A Guide: How to prepare for media interviews about poverty

19 August 2019 by Alana Avery

In collaboration with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), we’ve entered our second year of the project, bringing people with experiences of poverty and low incomes together with senior media professionals to explore ideas for fresh coverage of this topic.

We have 20 trained and supported members in the group from Glasgow, Salford, Leeds and London, who have led carefully thought out meet-ups – which we call “interactions” – with producers and editors from Cosmopolitan magazine, Daily Mail, Sky News and CBBC Scotland amongst others.

These sessions have highlighted diverse experiences of what being locked in poverty feels like and uncovered the reality of hidden poverty, drowning in debt and challenges with rising housing costs. The group have also examined how media organisations can improve outreach to adults and children with lower socio-economic backgrounds, supporting employment initiatives and diversity on shows.

These are often experiences that journalists have told us they hadn’t realised the extent of, or that hearing directly from grassroots groups and people with first-hand experiences actually reinforced the urgency to tell these stories accurately from the ground up.

Practical Guide for looking after yourself when engaging with the media

One outcome from the project is On Road and JRF putting together a short, practical Guide on collaborating with the media. It’s designed for grassroots organisations and people with experiences and/or expertise in poverty or low incomes and it focuses on media interviews or conversations with journalists. We’re delighted to share it!

Guide to Media Interviews About Poverty  – free to download.

Check it out – it covers:

  • An interview checklist and tips for how to look after yourself
  • Questions to ask yourself before media opportunities
  • Questions to ask the media professionals who contact you
  • Universal Credit media interviews advice
  • Looking after yourself online and with social media

If you have any questions, please get in touch. 

Creating the right environment to work with the media safely and with agency

Our group regularly use this toolkit when media opportunities come in. They have also been trained to speak about poverty, using the JRF Framing Toolkit, developed by JRF and the FrameWorks Institute, which gives applicable, effective tools for winning hearts and minds. They benefit from the project’s regular peer support meetings, media skills training, mentoring and framing tools. During the year, some of our group have spoken about their experiences and expertise, and co-facilitated JRF conferences on how to reframe messages about poverty. A member of our group shared with us:

Interaction with Sky News

“Being part of On Road Media’s project has definitely had a positive impact on me and how I see myself. The level of care offered and instilled by On Road has allowed me to have full confidence in participating, not just in the interactions with the media and media and self-care training received from them, but also in my dealings with other organisations and also in my personal life.

It means a lot to me to be seen, heard and valued through the support and training given by the On Road team, which has helped to provide me with a more balanced view of myself, and my abilities and limitations.

On Road have given me the best support and working methods by far, than I have encountered from any similar organisations.” 

Group members have come from Poverty Truth Commissions and Communities, Gingerbread, London Unemployed Strategies, Centrepoint, One Parent Families Scotland and the Scottish Poverty Alliance.

We’re also working in partnership with ATD Fourth World who most recently spoke about our project at the ATD Fourth World International Communications Workshop in July. 

Patricia, from ATD Fourth World expressed:

“With On Road Media, there’s a very different way of working. First of all, before even talking to a journalist, all of us people with lived experience of poverty have had time to build our own peer support network. We understand more how the media works and we’ve gained confidence to speak to journalists.

And in the media training that On Road Media does with us, we can practice saying no. If one of us doesn’t like the question a journalist asks, we can end an interview, or we can change the subject.”

Interaction at The Observer and The Guardian

Diana Skelton, Head of Mission at ATD Fourth World shared:

“On Road Media always gives us a checklist with all the things we can ask for from journalists including whether there can be payment, or at least reimbursement for transportation expenses. We can ask to know questions in advance, and we can ask how long the journalist will spend with us so that we are not taken by surprise when the interview ends.

“In addition to learning these guidelines from On Road Media, we ask all of the journalists we meet to explain to us how they pitch stories to their editors, and how decisions get made about what to report on. Many of the journalists we meet have taught me new communications techniques.”

Alongside working with this fantastic group, we’ve spent the last year partnering with people with first-hand experiences of inequality and poverty, and delivering workshops on how to reframe poverty, strategic communications and self-care, and sharing learning with grassroots organisations and anti-poverty groups around the country.

It’s remarkable to see the impact the group has had on each other and with the media in such a short space of time. Some of this is behind the scenes, but we’ve got an exciting couple of months ahead and we’ll be sure to share further news and results.

Read more about our project supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Trust for London.