Saturday, November 5, 2011

Brevity Has Never Been My Strong Suit

Friday was a lovely day in the San Francisco Bay. Crystal clear skies that were heartbreakingly blue, temperatures hovering around 60 (this is good when you are huffing and puffing up and down the hills of the city) and that fuzzy Friday feeling of people about to enjoy a lovely weekend. I had the morning free, so I seized it to do touristy things I never really got the chance to when I lived here. I walked through Chinatown (live chickens squawking from open doorways, color everywhere) to North Beach (full of Italian flags and the wafting scent of garlic and fresh bread) to Coit Tower where I swallowed hard (slightly claustrophobic and mildly afraid of heights) and rode the elevator to the top for some spectacular views. A walk along the Embarcadero and a quick lunch at the Ferry Building ended my morning of sightseeing.

A quick BART ride under the Bay (just don't think about it) to Oakland, and I was ready to begin my conference schedule. Yesterday's workshop was conducted by Ingrid Daffner Krasnow from Berkeley Media Studies Group and was entitled, "Introduction to Media Advocacy: Shaping the Public Debate". I might re-title it, "Learning to Keep Your Mouth Shut and Get Your Organization's Message Out". Condensing, articulating and specifically addressing your audience were the big takeaways.

The session started with a video presentation by Parent Earth, a group that makes videos about food issues to engage and involve families in the dialogue. After viewing a smattering of their work. the speaker encourage us to thinking about using more video to really capture our audience. Films, she said, get people talking and "spice up" what can sometimes be dry topics. She mentioned that if we were intimidated by making our own videos to try reaching out to other media companies that had already produced them. (In addition to Parent Earth, she named and media rights as entities to find video and then contact the filmmaker about using.)

Ingrid's interactive presentation (we often stopped to discuss or try out various strategies/activities) began after a short break. The next 3 hours were a serious lesson in formulating a message succinctly, precisely and engagingly for your organization. Here are some of my key take-aways:

  • Media advocacy is a bit different than social marketing in that social marketing doesn't attempt policy change (in fact, it might focus more on individual change). Media advocacy is a strategic endeavor to push a particular policy agenda.
  • Organizations MUST define their issue, problem, solution and audience before they begin addressing the media (this included giving interviews, writing letters to the editor, pitching stories).
  • As humans, our default is to place responsibility for change on the individual. Media campaigns  must work to encompass the whole story and change people's perceptions to be successful.
  • Placement (as in a particular newspaper section) and outlet (as in a particular news source) need to reflect who is your target audience for policy change.
  • Here is a BIG and IMPORTANT take-away (yes, I am shouting at you): You cannot be both strategic *and* comprehensive. As advocates, we are passion about about causes and want everyone to know as much as we do. However, this is not effective in a media campaign. (Message needs to be short and sweet.) Instead, think about where you want your audience to end up. Then, move them there. They don't have to follow the same route as you to get there.
  • Break down your media goals piece-by-piece. Think about changing the conversation, not trying to change an individual/system/policy immediately.
All of this really hit home for me since I am incredibly verbose 99% of the time (the other 1%, I'm sick). In fact, I'm pretty sure I talked way too much during the session, and I was actually *restraining* myself from asking half the questions in my mind. To address an agenda, I have to learn to be more succinct.

After the session, we had the opportunity to mill about and talk to the other participants. Really, there were so many interesting people there, I wish I could have met them all. The few I did have time to speak with I might have lingered with a bit too long. After all, I'm still learning to keep my mouth shut.

Today's workshop: Planning Successful Community-Based Food Initiatives. I'm already doodling "talk less, message more" in my journal.

Use your words wisely, people. Happy weekend.

One last tidbit. Someone in the workshop recommended a nifty little blog with lots of helpful advice for non-profits. Check it out:

1 comment:

  1. Great to know!! What a neat session - thanks for sharing!!