Via the press

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Gaining free coverage of your group and projects via the local and national press is an unbeatable way to raise your public profile and access very large audiences. This communication channel is particularly suited for your group’s major events and achievements, such as project launches, share issues and completed installations. Media channels to consider include newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations.

Click on the ideas below for practical suggestions and detailed case studies.

Newspapers and magazines

Community projects and their achievements are very newsworthy items, so make sure you take advantage of opportunities to gain free newspaper coverage. A good write up about an event or achievement featured in a newspaper or magazine will allow you to access a much larger audience than you could ever hope to reach via your own contact list, so it is well worth the effort.

Research. Start by drawing up a list of local press and other relevant publications which could be interested in featuring a piece about your project. Simply an internet search should highlight the main contacts to consider.

Write up press releases. It is unlikely that publications will have the time or resources to send out reporters to personally meet you or to attend an event run by your group. Your best bet is to write up a press release about an event or achievement and send it out to all the relevant publications you have identified. The idea is to write a piece that is ready to go, limiting the work the publication has to do such that they can’t refuse to include it. Add in a few real quotes and high resolution photos, preferably including a pretty landscape or smiley children, and they won’t be able to turn you down. Press releases are often re-printed almost verbatim, so make sure you have written it exactly how you want it to appear. Don’t forget to include your group’s contact details and website address.

Case Studies
Country: UK

Hook Norton Low Carbon received coverage in the local Banbury Guardian about setting up their low carbon car club. The article detailed the group's plans to purchase second-hand two small vehicles and one larger vehicle for people to use for shopping and local trips or even holidays and longer journeys. Members would pay around £50 per year and book use of a car online. The vehicles would be adapted to run on waste oil biodiesel, which would be kept in a tank at the local brewery. The hope was that the article would help to stimulate interest in the car club to enable them to reach the number of initial users necessary to make testing the scheme viable. The article therefore also promoted the financial benefits of car sharing, explaining how motorists who drive less than 6,000 miles a year can save up to £3,500 a year by joining a car club.

Country: UK

Bath and West Community Energy has received coverage in the local press on a variety of topics, including their proposed hydro schemes and solar panels installed at local schools. They have also received a mention in Jules Peck’s Sustainable Business Blog in the Guardian, where they are highlighted as an example of an innovative new business.

TV and radio

Attempts to feature on TV and radio stations are likely to be more successful once your group is well-established, has successfully gained press coverage in newspapers, networked to raise its profile and made connections. In any case, you have nothing to lose by simply approaching broadcasters and offering to be a guest! Carry out an internet search and contact your group’s network to find relevant contacts, and give it a go.

Case Studies
Country: Ireland

The Drombane Upperchurch Energy Team (DUET) is a community-led retrofit project developed in 2011 by Drombane Village Group. The project emerged from a community initiative which sought to stimulate economic activity within the parishes of Drombane and Upperchurch. DUET has received a great deal of radio and TV coverage through being an exemplary community retrofit initiative, recognised through national competitions such as the Ace Awards. Winning such awards has increased their exposure and helped to gather momentum in receiving media coverage. The coverage has mainly focussed on the story behind DUET: why the initiative was originally conceived, how it was formed and structured, and what measures have been implemented. This coverage has engaged the communities as with each passing year more and more homes sign up to energy upgrades. In the three years since its conception, the community has upgraded around 25% of the local housing stock, whereas just 16% of the national housing stock has been upgraded in 5 years. The absolute number of homes signing up is getting larger and larger every year.

Country: UK

Brighton Energy Co-operative has gained TV coverage on ITV news about the installation of their community-owned solar panels on the roofs of buildings at a local port, and on BBC South Today about their first share offer. Their chairman has also featured on Radio Free Brighton, a local community radio station, talking about their share scheme, co-operative renewable energy, energy bills and the future for green energy.