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Media Plan

Here are some basic tools to assist individuals who might be speaking to the media about suicide more effectively. By following these basic tools, you and your staff have the opportunity to raise awareness responsibly, highlight both the problems and solutions to suicide, and help eliminate negative stigma associated with suicide. 

Determine Who Will Speak With the Media

Designate someone from your organization or office to be the spokesperson. 

  • Choose someone qualified to talk to media who you know and trust. Those with prior experience talking to the media, those who are trained in media and communications, as well as those comfortable with public speaking are best for this role.  Also, individuals who think quickly and are able to respond to high-pressure or time-sensitive situations are uniquely qualified for this role.

  • Have a back-up person in the event your designated spokesperson cannot do a media interview (due to illness, vacation, etc.). Your designees, at the very least, should be well versed in the Best Practices on this site. Whenever possible, a more extensive media training in recommended for all who might be talking to the media. 

Decide When and Where

When and where the media interview happens will depend partly on the situation, however there are steps that you can take to be better prepared for contact with the media because a call from a media outlet can happen at any time. You can:

  • Designate a quiet place in the office free of distraction to take media phone calls or conduct on-camera interviews. 

  • Be mindful of your surroundings if reporters are videotaping in your office. Put away confidential documents, anatomical aids, equipment used in an autopsy, etc.

  • Schedule media interviews at times the family or loved ones are not on site.

Strategize What Will Be Said

You should be strategic in what you share with the media. You will want to follow the rules and regulation of your jurisdiction and workplace, and be familiar with the best practices on this site. Some other important tips: 

  1. Know that you get one soundbite, not an elevator speech. Thus it is best to prepare a 5-10 second soundbite before media arrive for an interview.

  2. Develop one key message. Think carefully about the case and your message and develop a soundbite from there.

  3. Use correct and up-to-date data. If you forget a statistic it's better to leave it out than be wrong. If you share data, cite your source so the reporter can easily verify. 

  4. If you don't know the answer to a question, offer to research it and get back to the reporter or refer them to someone else who would know.

  5. Some media will want the story to have a sense of controversy to the topic. Present them your facts as you know them.  Do not feel pressured to give information that you do not want to, feel comfortable with or is necessary to help them with their report.

  6. Always try and include a message to the public that helps them understand that suicide is preventable, public health issue by highlighting both the problem of suicide and that suicide can be prevented with effective treatment. 

Have a Backup Plan

Because laws and regulations vary by state and jurisdiction, you may not always be able or available to answer the media's inquiries about a suicide death. Create a trusted partnership with another reputable source to share information or provide referrals to the media who contact you.