Media Strategy

How to effectively communicate through the media: Tools and mechanisms

Promoting an effective alliance with the media entails SAI eagerness to ensure that journalists understand audit reports and can deliver the message accurately. Writing clear press briefings and targeting the right media audience (that is, the journalist in charge) are indeed helpful but do not alone guarantee success.

SAIs can implement several strategies to produce improved communication with the media:

Media lock-ups

Holding media bootcamps allows journalists to digest a report, ask questions, and prepare their columns or news reports before an audit report is published. Hence, it is published, the information is accurately and effectively delivered to a broad audience. In some cases, journalists need to sign confidentiality agreements to take part in these events to avoid press leaks.

News conference

When a report is publicly released, the SAI can hold a news conference in which the head or an appointed representative delivers an opening statement and answers questions from journalists. The focus of the opening statement should be on key findings and conclusions in general.

Media interviews

Once the report is made public, SAI officials can be contacted by the media (print, radio, electronic, and television) to provide further insights on audit findings.

Question-and-answer practice sessions

It can be useful to offer auditors practice sessions before they attend press conferences or give interviews. These sessions focus on the kinds of questions that journalists are likely to ask so that SAI officials are well prepared for similar events involving the wider public.

Workshops with journalists

SAIs can organize workshops so as to explain to journalists how audit exercises are planned and executed and how reports should be read. Some SAIs coordinate training activities to present information systems and platforms to journalists so that they can make the most of SAI tools when working on an article about a specific subject that may not be related to a recent audit process.

Social media

Some SAIs are starting to use social media as a way to get short messages out to wider—and often younger—audiences. Facebook and Twitter are the main tools for delivering the message in real time to this audience.

SAI contact point

SAIs should name a representative officially in charge of establishing communication with the media. This will contribute to setting clear responsibilities for the staff and building sustainable relationships of trust and confidentiality with external stakeholders.


In 2011, the SAI of Hungary launched the SAO News Portal, a website aimed at providing fast, fresh, authentic, and unbiased information to the public. Through this initiative, the SAO expected to boost publication activity (news about official and unofficial events, audit-related scientific activities, meetings with leaders from other organizations, and audit reports), increase the institution´s reputation, and reduce the distance between the public and SAO, while also strengthening staff commitment to institutional objectives.

A major goal of expanding SAO’s online communication channel was to encourage stakeholders (the public, the media, members of Parliament, and SAO officials) to consider the websites as the primary source of SAO-related news and information. To achieve that objective, a new publishing process and method were developed. At the same time, to ensure the quality of the website, employees were trained for communication. The training focused on both technical and content-related elements of writing news for the website, editing them, and uploading them with pictures that draw public attention to the audited topic.

The launch of SAO News Portal led to an increase in the number of news articles published and a change in attitude throughout the organization. During the test period, 148 articles were published, and in the second three months, that number reached 170. In the first quarter of 2010, by contrast, only 8 articles were published. Altogether, 755 articles were published in 2011. As for the topics of the news released, the biggest proportion (43 percent) dealt with audits. In 2012, 734 articles were published and, according to statistics, the number of visitors to the website increased by 70 percent compared with 2011.

During the past decade, the Brazilian SAI has taken a number of actions to better communicate its main findings from the audit of the year-end government report—that is, the Accounts of the President of the Republic (CPR)—and has also been supported by increased TCU (the Brazilian Federal Court of Accounts) capacity for relations with Congress and the media.

Actions specific to the audit findings for the CPR include an executive summary on the audit report, a dedicated webpage for the audit opinion and audit report, and media-friendly “synthesis sheets.” Specifically for the audit of the FY 2011 CPR, the TCU hosted a seminar with stakeholders from the federal executive, launched a journalism award, and hosted a series of activities with major Brazilian universities. Communication of the audit findings for the CPR have also benefited from TCU actions to strengthen its institutional communications system. The responsibilities and resourcing of TCU units interacting with the National Congress and the media have been increased, with a direct effect on the communication of TCU control and oversight processes.

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