A Call for New Reports and Research in 2016

December 18, 2015 - 12:39 pm
We are finding that reports and research are among our best news hooks to pitch to journalists, so please keep Voices in mind as you plan for 2016. We’re excited to close out 2015 with a very strong example of what’s possible.


We are finding that reports and research are among our best news hooks to pitch to journalists, so please keep Voices in mind as you plan for 2016. We want to help! It’s important to reach out to us as far in advance as possible—at least several weeks or even a month or two if you can—before the release. If we see a chance to add value, we’ll talk to you about how to get optimal media mileage when your organization produces such work, or when you’re aware that others will be issuing reports that have a strong tie to civil legal aid.

JusticeDiverted-CenterImage - no text - transparent_attributionWe’re excited to close out 2015 with a very strong example of what’s possible. Maryland’s Public Justice Center contacted us several weeks before the expected release date of their report, “Justice Diverted: How Renters Are Processed in the Baltimore City Rent Court.” After reviewing the research and identifying the potential for national media interest, we worked with PJC to amplify the impact of the release with national media. (Tip 1: Lead time is key. Once the report is issued, it is no longer a news hook! Reach out to Voices for Civil Justice and other partners as far in advance as possible—at least several weeks.)

PJC and their organizing partner, Right to Housing Alliance, had already lined up reporters at key local outlets, including Baltimore Sun and the local public radio affiliate. We talked through their objectives and provided advice about lining up client stories. (Tip 2: An essential ingredient of a successful pitch is being able to offer the reporter an opportunity to talk with an affected person. This can be a time and labor intensive process, but well worth the effort. Many reporters can only cover new research if they can talk to clients, and client stories increase the chances that stories will capture the everyday impact of civil legal aid.)

Voices offered advice on the framing of the executive summary to strengthen its messaging and appeal to media, and helped develop a plan with PJC for offering the report to top reporters on an embargoed basis, allowing us to secure coverage in advance and take advantage of the news moment. (Tip 3: Offering a report on an embargoed basis gives a busy reporter an opportunity to be ready to write for publication on the release date and strongly increases the chances of coverage. Many reporters won’t be available to write a story if you wait until the day your report is released to approach them, and outlets are less likely to see the report as “news” once it’s out in the open.)

As the release date got closer, we helped to refine talking points, coached spokespeople in advance of media interviews, and provided tips about how to incorporate civil legal aid messaging.

Voices saw an opportunity for national outreach and worked with our BerlinRosen team to approach national media contacts who had demonstrated interest in these issues through previous coverage with embargoed copies of the report. We were able to garner numerous national placements, while PJC and RTHA secured placements with local outlets. All the coordinated advance work paid off with strong messaging about the importance of legal help and the role of civil legal aid.

In addition to two news pieces and a favorable editorial from the Baltimore Sun, we earned strong coverage in national outlets including Reuters, Bloomberg Business, Slate, ThinkProgress, the International Business Times, the Huffington Post, and the Nation. The pieces reflected strong messaging and ran with great headlines:

  • Reuters: “Poor U.S. renters need legal support to stop evictions and keep homes – study”
  • Bloomberg Business: “Baltimore Renters Turn to Judge Judy to Navigate Eviction Flood”
  • Slate: “Landlords Have an Edge in Eviction Cases. They Can Afford Lawyers, and Low-Income Renters Can’t.”
  • ThinkProgress: “What It’s Like to Fight Eviction In A System Rigged Against You.”

To see all of the coverage, use this link to Voices’ searchable clips collection for a compilation of the coverage: http://voicesforciviljustice.org/press-clips/#!/tag=housing-eviction%2Crent-court&geography_us=maryland&special=voices-role. (Tip 4: Our searchable clips are a rich source of content for your social media posts, and you can search for coverage by state, organization, outlet, reporter, issue area, or even your very own name.)