely to grab people’s attention if you inject some personality into your story.

Loud Speaker with the words 'press release' coming from it.
© Focalpoint/Shutterstock

Okay, I've submitted my press release. What next?

Now you can sit back and relax. If your local newspapers are interested in running your story, they may get in touch to ask you for a photo or some additional information.

If you don’t hear anything back, don’t worry. Newspapers get a lot of press releases and they don’t generally have time to acknowledge each one.

Sending a press release isn’t a guaranteed way of getting into your local media, and there’s a chance that your story won’t be run. Don’t be disheartened. You can always try again if you plan another awesome fundraising activity. We also encourage you to consider engaging with the media whilst you’re on your placement and once you’ve returned home.

Black and white photo of a man and dog listening to an old fashioned radio.
© EverettCollection/Shutterstock

You also mentioned local radio – can you tell me more?

There’s a chance your local radio stations will be interested in hearing from you, too. Local BBC radio stations in particular are often keen to speak to ICS volunteers. You can search online for their news desk phone number and give them a call to see if your story is something they’d like to cover.

If you are invited to speak on the radio, or even on your local TV news, do get in touch with us as we can support you and make sure you feel comfortable and well-prepared before your interview.

And finally, remember:

  • Don’t feel intimidated about engaging with the media – ICS volunteers regularly feature in local newspapers.
  • It’s likely you’ll get media coverage if you have a strong story.
  • Remember that you can continue engaging with the media throughout your whole ICS journey.
  • Have fun!