Social workers are, as a general rule, much too media-averse. Sometimes it’s because we work for large bureaucracies that make us afraid of the consequences if we speak out of turn. Sometimes it’s because we’re trained to see so many nuances of every issue that we are horrible at framing things so that people who aren’t immersed in these issues can understand them. And sometimes it’s because we have no training in how to do media work, so we make some pretty amateur mistakes.
One of the things I try to do for my students and the advocates with whom I work is to de-mystify the media. I have many good friends who are reporters in various outlets, and doing media work was always an exciting (if not always enjoyable) part of my job. Yes, there are certainly opportunities to mess up on a grand scale when you’re on television or talking to an AP reporter, but there are also unparalleled opportunities to get your particular message across, influence the way that people will see your work and your issue, and raise attention to the problems that too often fail to garner the priority they deserve. I’ll do a post with my rules for framing soon; in the meantime, here’s a list of media tips that I compiled with a lot of help from people with whom I’ve worked in radio, television, and newspaper. They are, without exception, kind and intelligent professionals who are genuinely curious and usually supportive about the work that nonprofit organizations are doing. They need us, and we need them.
One of our tasks in preparing for more effective media work is to also become better consumers of media. Take a look at the media coverage of a policy or community issue that particularly concerns you. Which voices are represented? How? Who is silenced?
Media Analysis Worksheet