Effective COVID-19 Communications for Your County: Amplify Your Message Through the Power of the Media
As county leaders, our residents are looking to us more than ever during these uncertain times for information that directly affects their lives. Local leaders like you across the country are taking to the airwaves and print to let residents know the latest information on COVID-19 pandemic’s devastating effects, testing information, details on vaccine distribution and information on local economic recovery efforts.
How do you get this important information out the masses? One of the most effective ways is through media relations. And media relations is not just a luxury of large counties with a dedicated communications staff. All counties, regardless of size, can hold press conferences, media tours of county facilities and programs, and effectively pitch reporters, editors and producers.
Here are a few ideas:
- Hold a press conference at a small business or a nonprofit that your county has supported through American Rescue Plan Act investments to highlight how your county is supporting residents and driving recovery.
- Hold a tour of non-COVID related county programs and work to show county business goes on and we will serve our small business owners and residents.
- Issue a press release or submit an op-ed to your local newspaper on how your county has invested ARPA funds to date as well as plans for future investments.
- Since the American Rescue Plan Act was passed one year ago, counties have been responsibly investing ARPA funds to drive recovery in our communities.
- As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect our communities, we are positively impacting the lives of our residents through our COVID-19 recovery efforts.
- With vast responsibilities to care for our most vulnerable residents – our sick, unemployed, elderly and youth – we are improving lives and livelihoods.
- Investing in counties means investing in struggling small businesses, nonprofits, infrastructure, public health and safety, and human services, especially for those suffering from domestic violence, mental illnesses and substance use disorders.
- The American Rescue Plan Act's State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund affirms a strong federal-state-local partnership and is an investment in counties on the front lines and a commitment to defeating this pandemic together
Resources to Get Started
NACo is here to help with tools and resources for you to effectively amplify your message through local media coverage. Below you will find sample media advisories and press releases from NACo coronavirus media calls with county leaders, press conferences and press releases as well as NACo’s Media Relations Guide for Counties, which was developed to assist county officials in strengthening their communications skills to improve local media coverage.
Media Relations Guide
The NACo Media Relations Guide assists county officials in strengthening their communications skills to improve local media coverage, and includes resources on traditional tools, social media, crisis communication and more.
Media Advisory Template
Hosting a Virtual Press Conference
Web-based press conferences on platforms like Zoom are a great way to help place a good sound bite on the air. To refine your virtual meeting, some tips to remember include:
- Optimize your camera placement and lighting, and strive to maintain eye contact with the camera. Click here for more of our recommendation for setting up your video.
- Utilize built-in registration forms, or use your own, in order to have a record of attendance and enable quicker follow up once the press conference has ended
- Be sure to mute all participants, and consider asking members of the media to type their questions into the chatbox or use the 'raise hand' button, and be sure to utilize the waiting room or passcode functionality to prevent uninvited attendees from participating
- Engage with attendees and your larger audience on social media during the event. Find more on social media below.
Using Social Media
Media relations are an effective way of getting your message to your residents, but it is only part of the solution. Social media is a quick and easy way to reach your residents as well as a great way to amplify news coverage you get through your media relations efforts. Here are a few tips and resources to get started:
- Share on social media links to watch press conferences, town halls and virtual tours
- Live tweet during your virtual events and engage with those watching live
- Share photos and video clips after your events
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