Panel Discussion on Social Marketing and Advocacy Communications

My friend Tricia invited me to a panel discussion on Social Marketing and Advocacy Communications at the New School yesterday. Check out my notes below:



  • Advocacy alone doesn’t work. It must be accompanied by social mobilization and effective communication.
  • Don’t seek out media coverage just for media’s sake. Visibility alone is not enough. Media should be seen as a way of educating the public.
  • It IS possible to do proactive and effective public communication on a small budget. All you need is creative tactics.
  • Video advocacy is a good way for NGOs to add more punch and emotional appeal to their message and it can be done effective on a low budget.
  • Google news is a great aggregator of news stories.
  • Don’t expect to change people’s minds, but try to get people to challenge their assumptions. Point out hypocrisy and double standards.
  • Celebrity Culture – if you can’t beat it, co-opt it. Pointing out the hypocrisy of celebrities/politicians and societal double standards is a great way to get media. Examples: News of Rush Limbaugh’s Oxycontin addiction is a great starting point to talk about the failure of the US “War on Drugs”. News of Mary Cheney’s pregnancy is a good way to draw attention to the fact that same-sex couples do not have the legal protections of marriage to protect their children and families.
  • Hire locally for paid media – a great way of building legitimacy and empowering content creators in the global south.


  • The NY Times still shapes the national (US) news of the day.
  • Don’t call reporters on a Friday (big deadline day).
  • Always ask if a reporter is busy at the beginning of a call.
  • Get used to rejection. Don’t take is personally.
  • Wednesday is the best day for email.
  • 10 am – 2 pm is the best time period for calling reporters
  • Email AND call reporters to make sure they got the message
  • Journalists like to hear from you even if you aren’t pitching a story. This is a great way to solidify relationships.

ON WEB 2.0

  • Be mindful of the digital divide, but don’t dumb down content to the lowest common technical denominator.
  • Online strategies are essential, but always keep in mind how to make online strategies move offline.
  • User generated content requires advocacy groups to relinquish control. Groups need to weigh the balance between maintaining a consistent message with empowering members and harnessing their creativity. This paradigm shift is still relatively recent, so people are still experimenting and finding out what works.


  • 3 main employment options:
    • Work for a public interest PR firm like Fenton Communications
    • Work as a media person in a single-issue advocacy group
    • Work as an independent consultant/start your own firm
  • Qualities and Attributes necessary
    • Interact well with people
    • Write well, Speak well
    • Manage expectations, listen well, client relations, patient
    • Outgoing, likes to schmooze, party, and talk on the phone
  • Volunteer to get your foot in the door


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