How you can work effectively with journalists

By 07/09/2021Tips

Let’s face it, we need each other.

Journalists need content to fill their pages and the charity sector needs a platform to tell their stories, boost campaigns and raise awareness.

There’s been an outpouring of warmth and welcome from the British public in response to Afghan refugees arriving in our communities, so it’s time to translate that spirit into meaningful support for local refugee charities and campaigning work.

It’s important to remember that TIMING is everything if you want your stories to have IMPACT. If there was ever a time for the public to connect with the refugee sector and truly understand the ramifications of the Nationality and Borders Bill, that time is NOW, and journalists can help us.

pairs of hands by a microphone

What should I do if a journalist calls my organisation?

Ask THEM lots of questions! Find out as much as possible about who they are, who they work for and the context of their article, feature, or report. Who else are they talking to? Ask them when their deadline is and then let them know you’ll get back to them.

Then take a bit of time to research how they’ve approached stories about refugees in the past, if at all. Building relationships with journalists to form mutual trust is all part of this process.

What do journalists need?

To tell your story effectively, it helps to understand what journalists are looking for. Reporters are busy people working to tight deadlines, and they’re not always experts in the sector, so make sure you arm them with the correct information in an easy-to-digest format.

Here are some pointers:

  • A human interest angle that draws in the reader – the opportunity to hear from real people with whom the public can connect
  • Reliable facts, figures and research
  • Quotes and or interview opportunities with a variety of relevant voices
  • A unique spin on a story – is there a slightly different angle, or has something new emerged?
  • Images and Video – or provide them with an opportunity to gather this content at your organisation
  • Clear messaging – is there a particular narrative you want to get across?
  • A call to action – where should people go after reading, watching or listening to this story?

But you can’t ask people to talk at a time like this…

What if the journalist wants to speak to one of your clients? It might feel insensitive to ask people to talk to the media in a time of crisis but lifting the voices of people with lived experience is absolutely key to raising awareness.

First and foremost, it’s vital that we safeguard those who are speaking, so it’s clearly understood what people are happy to talk about, where, and how their story will be featured. Also do lay out any safety issues that might arise because of them speaking publicly.

IMIX has created a safeguarding checklist that can be used for these purposes.

Once you’ve established the terms on which someone is happy to speak, then you can set very clear boundaries with the reporter before they interview that person. Offer to be in the room or on the Zoom call during the interview so you can support the person talking.

After someone has shared their story, always check in with them afterwards to make sure they’re okay and whether they need some support if they’ve found it difficult.


Here are just a handful of stories that draw their power from the voices of people with lived experience.

There’s Victor, who had to run for his life from Nigeria and seek asylum in Coventry because he is gay. It is still a crime to be gay in Nigeria, and Victor wanted to share his story to help others.

British Afghan Shabnam Nasimi wrote a timely op-ed for The Times with a strong argument for the government to provide safer routes to the UK and the right to work for asylum seekers.

And the heart-warming friendship of Syrian refugee Baraa and Alastair, who met through a hosting scheme and bonded over a mutual love of science fiction. There’s been a surge in interest in hosting refugees in people’s homes since the Afghanistan crisis, and articles like this can only help.

Experts by Experience

IMIX are training up a supported network of experts by experience, empowering people who want to talk to the media and have their voices heard.

The comprehensive free training is designed to support people with lived experience of being a refugee, with everything from using different social media platforms effectively to protecting yourself while being in the public eye and media law.

If you want to find out more about this project, please email

Don’t forget if you’re feeling unsure about talking to the media, you can get expert advice from the team at IMIX – just email and one of us will be in touch!

Author Katie Bryson

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