Keeping Media Attention On and After MLK Day

Use these practices to maximize media coverage for your MLK Day events:

In the Week Prior to MLK Day

  • Distribute a media advisory - Send your media advisory to local print, online, and broadcast media. Place the advisory on your website, share it with your partners, and send a copy to Make follow-up phone calls to ask if reporters received the advisory, are covering the event or can suggest someone else who should receive the advisory.
  • Prepare press kits - Press kits should include …
    • Press releases
    • Fact sheets about your organization
    • Project details
    • Contact information, including the cell phone numbers, of your media contacts- people on site who are responsible for working with the media.
  • Designate media contacts and spokespeople - Identify media contacts for each location. Media contacts should hand out press kits, go over contents and provide information about your organization to the media. Also make sure you have answers to questions like: why is this project necessary and how does this project connect to Dr. King's life and teachings?
  • Reporters love numbers so have them on hand when speaking with the media. You should be able to answer: how many volunteers are serving, how many served last year, and what specific accomplishments are expected from your MLK Day service project(s). Media contacts should also be able to direct reporters to pre-selected interviewees who can serve as spokespeople for your event. Reporters will want to talk to your leaders and champions as well as on-the-ground volunteers and service beneficiaries.

    Prepare your selected spokespeople to share their single overriding communication objective (SOCO) about MLK Day. The SOCO contains the key points you want to convey about your MLK Day initiative that can be conveyed effectively in ten seconds or less. These spokespeople should be well-versed in the workings of your agency and the community needs that the project addresses.
  • Do media outreach on MLK’s actual birthday to preview the holiday - Use January 15th, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s actual birthday, as an opportunity to host an event or seek pre-event media coverage. During the days leading up to the King Holiday, be prepared to answer questions for stories that will appear on MLK Day of Service. Turn media inquiries into an opportunity to promote your projects.
  • Designate in-house reporters and photographers - Recruit people who can chronicle your events for your own organizational publications. In-house people will likely look at the day from a different angle than reporters from the press. Impress upon your in-house reporter that you are looking for action-oriented stories that tell the story of what was accomplished on MLK Day. Work with photographers to take candid shots of volunteers in action rather than posed pictures.
  • Use Twitter, Flickr, and other Social Networking tools- Use a variety of social networking tools to communicate information about projects and store photography. Encourage all participants to tweet information during the day of the event and submit photos via Flickr during or following the event.

On MLK Day of Service

  • Distribute your “day-of” press release to the media and post it on your website. For information on writing a press release click here.
  • Have each volunteer sign a photo release form or have a photo release check box on your volunteer sign-in sheet. If you have minors serving, make sure that you have their parents sign a release for them as well.
  • Make sure designated media contacts arrive at the project site prior to the expected arrival of any media. Media contacts should be available to greet reporters and introduce the projects.
  • Have a designated sign-in table for the press. The sign-in sheet should have columns for the reporter’s name, organization, phone, and email. Have press kits available at the sign-in table. Media contacts and spokespeople should be close at hand.
  • Connect reporters with volunteers and beneficiaries of the service who are willing to be interviewed and who can provide concise information of what they are doing. Reporters won’t always go in the direction of the people you select, but to the extent you can, steer them toward your designated spokespeople. Remember that you are not going to be able to control this process, but it helps to be cooperative, professional, and appreciative.
  • Document the day. Record video clips, if possible, that document various aspects of the day from volunteers’ arrival to VIP addresses to volunteers in service.
  • Take photos for distribution to weeklies and stakeholders, and to place on your website. Make sure that you have photo releases for any photos you take and that you get the names of the people in the photos. This is true for video images as well.
  • Share up-to-the-minute project information through Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. If you haven’t already done so, visit the MLK Day Facebook page and become a fan. Also sign up to follow MLK Day on Twitter. On the MLK Day website, you can send messages about your event to hundreds of people following MLK Day on Twitter or send photographs of your event to the MLK Day Flickr page.

After MLK Day of Service

  • Contact media outlets with information about the outcomes, accomplishments, and continuing effects of the MLK Day of Service. Make sure to include:
    • Contact person with email address
    • Number of volunteers who served in MLK Day of Service events
    • Number of hours served by volunteers
    • Elected officials or other VIPs that participated in your event and in what capacity
    • Types of service projects completed (e.g. food collection, school renovation, community beautification)
    • Major accomplishments (e.g. 1,000 people received meals or the school library was refurbished and 100 new books were added)
  • Assemble clips of all news stories, including video and audio tapes of television and radio spots. These can be requested directly from the radio and TV stations that covered the event. Send information about coverage to
  • Send copies of clips to board members, donors, and staff with a list of TV and radio appearances and brief descriptions of each.
  • Send thank you notes to members of the media who covered your event. Include updates and suggestions for future stories.

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