The Civil Society Participation in Provincial Legislatures (CSPPL) project works to bridge gaps and facilitate partnerships between civil society organisations (CSOs) and Provincial Legislatures of the provinces of Limpopo, the Northern Cape and North West. The project recognises the important role that community members play in the sustainability of a citizen-driven democracy. One project objective is to enhance the advocacy skills of CSOs and to ensure that they become a link between communities and the Provincial Legislature.
The three provinces in which the project works are mostly rural regions. These geographically vast provinces continue to face high levels of unemployment, which contributes to the inability of many citizens to access their Provincial Legislatures located in the Provincial capital city. Even though some of these Provincial Legislatures are slowly opening up to the idea of using social media to reach a wider audience, much of the population does not have digital connectivity. In 2019, research conducted at the University of South Africa revealed that community radio is the primary and most accessible media platform in South African rural areas.
Mindful of the power of radio in connecting with communities, the project conducted a workshop on how CSOs can use radio to connect with their communities and to enhance their role as a link between Provincial Legislatures and community members.
Session 1: Using radio for advocacy in reaching Provincial Legislatures
Facilitator: Michelle Joubert
- Why should your Organisation care about media
- Community radio presents a powerful platform to communicate your message, call for change, and get the legislature to hear your voice.
- In trying to build relationships with journalists or even with radio stations, planning is needed to avoid being faced with questions that you have not prepared for. It is therefore advised to undergo media training such as this one and plan sufficiently before interviews.
2. Understanding South African media
- Journalists look for what they see as being newsworthy stories.
- 60% of all radio listening happens through African language radio stations.
- The Covid-19 pandemic has seen a great increase in radio listenership and interaction.
- South Africa has a large number of community radio stations throughout the country. The facilitator can provide available lists of community radio stations including contact details if CSO participants require this.
- The focus on community radio stations is due to these platforms focusing on local news and offering a platform to communicate with the community.
3. Planning a News Story
- Writing a news story starts with planning what you want to say in a media release and why you want to say this. This should answer what you want listeners to say, think, or do after hearing this release.
- Think about what a successful media interview means to your organisation, what are you hoping the interview will achieve.
- It is important to highlight who your organisation is and what it does in a few very specific sentences.
4. What makes a newsworthy story
- The fact that you as an organisation thinks a story is important, does not mean that the media will see it important.
- The media is interested in recent news, that is happening at the moment or is yet to happen. Timing is important because old stories are boring to the media.
- Mentioning the number of people affected by a story might make it more interesting. Human-centred news is also often considered interesting.
- People who are regarded as important also attracted more coverage (eg the Director of your organisation will attract more coverage).
5. What do journalists look for in a media release?
- What is happening?
- So what? Why is it important? The ‘so what’ part is important because it gives the news angle.
- Journalists focus on the first part of the story in the first few paragraphs and if that isn’t important they will stop reading. So, make sure that the first part of your release is interesting.
- Make sure that your release has a good heading and a news angle. Make it something that can interest a 16-year-old child. Keep the sentences short and simple as well.
- It helps for a story to include community case studies.
- Include your contact details so that someone can get hold of you. Always try to keep it to a single page.
- Always have up-to-date media contact details, and email your release to either the editor, journalist, or programme manager.
6. Planning your messaging for interviews:
- Outline three short clear messages that you want to communicate with people.
- Always use clear simple language that everyone can understand. Remember that radio is a discussion platform so always make sure that the audience understands you.
- Rehearsing and practicing while standing in front of a mirror, and communicating your message as practice before the interview, is advisable.
- Do not make up any responses, if you don’t know something be free to say that you do not.
7. Using radio to connect to the Provincial Legislature
- When planning radio engagements make sure you have enough information and evidence that might pursuade the legislature to take action.
- You can use social media to tell people that you going to be on the radio or share a link to your interview.
Comments from participants
It is clear from this presentation that we need to know how to communicate with the world about the good work that we are doing. I do not think that we communicate that enough – Rodrigue, Limpopo
I found the emphasis to use understandable language during interviews to be very informative – Kgalalelo, North West
The media can sometimes be very intimidating what is sometimes challenging is getting the media to understand and take an interest in issues – Celeste, Northern Cape
The biggest message that I am taking home? Never lie and pretend that you know the answer when doing a radio interview – Agnes, Limpopo
Session 2: As radio people, what do we consider to be a good interview?
Facilitator: Precious Gomes, radio presenter
- A radio interview needs you to be short and straight to the point.
- We value a person who knows and understands the audience and listeners, and who speaks to the things that are appealing to your community.
- The timing needs to be appropriate. Talk about things that people are likely tuned into the radio for. If the topic is not relevant you might not get air time even though the issue might be important.
- The story should be meaningful and within the context of the community.
- The story should be researched. Avoid talking about something about which you do not have information, understanding and research.
- The story should be suitable for the station that you want to approach.
- Be willing to share community experiences and to share the platform with community members that might be experiencing the problem.
- Avoid phrases such as, “As you might know”. Assume that everyone you talking to is hearing what you are saying for the first time, and keep your answers simple.
- Your opening statement should always create interest in the subject.
- Repeat your main message more than once in the interview.
- Make sure that the people you assign to do interviews from your organisation understand what you want them to communicate.
Discussions and comments from participants
The biggest takeaway for me was the advice to know the audience and understanding their needs – Mira, DWF
In rural areas radio remains a primary media source for people, therefore it important that avenues such as the legislature use radio to reach people – Precious Gomes
Radio is such a powerful platform to shape the behavior of society and to teach them how to deal with vulnerable groups in society – Sophia Booysen Northern Cape
Local radio should maybe have dedicated timeslots to discuss specific community issues. My biggest take away is also communicating my messages in a simple way that everyone would understand – Tremaine Northern Cape