Tag Archives: media

It’s not high school anymore–Winning Policy Debates

To debate or not to debate? Sorry to be so trite, but that really is the first question. Especially in the immigrant rights movement, where all of us feel (justifiably, I think) that the anti-immigrant side gets way more attention and credibility than it deserves, there is a lot of controversy about whether we’re doing our cause any favors when we engage in debate with those voices. Are we unwittingly legitimizing them by sharing a stage? Or is it a part of our obligation as advocates to ensure that their views do not go unchallenged? Uncharacteristically, I remain a bit ambivalent on this question. For the most part, I refused debates with anti-immigrant organizations/individuals when doing so meant that the event would not be held (because they couldn’t/wouldn’t do the debate one-sided and could find no one else appropriate for our side) and agreed when it was clear that the alternative was uncensored time for the anti-immigrant perspective. My one clear absolute rule was that would not debate Minutemen. When asked for names of people to represent ‘the other side’ I always suggested someone from Immigration and Customs Enforcement or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services since, as bureaucrats, they tend not to be zealots but rather to represent the government’s position.

Most of the time, because he was the most presentable figure they had and because he (like me, I’ll admit) likes to debate, I debated Kris Kobach. I debated him when he was a congressional candidate, after he lost his bid, when he was representing FAIR in court, after that case was dismissed, and even once after he became Chair of the Republican Party in Kansas. I debated him on television (live and recorded), on radio, and in front of live audiences. I debated him indirectly, in legislative hearings (see the post on testimony), but this post refers to direct debates, where, sometimes alone and sometimes joined by 1-2 other people (or, on one occasion, an entire panel), we engaged in a debate of sorts around questions of immigration policy.

Until I can figure out how to get VHS tape of one of those videos into digital format so that I can upload some snippets here (can anyone walk me through that?), I’ve tried to go through my notes and the coverage from those debates to come up with some thoughts to share. I know that debates are more common on very hot-button topics such as immigration, but I have worked with some students and advocate colleagues who have also been called upon to debate, and it is my hope that this can be helpful in the future.

  • Figure out who you are trying to convince and tailor your arguments very clearly towards them. Remember, you are NOT going to win over the person(s) against whom you’re actually debating (even if you did convince them on a couple of points, they could never admit it, or the debate would no longer work!), so don’t bother trying to figure out what might sway them. They are not your target; you’re aiming at: the media, undecided legislators, your potential community allies, the general public…you have to decide, but know that in advance, because it must shape your message. You should address your opponent some of the time, because otherwise you can just look rude, but make sure to look at the moderator or audience often, since they’re the ones with whom you want to connect.
  • Have a message box in front of you, if at all possible, and refer to it in every single answer/response. You don’t need a whole stack of references; in fact, if you bring a ton of material, you’ll just look flustered trying to look through it to find what you want. Instead, you want a box with 4 quadrants, one core message in each, and a few carefully chosen supporting facts. If you can work something from that box into every time you open your mouth, you will be largely successful in getting your message across. Practice using this message box, if at all possible, both to make statements that you really want to get in and to answer questions in some sort of practice debate.
  • Appearances count. A lot. In a media training once, I watched my friend Angela Kelley debate Dan Stein (Director of FAIR) with the volume turned off entirely. After we watched the debate in silence, the trainer asked us who won. His point was that many people watching debates are going to only partially pay attention and may not understand a lot of the content, so how you come across matters a lot. Dan Stein looked angry and sweaty and kind of scary, while Angela was smiling and pleasant and seemed generally satisfied with life and, therefore, with the position that she got to represent. That made a difference. I’m not saying to look as though increased funding for anti-retrovirals or new foster care policies are happy, wonderful topics, because they are tragedies with real consequences for people, but you will greatly enhance your cause if you appear calm, kind, poised, and confident rather than snarky and mean and nervous.
    Note: I remember in one debate when Kobach actually said, “what we need is to reform the immigration system so that people are coming here legally.” I knew that wasn’t exactly what he meant, but he had said it, so I was able to smile broadly and say, “Kris, that’s wonderful that we’ve come to an agreement on such a critical issue. I hope that Congress can move forward on such an agenda with your blessing.” He got very flustered, the moderator and the audience actually laughed, and a journalist told me later that it was a really good moment, because I was able break across the adversarial stance and humanize myself.

  • Appeal to values, not facts. If ever we need a really good frame, it’s when we’re debating. You can’t throw facts at each other back and forth because, remember, you’re trying to convince some third party, and they’ll conclude that they can’t possibly know whose facts are correct, so they’ll just go with the position that most resonates with their pre-established values. So you have to frame your argument accordingly.
    Note: This, too, reminds me of a moment in another debate. Kobach had referenced several studies that (supposedly–they don’t fit my frame, so I discount them!) claim that immigrants are a huge drain on the economy. There are several others that make the opposite claim, but rather than pull them out, I said, “Kris, we both know that for every study you cite, I could cite another one that says exactly the opposite. People don’t want to hear us throw numbers at each other. They know that immigration has built this country–they and their ancestors lived that story. What they want now is an immigration system that ensures that immigration can continue to work for the U.S. as it has throughout its history.” He set his stack of economic analyses aside, because that argument was now neutralized.

  • While you want to be pleasant, you don’t have to be nice. Remember, you want people watching/listening to think that they can identify with you, but you are not trying to make friends here. In a debate with a Missouri State Representative, who had claimed several times that his anti-immigrant student legislation was ‘not racist, not aimed at Hispanics, just concerned with not subsidizing illegal behavior’ or some other nonsense, at the very end (it was on KCUR, so I knew exactly when it would be over), he got caught up with a caller and said something like, “these people have more babies than American families, and if we’re not careful our kids will have to speak Spanish if they want to compete.” Was it a little bit mean to then use my last statement (the end of the show) to say, “See, Steve (Kraske, the host), the proponents of this legislation may claim otherwise, but, at its core, it’s a racist attack on the hopes and dreams of Latino families who, just like every other Missouri family, are only asking for a chance to build a better life for their children”? Maybe. But it’s true, and it worked.
  • Find out as much in advance as you can about the parameters of the debate before you begin. What topics will be the moderator’s focus? Will questions from the audience be allowed (if so, try to convince them to have them screened first, since it’s so frustrating to have to sit through someone’s diatribe to get to their inane question)? How much time will you have? What format will be followed? How many people will participate, and how will time be divided?
  • Just like with the media, remember that you don’t have to directly answer every question (whether from the moderator or in response to something that your opponent just said). Look at every chance you have to speak as another opportunity to say what it is you want to say, and just figure out how to tie that into the opening you’ve been given.
  • Try to establish some control early on–whether that means greeting the moderator warmly, because it makes it look as though you have some sort of ‘in’; talking to some folks in the audience (same reason), or greeting your opponent with enthusiasm for the debate. Social workers, this is all about using what we know about human behavior to create the conditions in which a message of justice can prevail!
  • Expect that you’re going to be nervous, and remember that everyone watching is, in part, rejoicing that they’re not you, having to be up there. It’s okay to be human and okay to be scared, but it’s just not okay to use that as an excuse not to stand up for what we know to be right. I remember before my first televised debate with Kobach, sitting in the parking lot of KCPT, fervently wishing that I was the lunch delivery guy, because he didn’t have to debate Kobach on TV. On the way out, though, I was really honored to be able to represent people who trusted me to carry their stories, and it felt really good.

    If you have footage of debates that you’ve done, I’d love to see them! If you’re preparing for a debate, as an advocate, what concerns or questions do you have? What are your core messages, and what is your audience? I’d even love to practice with someone who’s getting ready to debate on a key policy issue. We know that we’re on the right side, when we’re standing up for vulnerable people and battling entrenched social problems, and, with a little skill, we can use debates to convince others of that too!

  • Does your nonprofit organization have a blog?

    Press Releases that Work, and Working Them

    When I first started my advocacy career, doing media work essentially meant writing up a press release and then faxing it to the three local television stations, the one local newspaper (and maybe a couple of regional papers), and the public radio station. Unfortunately, while media and technology are changing rapidly, such that people are getting most of their news content from sources that didn’t even exist 10 years ago, many nonprofit advocates have not similarly altered their way of disseminating information.

    The press release, as a form, is still useful. If you are soliciting coverage of an issue or an event from public or commercial news outlets, you still need a way to tell them what’s going on, why it’s important, and how they can get more information. In fact, I would argue that what made a press release good 10 years ago, when I started writing them regularly, has not changed much. What is radically, almost unrecognizably different is with whom we communicate about them, and how.

    I use the Organizing for Social Change text for the Advanced Advocacy Practice course, and it includes some content on writing press releases, as do many print and online tutorials for organizers. These resources are absolutely helpful, as they give formats that make your press release readable and help you to make sure that you don’t omit any crucial information. Unfortunately, though, I think that sometimes we pay too much attention to parsing words in our press releases, and to how they appear stylistically, and not enough attention to how we put this information in the hands of those who can do something powerful with it, in a way that prompts them to want to. That’s primarily what this post is about, with a couple of different sections that are my way of trying to organize what I’ve learned about doing this kind of media advocacy. That, I guess, is the first ‘lesson’–we have to view this as advocacy. If we assume that all in the media will just naturally be enthralled by the content we have to share, then we are less likely to present it persuasively. While we can hope that news people will not be overtly hostile to our issues and messages, we should certainly consider them targets when we’re seeking coverage.

    So, then, what are some considerations for the actual drafting of press releases that others might not mention?

  • Make sure that it’s about something actually newsworthy. Please don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out the snazziest way to write a press release about something that really only matters to you. You don’t get any bonus points for sending out lots of releases; the point is to get coverage. If your issue and the hook you’ve given it are exciting enough, your release will practically write itself.
    NOTE: If it’s really considered significant, you can get good coverage even with a subpar release–the one (linked below) that I wrote in March 2007, is way too long (that’s what happens when you’re writing by committee, with lots of stakeholders to please), but we still had 3 television stations, 4 newspapers, 2 radio stations, and 1 blogger at the press release to provide coverage.

  • Think about the purpose of your release; what ‘kind’ of coverage are you hoping for? If you just want to be mentioned, then you might include enough detail so that someone can run with it with very little investment on their part (including quotes from key actors). If, however, you’re hoping to lure people to come to an event, then you won’t want them to be able to write their story from the release alone.
  • Control the pacing–if you want to send a release out in advance of an event but don’t want the coverage to happen until a certain time, embargo your release until the date when you’re ready.
  • If you can include something eye-catching or surprising or in other ways attention-grabbing, that’s an advantage. What I do like about the Bill Introduction Press Release below is that we included some voices that media didn’t necessarily expect to see; my hunch that this was a part of their attraction was confirmed by the extent to which those perspectives were the ones reflected in the coverage!

    And to whom should we send our press releases, and how?

  • Don’t neglect any of the traditional sources, but remember that they are more overworked and understaffed than ever before, which makes it all the more critical that you have a specific contact to whom you’re sending the release. Take the time to call in advance and get a name.
  • More media folks are requesting electronic press releases; they can access these from their smart phones or other mobile devices, often, and they can more easily take key facts from the release to include in their pitch or story. You can email the release out, then, but don’t send it as an attachment, because it may be rejected by security software.
  • In addition to these traditional sources, cultivate contacts among and send your release to ethnic media (including radio, television, and print) (making sure to provide language-appropriate documents where necessary), Internet media sites relevant to your topic, and bloggers with an interest in your issue. People get their news from all of these places now, and we have to reach out to them as well.
  • Don’t forget wire services and media outlets a bit removed from your immediate geographic area; since more people are getting their media (even from traditional sources) online, there has been some expansion of territory covered, and you might find some interest in a bit larger area.
  • Be a media consumer–if you expect to create releases that will appeal to media outlets without having any sense of how they use content, you will likely be disappointed. At the least, you’ll probably misread some outlets, sending to some who couldn’t care less, and missing some that might give you good coverage. My husband taught me a lesson on this once–he often listens to an alternative music radio station in Kansas City, and he told me in advance of one rally that the DJ had made a couple of supportive comments about immigrants the other day. I called the station to get the producer’s name, sent over a release, and the DJ came with an assistant and a producer to one of our rallies for a live broadcast! They interviewed several of the immigrant participants, hilariously mocked the counter-protestors, and gave people directions for how to come down to show their support. It was an audience that we never would have reached without the intelligence that there might be some receptivity.

    And what do we do after a release has been distributed, to try to increase our exposure?

  • Probably one of the biggest mistakes that I see nonprofit advocates make in early media work is assuming that sending the release out constitutes the extent of your outreach. Remember, in advocacy, you want as few surprises as possible, so you should follow up with everyone to whom you sent a release, by telephone if at all possible (that’s why you guard good media contact’s cell phone numbers closely!)–make sure that they received the release, see what questions they have, talk to them a little about the event or issue if they seem at all receptive, and then ask them directly if there will be coverage. You’ll be surprised at what these calls might yield–I’ve gotten offers to do guest editorials, on-air call-in shows, and even remote broadcasts. Advocacy always requires closing the loop, and media advocacy is no different in this respect.
  • Ask for and save contact information from every media representative who gives you any good coverage. Connect with them directly the next time you have a release to send out. At policy events, have someone dedicated to working the media–looking for representatives when they arrive, providing them with information, answering questions.
  • Don’t disparage the media broadly. I have worked with colleagues who make comments (in front of media representatives) like, “people just oppose our issue because of all the they read in the media,” who are then baffled when they don’t receive favorable responses to their requests for coverage. Remember that the media are your advocacy targets here (see above), and uniformly insulting them is not a good approach.

    If you have press releases that you’d like to share, please link to them in the comments. If you have had success in getting good media coverage, please share what worked. If you’ve been frustrated by poor response, I’d love to brainstorm with you about how you can increase your appeal. Media coverage should never be confused with the real goal of an advocacy campaign–policy change–but it can be a very important tool to aid in that pursuit. The smarter we get about how to get our message out to our targets through strategic media advocacy, the more we’ll be able to control the message and, therefore, the debate.

    Materials:
    Bill Introduction Press Release March 2007

    Garden City Forum Press Release April 2007

  • Guest Post–From the Trenches: Jen Stoll on Media Lessons Learned

    For five years I have worked for the Postpartum Resource Center of Kansas, a nonprofit that serves women and families who experience Perinatal Mood Disorders, like Postpartum Depression. Until May, I have been more than happy to turn interviews with media over to someone else. In the past several months, I had begun to recognize that this actually impacted my own credibility when talking with clients and professionals. They did not identify me as a face of the organization. So, when the opportunity to appear on KSHB-41’s (Kansas City’s NBC affiliate) midday news show came about, I took it. My primary job was to promote a fundraiser, which was two days after the interview (ML note: another benefit of fundraising events=extra exposure; this was their ‘hook’!).

    Thankfully, Melinda (who has a LOT of experience with media) did a dry run with me, focusing my attention on the critical points I needed to make (ML–Thank you. It was a ton of fun, really.):
    1. PPD affects at least 1 in 7 women and 1 in 10 men (about 8,700 in PRC’s catchment area);
    2. Calling PRC means getting the best help available; and
    3. We need everyone’s help to combat PPD. Come to the walk!

    It was imperative to have someone experienced with media run me through best-case and worst-case scenarios. She was able to give me helpful hints—like mention that the station will post a link to our website, if they fail to mention it. Additionally, I was put at ease because, as she said, during a live interview, the journalist does not want to look like a jerk. If it were pre-recorded, they could edit out anything that made him/her look bad.

    This interview was successful, in that at least 2 families came to the walk as a result. Also, we did a good job of letting people know how prevalent PPD is and that PRC is here to help (we also gained clients, as a result).

    Upon my arrival to the station, I learned that Brett Anthony (the weather guy) was filling in for Christa Dubill, who was sick that day. Christa & I had communicated through the producer about what the interview would entail. So, I was a bit unsure of this change. Nonetheless, Brett was very kind and seemed to know a lot about PRC and my experience, as we talked before the interview (ML note: sometimes these ‘fill-ins’ will do even more background research than the regulars, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing to get a substitute!). He asked what I wanted to highlight during the interview, and I reiterated the three points. I now wish I had come with a list of questions prepared for him. This would have allowed me to better prepare answers that highlighted PRC rather than my own experience (ML note: good point–works the same way with legislators for committee hearings!).

    Also, next time, I will ask the producer what to expect when I arrive at the station. Truly, she was very busy and rushed through our conversations. But I was thrown by the disorganization that I—and other guests—experienced when we arrived. I wished I had pressed her to tell me step-by-step what would occur.

    Finally, the follow-up piece on their website was pathetic. It was completely plagiarized from our website, and referred to “symptoms at the top of the page” that weren’t there. Also, it was written in first person—a tactic we use on our website to identify with clients—definitely not meeting the standards of journalism. It did, however, link to the walk registration and, for that, I am grateful.

    These are the things I learned from my first interview experience:
    1. Anticipate chaos. They are focused on making the show a success, not on hosting guests (ML note: yes, and so much for these shows has to happen at the last minute).
    2. Take note cards. Despite the fact that I remembered my three points, having something to do, in the midst of all the chaos, would have put me more at ease.
    3. Prepare a list of questions and bring them with you, even if you have emailed them to the producer. You will be more in control of the order of the interview, which may be helpful. They will probably use your questions, because they want as little work to do as possible.
    4. Write the follow-up piece for the website, yourself. Email it to the producer and bring a copy to the station. At the very least, you will be able to send the message you want to their audience, at this particular time. (Controlling the messages about your agency and issue is always a good thing.)
    5. Send a “thank you.” I learned this in a class, I know. But a few weeks ago, PRC’s public relations volunteer said she had mailed cookies to the station, along with a thank you note. Hello! I hadn’t even sent a note, at that time. Despite the fact I didn’t feel great about the interview, it was exposure for PRC. And that is ALWAYS (well, almost) welcome.

    Thanks so much, Jen, for being willing to share this reflection. Watch the piece for yourself–I’m sure that Jen would appreciate your feedback.

    <a href="“>

    Soon, it will also be on PRC’s website, (to make their coverage echo, and echo, and echo…). Given PRC’s mission, it is not an exaggeration to say that a life may have been saved by sharing this message. Awesome.

    Framing Gone Awry

    This article ran in the Kansas City Star on Saturday (I admit; I’m one of those freeloaders who does not actually subscribe to the paper but reads it all online!), and I think it offers some important caution to social workers engaging with the media, particularly as we try to tell the stories of how those with whom we work are experiencing the current economic downturn.

    Disclaimer: Some of my analysis here is conjecture; I was not involved in putting this story together, so a lot of this is me reading into it based on my literally hundreds of encounters with local, regional, and national media.

    What I think the social service advocates who were profiled in this story were trying to do with their particular selection of this family (it would pretty much have to be through some social service agency reference point that they were identified, since journalists can’t exactly divine who’s using food pantries) was tell a somewhat surprising story about the rising need for emergency food assistance. They had an idea of the ‘typical’ recipient in the public’s mind, and they wanted to challenge that with their profile. That’s not a bad idea, except that, as we see here, it didn’t really work out in their interest.

    As you can see if you read through the comments to the article (I know, that section of the Star can be painful, but here it’s instructive), the selection of this particular family, and, I would argue, the focus on an individual family, period, changed the discussion from where it should have been–the economy is hitting people hard and (which is missing entirely) government support is declining, so nonprofit safety net organizations, like food pantries, have to fill a widening gap.

    Notice what’s missing ENTIRELY? Any discussion of policy reforms that would help–nothing about increasing the eligibility limit for Food Stamps, nothing about expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, nothing about living wage ordinances, nothing about universal health care (especially important for near-poor families like these), nothing about alternative energy pricing…the discussion, instead, somewhat in the article and especially in the apparent reaction to it, revolves around where this family should be shopping to lower their bill, what kinds of food they should be eating, whether this family is really representative of people experiencing hunger, whether they’re really in need at all…

    There is always a danger that the discussion goes entirely parochial with these kinds of stories, because what reporters want is a ‘human face’, and that human face can easily distort the conversation. Advocates can try to overcome this by: consistently raising root causes and policy solutions (because if that’s all you say they’ll have to print some of it!), working with client spokespeople in advance so that they are conscious of the politicization of the given issue and prepared to tell their story with an eye towards that, and thinking carefully about how you select your ‘human face’.

    Reading this article, if I knew nothing about poverty or hunger, I guess I’d know that some people who live in nice houses in the suburbs still need help from food pantries, and maybe (assuming I also live in a nice house in the suburbs) that would make me more likely to donate (?), but I wouldn’t know anything about the kinds of reforms that would really help families like this, and I’d likely have a pretty skewed, or at least limited, idea about who food pantries serve and why their burdens have been increasing.

    What do you think? Did you respond differently to the article? What message would you want to communicate about your issue, especially if you got a front-page chance? What ‘kind’ of client would you choose to tell it?
    Record numbers turn to food pantries for assistance – Kansas City Star

    10-minute advocacy: Writing a Letter to the Editor

    I honestly don’t know exactly to what to attribute this success, but every single letter to the editor that I have ever submitted has been printed, at least 9 since I was a college student. I have had letters printed numerous times in The Kansas City Star but also in the Topeka Capitol Journal and out-state papers. I have written letters both in my professional capacity and as a private individual. I have mainly written on issues related to immigrant justice and related legislation, but I also had a letter published about peace and global solidarity post-September 11th, a letter about welcoming older adults on campus in my university newspaper, and a letter about anti-poverty policy.

    There is plenty of advice available about how to write a good letter to the editor, and so I’m not going to reiterate all of that. I have included a couple of examples that illustrate some of what I have found to be successful, and here are just a few of my thoughts on this media strategy, which has the multiple advantages of being free, really fast, and widely-read.

  • Whenever possible, look for opportunities to submit your letters–one of my biggest successes was a letter immediately following the fatalities among migrants who were smuggled to the U.S. in the back of a tractor trailer; I was able to make an argument for comprehensive immigration reform that I doubt would have been printed if it were not for this tie-in.
  • Be brief–I know, everyone says that, but it’s really true. I had one dear editorial assistant who actually helped me cut down a letter that I had written so that they could run it, but most won’t do this. Make them short (no more than 150 words), and follow the paper’s rules about formatting.
  • Cut them out, save them, forward them, buzz them up–do whatever you need to do in order make sure that lots and lots of people see them. The editorial page is the second-most read in the paper, but with declining readership overall, you need to do a little extra to make sure that it gets attention.
  • Consider drafting letters for others to submit and/or co-authoring letters. The letter below that is by Sue Storm was mainly written by me, but we knew that, as the chief legislative sponsor of the instate tuition bill, she could get a longer op-ed piece more easily than I could. The letter co-authored by religious leaders is another example; there, the mere fact of the shared authorship was part of the message we were trying to send.
  • Read letters to the editor also; you can get ideas for issues to which you can respond, and you will also have a better sense of the format, length, and general tenor of the letters that get printed.
  • Follow up. After submitting a letter, call to make sure that they got it. Ask when it will run. Ask if they need any additional information. Don’t leave it totally to chance, especially if it’s a really critical issue to you. Likewise, the better relationship you have with the editorial staff, the more you’ll understand how they work, and, I would argue (although they may deny it) the more favorably your submissions will be judged.

    Writing letters to the editor is one of those advocacy activities where everyone talks about how easy it is and how we should totally do it, yet relatively few people do, which is why, especially in smaller communities, you see the same names over and over again in the paper. Take 30 minutes today and draft 1-2 letters that you’d like to submit on your core issues. Edit them until they’re very tight, and then hold onto them until there’s an article or a critical incident that gives you your ‘in’, then make a few minor modifications, and hit send. I bet you’ll see your name in print!

    Sample letters to the editor:
    welcome-and-support-immigrants

    immigrants-tuition

    immigrant-children

    educating-immigrants-benefits-all

  • Making your media coverage ‘echo’

    I have had quite a bit of success in getting media coverage for my advocacy and organizing work. Some of this was undoubtedly due to the prominence of the issue of immigration during the time in which I was working on it, but I think that I can take some credit for the tone and quality of the coverage, if not necessarily its quantity. But this post isn’t about getting media coverage, although I would welcome your questions and comments about that topic. Instead, I want to focus a bit on what I see as a failing of some nonprofit advocates–not adequately ‘milking’ your media coverage for all it’s worth!

    Once you get what you consider to be good coverage–an article that highlights your policy concern, something that references the perspective of people experiencing the social problem, a letter to the editor that demonstrates that at least some of public opinion is on your side…then you have to figure out how to make sure that the piece has maximum impact. Below are a few suggestions for how to make your media work ripple throughout your advocacy campaign but, first, a couple of general rules:
    1. Sometimes advocates make the mistake of thinking that it has to be your coverage for it to count–you have to be quoted, or you have to have done the work that generated it, and that just isn’t true. Any media coverage that reflects the position(s) you want to see ascend in the minds of policymakers is good coverage, and you can and should use it as though it was yours.
    2. Similarly, don’t assume that coverage has to be ‘all good’ for it to be valuable to you; often, an article will include the opposing viewpoint(s), but you can always highlight the parts that you want people to pay attention to (see below for some examples).
    3. Save everything that comes out about your organization or your specific campaign–check it to make sure that it’s accurate, use it as much as you can, and then save it as a reference.

    So, then, to ‘make your media echo’:

  • Bring copies with you to any legislative visit–include it in the packet of information you leave with targets, refer to it to emphasize your points
  • When writing letters to targets, include a copy of a recent opinion or news piece that illustrates some of your points
  • Make a document that includes quotes from all supportive editorials–call it something like, “Opinion Leaders Agree”–and include the best quotes that help to make your case
  • Write a letter to the editor following any newspaper piece that appears, even if you were quoted in the original article (they most likely didn’t include all of your points, so this is your chance to make the rest of them)
  • Send copies of all of your press releases to your elected official targets, even before you know if you’ll actually get any media coverage from them. The members don’t know that, and it looks like you’re just keeping them in the loop; it’s also a way of taking your message directly to one of the primary intended recipients.
  • Link to your media coverage, or, if copyright permissions allow, directly post copies, on your organization/campaign website.
  • Use social networking tools to alert your activists when you will be featured on the news, when you had a letter to the editor run in the paper, or when you will have some other exposure on ‘traditional’ media.
  • Get local coverage in places surprising to your targets–smaller towns, outlets that tend not to cover your issues–and then send them copies. We got an article about our instate tuition issue in a local business journal, highlighting how these young people could fill jobs in the local economy, and that was the first thing that a senatorial staffer (from an unfriendly office) mentioned during our next visit!
  • With coalition partners, plan for media hits on the same day–if everyone has a press conference or releases a YouTube video or plans another media-focused action at the same time, the resulting coverage can have more resonance than if one organization did this in isolation.

    Especially in today’s media-saturated environment, getting coverage isn’t nearly the challenge that it once was; there are so many outlets that there’s a nearly incessant demand for content, but getting anyone to pay any attention to the coverage once you get it is the bigger hurdle. What other ideas do you have for how to get the most out of your media coverage? What are your greatest success stories from your media advocacy? What lessons do you want to share with others? I’d love to see examples of your media coverage, too, and I’ll pass along any great tips.