Ramadan & Media Relations: How to Create Positive “Newsworthy” Stories
By Taha Ghayyur
“Media is all anti-Muslim.”
“We should boycott media because it’s the source of Islamophobia.”
“No one is interested in our stories in corporate media!”
While these sentiments and generalizations are common in the Muslim community, dwelling on them and propagating them doesn’t help our cause.
Media bias and Islamomphobic rhetoric certainly exist. There is no denying of anti-Muslim agenda among some media outlets and journalists.
However, media personnel and journalists are humans like us. Engaging them positively with genuine human stories can turn things around.
Media in the US and Canada is constantly looking for original “newsworthy” stories of peace-loving Muslims living their faith in North America.
A key reason why our stories don’t get published or featured in the mainstream media is that we don’t know how to create and pitch stories that are “newsworthy”. Media is not interested in showcasing our theology or what morals our faith preaches! Nor does it care about covering an event or an occasion.
For media, the bottom line is ratings, which translate into dollars. The more original, human, and exciting your story, the higher your chance would be of getting the sound bites.
So, how do we create “newsworthy” stories?
As the public opinion about Islam and Muslims in the US and Canada plummets to record low, and Muslims witness a sharp increase in discrimination, Ramadan is a unique time to engage the media.
Given the fact that Ramadan and Eid season is a good 4-5 week long “holiday season” for Muslims, it offers an excellent opportunity to portray Islam and Muslims in a positive light.
Here are a few things to keep in mind about the stories you conceive this Ramadan and Eid for productive media relations.
Your story should:
- Be more human than philosophical or preachy (Humanize Ramadan and Islam by featuring a story of a person, or family, or community)
- Have a local connection (A local resident, business, Masjid, or community)
- Be as unique and interesting as possible (First Ramadan of a convert, Iftar event at the City Hall, a celebrity visiting a Masjid, or a Ramadan food drive)
- Show significant numbers that your story impacts (The number of people in the neighborhood or city who are fasting, or the number of people participating in an event)
- Be ideally set against the backdrop of hate, terrorism, and Islamophobia (how will this Ramadan story help create a positive image about Islam and Muslims? How will this help make America or Canada better?)
- Consider ways to connect with a local cause or hot social issue in the city that community cares about (#BlackLivesMatter, homelessness, or elections)
- Consider involving or inviting a VIP or a celebrity to increase credibility of the story (Mayor, radio show host, sports personality, CEO of local food bank, or a local interfaith leader)
- Focus on cultural dimensions of Ramadan and Eid (Diversity, multiculturalism, food, family, or community spirit)
17 Ideas for a Potential “Newsworthy” Story
- “First Ramadan in the Life of a Convert Muslim” (Invite media to cover the entire cycle from Suhoor to Taraweeh and contrast with his/her life before embracing Islam)
- “A Day in the Life of a Young Muslim in Ramadan” (Show how Ramadan disciplines and humanizes young Muslims in contrast with usual portrayal of Muslim youth being extremists, etc.)
- “Spirit of Giving” featuring a Muslim Entrepreneur (Showcase a generous donation by a Muslim business person to a social cause in Ramadan. Make it an annual tradition)
- “Invite Your Neighbor to Iftar” at a Masjid or at someone’s house.
- “Ramadan Cuisine” series, featuring a different cultural Iftar every day/week
- “Ramadan Food Drive” for a local food bank (Show Muslims collecting and delivering food)
- “Iftar with Our Homeless Neighbors” (Organize the largest city soup kitchen at Iftar time)
- “Stronger Family Campaign” in Ramadan (Do a media release and launch of the campaign, showcasing how Ramadan brings families together and strengthens these bonds)
- “Fasting Muslims for #BlackLivesMatter” Rally (Peaceful demonstration in support of African Americans or Canadians)
- “Multi-Masjid Open House” (Mass advertise in mainstream media a coordinated open house at several ‘public-friendly’ professionally run mosques in your city, featuring brief engaging lectures, mosque tours, cultural food, and giveaways)
- “Iftar or Eid Celebration” hosted by the Mayor, or Councilors, or a Congressperson/Member of Parliament
- “Eid for All Celebration” (invite public and media to enjoy and celebrate Eid day with the community, starting with Eid prayer)
- “Smile at Your Brother” Ramadan Campaign (Design flyers and posters with smiling Muslims promoting smiling and friendliness since it’s Ramadan. Make this campaign go viral on social media)
- “Live Simply, So Others Can Simply Live” Ramadan Campaign (Show how Muslims can live without food and water for 12-18 hours)
- “Healthy Eating” Ramadan Campaign
- “Green Ramadan” Campaign (Show how your local Masjid is making Iftars and Taraweeh environmentally friendly)
- “Experience the Melodious Qur’an Day” (Invite best Qaris / reciters of the Qur’an in the city to share their melodious voice and the beautiful message of the Qur’an with media and public. Accompany the event with a Qur’an exhibit)
- “Interfaith Fasting Day” (Engage Jews, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and other faith leaders and groups to celebrate the fasting tradition among all faiths. End with a community Iftar)
Creating and pitching a “newsworthy” Ramadan story requires significant planning and legwork, but it’s all worth it.
Let the world see the beauty of your faith and culture. Let everyone experience it! What’s there to hide? -SoundVisioncom