TIDBITS OF WISDOM
- 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.
ON PITCHING STORIES TO JOURNALISTS
- 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.
HOW TO GET INTO THE BIZ
- 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