By Dayanne Leal | March 2014
“Ethnic media,” which is sometimes called specialty or minority media, refers to media outlets that produce or deliver content for a particular ethnic community. Engaging ethnic media to offer you earned media opportunities is an effective way to connect consumers to health coverage.
Most individuals in minority groups prefer to get their news from outlets like these that cater to them. Individuals in these minority groups whose first language is not English often prefer to receive content in their primary language, even when they are fluent in English. Working with ethnic media outlets is an effective strategy for reaching broad racial and ethnic minority groups such as, Latinos, African Americans, and Asians, as well as more specific ethnic groups, like Brazilians, Dominicans, or Salvadorans.
By partnering with ethnic media sources, you can reach specific groups to provide information about the new health insurance options available under the Affordable Care Act. This is an especially important strategy given that more than half of the people without insurance are people of color.1
It is important to identify where your consumer population comes from and what their media sources are. People read, listen to, and watch different media outlets.
Why engage the media in your outreach efforts?
- Getting the word out via radio, television, or print media can reach more people in less time than other outreach methods like enrollment events. One radio show or newspaper story could reach thousands of health care consumers.
- Ethnic media outlets are already trusted messengers for particular ethnic groups.
- Working with ethnic media allows you to more precisely tailor your messages to specific populations.
- Media outlets can help your outreach efforts in many ways, from disseminating information to your specific audience to promoting a certain service you offer or outreach activity you’re hosting.
- If your specific population lives in rural areas, media outlets like radio, print, and television can be an effective way to reach people. Individuals living in very remote areas may at least have access to a newspaper distributed through a local store or to a radio program.
Media Partnerships Should Be a Two-Way Street
Just as you educate your community, it is also important to teach media staff about the importance of educating their communities about the availability of health insurance. Help media staff see the value you have to offer their community, and they will be more likely to collaborate with you. Many broadcast networks are required to dedicate a certain amount of air time to public service announcements (PSAs), which serve as opportunities for you to get free airtime. By providing the content, you could help them meet their goals while simultaneously getting your message out for free.
Oftentimes, media staff members also need newsworthy stories affecting the community; Why not provide a local reporter or television show host with a compelling story of someone you helped to get health coverage? It’s a great way to promote the opportunity to sign up for health insurance, and it can help the media tell important stories to their audience.
Note: Placing PSAs and earning media coverage are two distinct paths that are usually handled by different contacts within the media outlet. However, these paths often overlap, especially in ethnic media. A PSA refers to an ad that would be aired in regular rotation with other ads. Advertising directors often make decisions regarding PSAs.
Earned media refers to a news story that a reporter produces because he or she sees news value in your story. An editor or producer usually makes these decisions. However, at smaller ethnic media outlets, one contact usually wears multiple hats.
How to Work with Ethnic Media
Partnering with a radio program can be a quick way to promote your message without having to do much preparation. People might regularly listen to one specific radio program and develop a “virtual” relationship with the presenter. You can leverage this trusted relationship to help validate your message. Radio is an effective strategy to meet people where they are. You can interact with your audience while they are in their homes or in their cars. Many people who have jobs that are less likely to offer health coverage (such as construction workers, day laborers, and taxi drivers) often have the opportunity to listen to the radio while they are at work. Reaching your audience via radio involves just a few simple steps, which we outline in greater detail below.
1. Identify Radio Programs
Some simple online research about local stations in your area is the easiest way to start. Look for programs that broadcast in your specific audience’s language, if applicable. You may also find that local faith leaders have a regular radio show, and these community leaders can serve as advocates for sharing with listeners the importance of having health coverage.
If you are already working with a faith-based institution, ask the faith leader if he or she hosts a radio show so you can participate.
This will give you a broader reach than just the faith institution with which you may have already established a relationship. Many community colleges also run radio programs on their campus. Also, ask your friends, coalition partners, or peers in your outreach
network if they have ideas about radio programs that reach your specific population.
2. Determine How You Plan to Reach Your Audience
You may have an opportunity to record a 30-second PSA that’s scheduled to replay several times throughout the day. Or you could participate in a live radio interview, which you might find exciting. Speaking on a live radio program is a great way for you to present your information and answer questions from callers. Live “call-in” radio programs give you an opportunity to reach and educate a large audience simply by addressing a single caller’s question. This is more engaging than simply telling the audience what you think they need to know, and it allows you to be more responsive to their questions and needs. To save time, you can often make arrangements to participate by phone. That way, you don’t need to be physically present at the radio station.
3. Contact Radio Show Producers or Station Managers
You will need to work with different people, depending on the station and the specifics of your ask. Some radio programs are run by independent individuals who merely rent space at the radio station but are not employed by it. But for the most part, you will need to work with the radio show producers or station manager to push your message out. This may be easier than you think. Most hosts will open the doors to their show once they see how the information you provide will benefit their community. Let the hosts know that you need their help ensuring that people in the community have access to health insurance. They will see the value and embrace the cause. Use your power of persuasion!
Newspapers and Magazines
Establishing relationships with journalists can help you disseminate your message. Some minority groups who are originally from other countries read their local ethnic newspaper to stay informed not only about what is happening locally, but also in their home
country. These readers appreciate being able to read the newspaper in their own language. This is a great opportunity to share in-depth information in a user-friendly manner. Two simple steps will help you get started:
1. Identify Newspapers and Magazines
Going to local stores that serve the particular minority group you want to reach is a great way to find out what kind of print media is available and most-read. Local stores often have a stand with materials.
Another way to choose the right outlets is to talk with members of the community you already know and ask, “What do you read? What do your parents read?”
Once you find which newspapers and magazines to target, you can often identify a phone number or email for the editor or journalist in the publication. Note that reaching out to the owner of the publication may not be your best bet unless the owner is also the editor.
Note: The newspapers may be in a print format and/or online; explore both options.
2. Connect with Writers
Your success with print or online media all depends on the relationship you establish with the journalist. Call him or her and build a strong relationship.
If “cold calling” sounds intimidating, you can start by sending an email introducing yourself or a press release to journalists with whom you do not have yet a strong relationship.
In some cases, they may contact you, but it’s best to follow up with them to make sure they got the press release. Then you can offer them the opportunity to meet in person. You may even suggest that they interview a health care consumer for a potential story.
If the newspaper or magazine serves individuals who speak a language other than English, make sure to identify consumers who speak that language for an interview.
Be yourself a resource for the reporter, even if he or she is not immediately interested in writing about your issue. Take the initiative to write an article explaining the basics of the Affordable Care Act and how it affects the community, or explain the steps consumers need to take to buy health insurance, including where they can get local help with the enrollment process. This shows you are committed to your cause and can provide valuable information.
The best way to publicize your message on a television program specific to the audience you want to reach, at no cost, is to pitch a newsworthy story and/or some crucial material to share with viewers. For television, it’s also important to have compelling visuals that tell your story. For example, Univision (a national television network many Spanish-speaking individuals watch) has a news show whose reporters are always looking for information that will specifically affect their viewers. Here’s how to get started:
1. Identify TV Station(s) or Programs
Most individuals who speak a language other than English at home will watch television programs broadcast in their native language, even if they are also fluent in English. As with other forms of media, talk with members of the community you want to reach, and ask them what they and their family members watch.
2. Determine How to Participate in the Program
For news programs, you can be the news: Organize an enrollment event, and ask the reporter to cover it. You can also share newsworthy information about the number of people in the specific audience who could benefit from the new health coverage options available, and the television station or program may produce a story.
3. Connect with TV Reporters or Producers
Again, the key to getting your messages out via television, as with any other form of media, is to build a relationship with reporters or producers. Make a phone call or write an email offering to meet with them to talk more about why health coverage matters for their community and how they can help raise awareness by spreading the word.
11 Creative Ways to Engage Media Outlets
1. Get a local radio news program to do a remote broadcast at one of your enrollment events. They can attend the enrollment event and provide entertainment (music) while simultaneously broadcasting your event live, which will attract more people to the event.
2. Invite a local television channel to cover your outreach enrollment event. If you have an in-house call center, you can also invite them to visit your organization and interview the staff. The in-house call center staff members may be serving the television station’s audience.
3. Many uninsured people don’t know about the availability of financial help, which may be their main barrier to enrolling. Hold a special press conference with someone who enrolled with financial assistance. This person can share his or her story about saving on health care costs.
4. Participate in a radio interview while you have an outreach enrollment event. As people are listening to you live on the radio, you can direct them to a local enrollment event nearby and educate them about the type of information they will need when they apply for health insurance.
5. Get a local newspaper or magazine to include an insert or a sticker on their front page about your program or outreach/enrollment activity.
6. Identify a compelling story of someone your organization helped, and ask the local radio station, newspaper, or television station to run a story about this health care consumer. This will help generate publicity.
7. Ask media outlets to link to your page on their social media pages.
8. Establish a strong relationship with the radio or newspaper and have a recurring appearance. For example, you can write a monthly column about health coverage for the newspaper, or make a weekly appearance on a radio show to talk about health coverage and health care.
9. Encourage your outreach partners and consumers to write letters to the editor or op-eds (opinion pieces) to the local newspaper.
10. Coordinate media efforts with other organizations to maximize efforts and send consistent messages.
11. Approach a radio or television station (more common) about partnering on a phone-a-thon. Inviting consumers to pick up the phone and dial in to the phone-a-thon with questions can be an effective way to connect people to coverage. You can reach many consumers with this single strategy, whether you use it to educate them about their health care options or to schedule an appointment with a navigator or assister to help with an application. See our piece, “Connecting with Consumers through Phone-a-thons,” to learn more.2
Seven Helpful Tips for Building and Maintaining Rapport with Media
Always leverage existing connections if you have them. If you do not have a contact person at a particular outlet, ask for the producer or assignment desk editor.
1. Make it as easy as possible for media staff. Prepare them with a base level of information, use a unique hook, and make a clear tie-in with their audience. They may run your press releases verbatim, but you need to pitch them. Persistence is key.
2. Reach out to specific reporters or producers directly, rather than using a general contact form or email address. In-person meetings are best. Always contact the news department first. Do not contact the marketing department (unless you want to place paid advertising).
3. Bring the story to them and find real people from the community you are trying to reach who have enrolled in health coverage, and use them in your pitch. The media always like to feature the human side of a story and capture success stories in their community. Involve community leaders. It is important that the person who will be interviewed speaks the language of the media channel.
4. When talking with reporters, remember that they are always on deadline. Be friendly and take the time to build the relationship, but stay on point to respect their time. Also, always provide advance notice. Give information weeks in advance when possible, in particular if you want a reporter to attend a community event.
5. Let them know you are reading, listening, or watching their news stories You can do this through Twitter and/ or email. Follow the stations, programs, newspaper, reporters, etc. on social media, and send them information every so often about what you would like to see covered. You can do that using Facebook, retweeting their posts, using a hashtag, etc.
6. Develop a strong relationship and keep in touch. Contact them in as many ways possible (text/email/phone/tweets), and reach out to them not only for events you need them to cover, but also to give them a “heads-up” on upcoming dates or to offer a great story. For example, if you are working with a Latino outlet, you could reach out to your contact there and say: “It’s Diabetes Awareness Month, and I thought it’d be great for you to cover, especially since diabetes is the number one chronic disease in the Latino population.” Call without a pitch; regular check-ins are key. Be persistent in a friendly way.
7. Do not be shy in saying that you work for a non profit (if that is the case) and that funds are not available for certain strategies. This will only encourage them to work with you at no charge, which could be part of their public service obligations.
This piece was written by Dayanne Leal, Deputy Director of Enroll America’s Best Practices Institute. Assistance was provided by Jenny Sullivan, Director of the Best Practices Institute at Enroll America.
The author would like to also thank the following individuals for their input:
Carlos Solis, HelpLine Supervisor, Health Care For All, Boston, Massachusetts
Emily Sutton, OneWorld Community Health Centers, Inc., Omaha, Nebraska
Enroll America thanks Families USA’s Talia Schmidt, Editor, and Evan Potler, Designer, for their editorial and design support in the production of this brief.
1 Urban Institute and Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured estimates based on the Census Bureau’s March 2012 and 2013 Current Population Survey (CPS: Annual Social and Economic Supplements), available online: http://kff.org/uninsured/state-indicator/distribution-by-raceethnicity-2/, accessed February 12, 2014.