Last night in private homes in cities and towns all across the U.S., groups of Patriotic Citizens participated in a concise effective training session, sponsored by various activist organizations (the usual suspects <wink,*wink, wink,wink & wink>). The objective was to learn how to build a network of media contacts for getting out the "Reality-based" message (h/t Steven Colbert) and for cutting through the clutter & noise (thoughtfully provided by the VRWNM) that impede communication. We can achieve this by forging good partnerships with people in news media at the local level and then allow local events (typically demonstrations), covered by local media, to eventually trickle up to become part of the national coverage arena. The key to getting local citizen participation in a community is: make the message relevant to our specific respective communities by avoiding abstract ideological rhetoric; instead, frame issues in terms of real effects on peoples' lives. An example might be: framing an Anti-Iraq War demonstration in terms of the failure of DOD and the VA to deliver services to local combat vets. Other frames could highlight the budgetary limitations imposed by Iraq War spending, waste, and fraud on municipal, state, and federal governments' abilities to help provide health-care access for under-privileged children or educational benefits for low and middle-class students.
Once we establish a local point of relevance, we can connect the local action to national activities and national organizations, and then pretty much wait for the national media to show up (that's glib, of course, but you get the idea!).
All of this is based on personal relationships we establish with local reporters and news directors. We do this by identifying a few key effective spokespeople within local activist groups to serve as accurate, reliable sources who help reporters and producers do their jobs (which as we all know in these times is not as much informing the public as much as it is to provide compelling narratives, pictures, and sounds for their advertisers.)
Serving as an accurate and reliable source entails giving generous advance notice of citizen actions, making access easy for media, knowing what we want to say and saying it clearly and unashamedly, and anticipating the types of stories, pictures, and sounds that will make good product.
Later, I will discuss more specific ideas for building the kind of personal, professional relationships with media people that will make them want to work with us, encourage them to return our calls, and ultimately enable them to serve as a willing conduit of the "Reality-based" message.
"Anyone working in media today has to think of themselves as a mini-producer and has to think of any event as producing a mini-movie. You have to think in terms of what is your backdrop, what is the key line and what are the key props."
- Dan Manatt, PoliticsTV* The Center for Progressive Leadership Action Network is the sister organization of the Center for Progressive Leadership. The Action Network connects emerging and established leaders to create a community of progressive political leaders to work on key progressive issues, advocate for progressive causes, lead and support progressive campaigns, and build the America of our dreams.
The Center for Progressive Leadership Action Network runs training programs for activists in every state and help link organizers, volunteers, campaign staff, and community leaders to direct action.
You can learn more, access online resources, and sign up for upcoming programs at our website -- www.cplaction.org.