REP’s Handbook On-Line

Representatives Handbook

PUBLICITY AND MEDIA

You want as many people as possible to know as much as possible about what the Group is doing.

Targeting

At whom is the publicity aimed? If it's the general public, it should be as straightforward and widely distributed as possible. But consider appropriate target groups such as local clubs or members of other local groups who may campaign on similar issues.  For example, if you are running a campaign on potholes in your area, maybe the local Bicycle Club would like to help.  Making contacts in other organisations will prove to be helpful when other issues arise.

Publicity material should answer the five key questions: What? Where? When? Why? Who?

Media

The first rule is always to send a press release. Send it to the local newspapers, including "free" papers, and radio and TV stations. Consider national media if the event is of wider interest. If possible, combine the press release with a photocall. Let the media know about the event a week or so in advance, then ring up a couple of days beforehand to check they got the press release and invite them to send along a photographer or video crew.

Press releases must contain the following elements:-

  • The heading: Press Information
     
  • Just beneath the heading, either: For Immediate Use, or an "embargo" date and time after which it can be used
     
  • The Title Sentence (not a headline, simply a one-sentence summary of what the release is about)
     
  • The first paragraph must answer five key questions: What? Where? When? Why? Who?
     
  • Include a quote: “So-and-so, Rep for the XXXX MAG Group, says "MAG is ..."
     
  • At the end of the press release, put ENDS
     
  • After the end, put a name and phone number for further information, and make sure that the person named knows about the press release and is prepared to answer follow-up questions.

The second rule is to include a local angle, involving as many people as possible.  Arrange events so that there is at least one photogenic happening, right at the start, preferably involving a local celebrity (MP, councillor, sports team, newspaper editor, or anyone famous who happens to live nearby) and a visible MAG presence.

Don't forget the Events or What's On columns in local newspapers.

Develop contacts with local media. When people from the media turn up to a photo-call or event, thank them for coming, find out their names, and when the piece appears, ring to thank them again and to tell them how much was raised or how many signatures you got.

Ask for feedback on your press releases and advice on who to approach; even if you already know, it's flattering to be asked.

If nothing appears as a result of your press release, or no one comes to your photo-opportunity, ring to find out why: what could you have done differently to get the coverage you want?  Don't, however, over-do this and make a nuisance of yourself.

Posters and leaflets

MAG Central Office has posters and leaflets publicising the main national campaigns.  If you need leaflets your Regional Rep will probably collect them from Central Office when they attend National Committee meetings bi-monthly. 

Producing your own posters, for local events, isn't complicated. It's worth asking printers if they'll do your posters free or cheap because MAG is a voluntary organisation.  Self-produced ones can look fine, especially if you have access to desk-top publishing.  There is an agreed MAG visual identity (logo, colours, etc.) which you should follow. Copies of the various MAG logos are available on your Rep’s CD.  Don't get distracted by clever little graphics: just convey the essential information in a big, clear typeface, get someone fresh to check the spelling, dates, etc, and then laser-print or photocopy the result on to brightly-coloured or dayglo paper.

Leave leaflets and flyers everywhere: motorcycle friendly pubs and cafes, your local bike shop, on bikes in your local bike park.

Raising issues with your MP and MEP

Your local MP is the best way to get your voice heard on national matters. Your local MEP is the best way to get your voice heard on European Union matters. You can contact your MP or MEP in the same ways you would contact anyone else: in person, over the phone, by letter, or even by fax or e-mail. Which you choose depends on how urgent the issue is, how confident you feel, and how well you know the MP.

Writing a letter or fax gives you the chance to draft and redraft until you are happy with the way you have put the argument. Raising an issue over the phone or face-to-face may be more nerve-wracking, but allows discussion.

A personal meeting can be much more persuasive than any number of letters. It is always worth trying to meet any influential person who agrees or disagrees with you, to thank them for their support or to try to persuade them otherwise.

Always:

  • be polite, persuasive, committed, and enthusiastic;
     
  • refer to MAG's purpose – to campaign for riders’ rights
     
  • remind your MP/MEP that “Bikers are Voters”;
     
  • pass copies of replies to your Regional Rep.

A member of your Group might act as a Political Officer.  A Political Officer should take part in Activist training so that they can learn to build up a relationship with their MP, and in the long term probably achieve more.

Running a stall

A stall is a basic, but not inevitable, part of any MAG event. It always ties at least one person down, but if two or more people are going to be there, one can stay with the stall and the other can move around. A stall is somewhere to display leaflets, posters, membership forms, a collecting tin and provides a focus for your event by making MAG visible.

If your group does not have a dedicated stall already, it may be a good idea to purchase a gazebo and a fold-up table out of group funds.  The gazebo will ensure that you stay dry and it also serves to make your stall look more professional and visible.

nd of course you should have the latest MAG raffle tickets, and copies of Streetbiker on the stand.  These are really ways of engaging members of the public in conversation, so that you can tell them about the current campaign or whatever else is your top priority at the time. People who staff the stall should be prepared to say at least "Are you a MAG member?" and possibly answer a few questions about the campaigning issues. There should be at least one person who knows the issues well.  Remember that leaflets cost MAG money to reproduce.  Don’t give away membership leaflets freely.  If they don’t join at the time, they probably won’t do it at all.

Surveys

Surveys and petitions are powerful levers to use on MPs and MEPs, especially in marginal seats.  From time to time you will receive a survey from your Regional Rep or through Network relating to a motorcycling issue.  It is important that as many surveys are completed and returned to MAG’s Public Affairs Director as soon as possible.  Have your members in your group complete the survey, and have copies of the survey on any stall that you are running.  Make sure that you bring pens with you, and encourage people to fill in the survey immediately.  As above, if they don’t do it at the time, they probably won’t do it at all.

Petitions

You will, from time to time, receive a petition from MAG’s Public Affairs Director.  A petition is a request, in the form of a letter with many signatures, asking someone like an MP to do something.  Petitions should have the full wording at the top of every page, and further information about the campaign and the issue must be available on request.  Petitions can be left in a public place like a bike shop to gather signatures, or you can go out and get signatures on a stall. Again, it is important to send completed petitions back to MAG Central Office as soon as possible, or give them to your Regional Rep.

Giving a talk or a radio interview

Giving a talk or a radio interview can be nerve-wracking, especially if it's for the first time. Be re-assured: everyone feels nervous, and a certain amount of nervousness is good, because it gets the adrenaline flowing. You'll probably feel great afterwards, and will have spread the word to many people. Good preparation, and practising with a friendly audience, helps; and if you are going to do a lot of interviews and talks, MAG provides training in media work and public speaking

Don't hesitate to use notes if you feel they will help; don't talk too fast; do pause after saying something you want people to take in (if the pause seems excruciatingly long, it is probably about right); do make eye contact with members of the audience (but not on the radio); do practise in front of a mirror; and do ask for honest, constructive feed-back from another member of the Group.

Writing letters

MAG supporters get results by writing letters. As few as five individual letters to an MP make him or her sit up and take notice. 

Sit down at one of your group meetings and make a list of everyone’s postcode.  You can use the internet to find out the name of everyone’s MP. 

If there is a particular issue you are campaigning on locally, or one that MAG is campaigning on nationally, it may be appropriate to send a letter to your MP.  Have a group night set aside where you can let everyone know what the issue is and what MAG would like to see happen.  Ask everyone to write a letter on the night, and have envelopes and stamps there so that the letters can be sent off.  Remember that all letters should be polite and respectful and that they should be direct and to the point.

Don't hand out unsigned letters for people to sign and send. These letters tend to be discounted by those who get them

Letters to the editor

People are far more likely to believe what they read in the newspaper than what they are told. So write to your local newspaper. Local papers are often so short of letters that they will print any reasonable letter they get, in full. It's also worth trying to write to national newspapers, but in this case the shorter the better. Write follow-up letters to newspapers or magazines that have printed articles about MAG. Comment on their coverage of MAG, and bring in the current action your Group is planning or involved in. Remember that there is usually an MAG "policy line" on most issues, so check with your Regional Rep if you intend to write on behalf of MAG, for instance as Rep of the local MAG Group, rather than in a personal capacity.

Return to the Front Page

MAG Representative's Handbook Copyright ©2003 All rights reserved.