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Working with the media

Why do we work with the media?

Working with the media can be an effective way of sharing our stories with a broad audience. We know that real renters’ real stories and experiences can be very compelling tools to drive change. Media done well can help to shift discourse in the general public in support of our positions, and can influence decision-makers’ agendas.

What does it look like to work with the media?

Sharing your renting story as a ‘case study’

Journalists will sometimes put direct case study requests at the bottom of articles or on their social media channels. Members of the public can then approach them to share their story.

Journalists often approach the Tenants’ Union for case studies. Our staff members then sometimes reach out to suitable renters who have filled out our Share Your Story form, to connect them with journalists.

Journalists often prefer for case studies to be named, and often with a photograph. However, renters may not feel comfortable with this level of identification. Some journalists will be willing to use a pseudonym, and/or forego or strategically shoot a photograph to maintain the case study’s anonymity.

‘Backgrounding’ journalists

Journalists might seek to understand issues through researching and receiving background on a topic. This may include renters informally telling a journalist about their story and how it is indicative of issues in the rental crisis. This backgrounding can be explicitly off-the-record or a journalist may hear a story and wish to include it as a case study in their final piece.

Story tip-offs

Giving story tip-offs to a journalist may be as simple as commenting on a journalist’s social media post, emailing them proactively, or responding to a direct call out on a media outlet website. Tip-offs may include sharing details of an important news story that hasn’t been covered yet in the media, or something more simple like a community event, protest or action. 

However, sharing certain stories may carry risks through sharing information with the public. Where a story would mean calling out certain institutions or people, this is called ‘whistleblowing’ and can lead to legal repercussions. You can learn more about whistleblowing here.

Ways to connect with journalists

Follow journalists on social media (primarily Twitter) and reach out directly to journalists whose work looks like it aligns with your story.

Share your story with the Make Renting Fair campaign and if a relevant journalist wants to use your story as a case study, we will get in touch.

Share your story directly on media outlet websites where there are options to do so. Normally, this can be found on the contact page.

Tips for doing media interviews

  • Research the journalist and outlet ahead of time.
  • Make decisions about how much personal information you’re comfortable sharing. This might involve discussing with other members of your household, e.g. teen children.
  • On camera, try to stay as still as possible.
  • For pre-recorded TV, try to answer questions in tidy 7-10 second grabs, and don’t be shy about asking to re-record an answer to a question if you’re not happy with it.
  • For TV or radio, try to take a breath or a pause rather than saying ‘umm’ – it can be helpful to practise this ahead of time as it doesn’t always feel natural.
  • Saying a question back can help formulate thoughts and make a sentence easier to include in a piece.

Q: What law reforms do you want to see?
A: The law reforms I want to see are an end to no grounds evictions.

  • Journalists may use silence to draw out further responses, feel free not to say anything when this happens. Don’t feel like you have to fill a silence.

Risks associated with working with the media

Renters doing media using real names and/or photographs may potentially face discrimination and blowback from real estate agents and landlords who recognise them. This could include the risk of a rental application being rejected, or of a ‘no grounds’ eviction or a rent increase in a current rental.

Sharing information about difficult personal experiences with a wide audience can be emotionally taxing. For instance, members of the public may make rude or judgemental comments on social media shares of the story.

Once what you say is out there, it cannot be taken back. It’s best to think carefully about the extent of what you’re sharing and how much you want to share.