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NZTA media

The media can both shape and reflect public opinion. Media can influence decision makers and mobilise community support. Media are an important audience in their own right as a key channel to communicate and engage with your community.

This section includes:

  • principles for working effectively with the media 
  • insights about media perspectives and how journalists report about speed
  • seven steps to placing a story in the media
  • how media monitoring can help
  • media tools and resources available to you.

Principles for working with the media

The media can be highly influential, and can play a significant role in determining the success or failure of speed management initiatives. So keep these three principles in mind:

  • Be proactive: get in early, be the one to tell your story and establish relationships with local journalists
  • Always provide context: explain the broader issue or problem this change will address (for example, the reason a road needs addressing)
  • Enlist support: find supporters who are willing to endorse your project, and be spokespeople who can support you. A stakeholder working group can help with this

The secret to successfully and constructively working with the media is to be open and transparent. Don’t expect journalists to print exactly what you want, but the more helpful you can be, the more likely you will be to get your message across.

Insights about media perspectives and how they report about speed

The NZ Transport Agency recently conducted media audits in the Waikato and Tasman districts to understand how media are reporting on speed and road safety. The topline findings were:

Coverage of speed focuses on crashes and extreme incidents

      • Dramatic events caused by criminal speeding dominate coverage
      • Speed isn’t highlighted as an issue associated with risk unless it’s 10km/h or more over the limit. If speeds lower than this are mentioned in media coverage, it’s in relation to enforcement
      • Stories that highlight or place blame on groups of people (“hoons”, “boy racers”, foreign drivers, etc.) are the norm
      • What this means for you

        Media’s understanding of the issue may be based on recent, high profile incidents rather than data about areas of high benefit. You will need to explain why roads have been chosen and what this will mean for the safety and efficiency of the general population.

        Also explain clearly how even small variations in speed can make a big difference to road safety consequences. Talk about the issues on a stretch of road you are hoping to address. This is at the core of the Guide and its purpose.

Reporters often don’t understand the real role of speed as a contributor to risk on the road

      • The noise of other, more accepted, road safety issues pushes speed to the bottom of the story
      • What this means for you

        You will need to explain why speed on New Zealand roads needs to be managed. Try to make your explanation relevant to your community, include local statistics and facts which clearly show why speed is an issue. Focus on risk and issues on roads where you are looking at introducing speed management measure. This is explained further in the media toolkit.

Media call on a small number of spokespeople

      • A small number of spokespeople, usually Police, hold a powerful share of voice in relation to speed, roads and road safety. They are the people most often quoted or contacted by media
      • The use of Police and emergency services reinforces the impression that speed is an extreme issue, relating to dangerous drivers. This takes the focus off the road and driving to it
      • What this means for you

        When you contact media, offer prepared spokespeople who can bring a different perspective. Reporters usually go to police and emergency services because they are under pressure and don’t know who else to contact. You can also take advantage of the media’s predisposition to emergency services by going to them first to explain your programme and why it matters as part of your stakeholder engagement process.

Community media have a positive role to play

      • Helpful and informed conversations happen in community media
      • They are more likely than regional or national media to engage with local road safety advocates and include a range of perspectives
      • What this means for you

        Build relationships with community media. Review who they are speaking to, and make sure they are included in your own community stakeholder lists and engagement plans.

        Review community media to ensure you understand which roads your community has asked for action on, and engage in these conversations wherever you can.

There is fertile ground for a better conversation

    • The media can, and do, run good news stories
    • They need help to do this, but recent experience shows they are open to help
    • What this means for you

      Remember that journalists are busy, and they will need help. Provide them with thorough, relevant information, explain clearly why you are introducing speed management measures, and tell them where to go to find people who support you. Be innovative and open, for example, you could take a reporter on a road trip over all the roads you are seeking to change.

Seven steps to placing a story in the media

For some working with the media might be second nature, but if you have never had to place a story before, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are seven simple steps.

      1. Identify your target publication: this is likely to be a community or regional paper with a particular interest in the area affected by your speed management planning.

      2. Identify a spokesperson: brief them with your key messages, core story and Q&A.

      3. Identify your journalist: the reporter you will deal with will most likely cover District Council or transport rounds, or you could choose one who you think does a good job covering local issues fairly.

      4. Write your media release with the most relevant, freshest information at the top.

      5. Think about photo opportunities: what image could help tell your story? This could be a sign going up, a known stakeholder at the site of your proposed speed management initiative, or school children outside their front gates. Your story is more likely to run if it is accompanied by a great photo.

      6. Email the release to your journalist, and copy in the news desk, or the editor: call the paper if you don’t know where it should go. They are always happy to help.

      7. Follow up with a phone call: explain your project, who it affects, and what it means for the community. This is often more important than the release.

How media monitoring can help

Listening to the media will help you understand what is important to your community, who is saying what and, importantly, which journalists are likely to be interested in what you have to say.

You can monitor the media yourself, by setting up a Google keyword search – or simply by reading the paper every day and noting down trends. If you have the resource, you could hire a media monitoring service to do it for you, and provide regular reports on what appeared in the media.

The cost of monthly media monitoring varies but to give you an idea, there is a monthly fee then, on top of this, you pay approximately $1.75 for a press clip (digital), $2.25 for an Internet alert and $3.75 for a broadcast summary. Contact the Transport Agency for more information or for assistance in setting up this service. 

This directory below can help you plan next steps in your media engagement.

Media tools and resources available to you

A short guide to working with local media [PDF, 348 KB]

Media audit case studies – two relevant examples of media audits in New Zealand [PDF, 332 KB]

Media audit explained [PDF, 70 KB]

Need help engaging with your local media? Contact us.