Friday, October 26, 2007

Millennial Opportunities: Strategies on how to communicate with Power and the Media

Global Strategic Enterprises, Inc for Peace and Prosperity-; GSE4P&P

Strategies on communicating to Power and the Media

It is becoming very apparent the most critical tool of empowerment is having a viable voice in the Digital and Global World Order.

The digital communication network and the powerplayers are too busy and have built a smart system of gatekeepers that let only information that they have already pre-approved or feel is in their orbit of influence or have impact on their immediate and long term interests.

All the same, some one some where in the pecking order or evolution ladder of things (priorities and options) will read it and it might have a chance at last hopefully at the right time and place where decisions are made.

Your best chance is to have a dedicated smart journalist taking on your case. That is like having a free ride in the whole system.

How to Communicate with Journalists*

1. First why write a letter in the first place.

“Write a letter to the media? Me? Why me??”

Here is some interesting information from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting-

There are 101 excuses for not writing or calling the media when you see unfair, biased or inaccurate news coverage on Ethiopia: "I dont know enough"; "Oh, I’m too busy"; "The mainstream media doesn’t care about Ethiopia anyway."

Actually, this is not true. The main media cares about any thing that catches their attention and can sustain their interest and potentially create some havoc in the system and sell news. They are there to sell news first and then to stay busy challenging and reporting on every body's business.,

2. Secondly, Does it makes a difference! Remember: Power and Media love communication!

Communicating with journalists and powerful people makes a huge difference. It does not have to be perfect. Even a one-sentence, handwritten note to a reporter can be helpful. If media outlets and politicians get letters from a dozen people raising the same issue, they will most likely take notice, act on it or even publish one of them.

So even if your letter doesn’t get into print, it will help another one with a similar point of view get published. Surveys of newspaper readers show that the letters page is among the most closely read parts of the paper. Its also the page policy-makers look to as a barometer of public opinion.

3. Third, What to do to maximize the chance of getting your letter published.

When you write to journalists, be factual, not rhetorical. Do not personally attack them; that’s more likely to convince them that they are in the right. Address them in the language that most journalists are trained to understand. Call on them to be responsible, professional, balanced and inclusive of diverse sources and viewpoints.

Make one point (or at most two) in your letter or fax. State the point clearly, ideally in the first sentence.

4. Fourth, What is the importance of timing?; Make your letter timely.

If you are not addressing a specific article, editorial or letter that recently appeared in the paper you are writing to, then try to tie the issue you want to write about to a recent event.

Familiarize yourself with the coverage and editorial position of the paper to which you are writing. Refute or support specific statements, address relevant facts that are ignored, but do avoid blanket attacks on the media in general or the newspaper in particular.

5. Fifth, Accountability about you! Should you use horse names?

You also must include your contact information: name, signature, address and phone number. Usually, newspapers do not publish more than name and, if applicable, organization. The address and phone number are needed for the media outlet to be able to get in touch with you (for example to let you know that your letter has been selected for publication). However, you can also make it explicit to the outlet which part of your information you want kept private.

6. Evidence does it matter?

Support your facts. If the topic you address is relatively unknown to the newspaper, as may be the case for specific details concerning political developments in Ethiopia, consider sending documentation (preferably from international sources) along with your letter. But don’t overload the editors with too much information.

Keep your letter brief! Generally, roughly two short paragraphs are ideal. Whenever possible, type it rather than submitting a hand-written letter.

7. Does volume or quantity matter?

Encourage others to write letters as well. This will show that other individuals in the community are concerned about the issue, increasing the odds that one of the letters on the same issue will make it into the paper.

8. Follow up, is it necessary. Very important indeed.

Monitor the paper for your letter. If your letter has not appeared within a week or two, follow up with a call to the editorial department of the newspaper.

9. Publicise what you have done. It might be the only way others will ever see it. If you would like, please send a copy of your letters (published and unpublished) to all your friends and stakeholders.

10. Lessons leaned report. Distribute lessons learned experiences to all forms of media (internet, websites, paltaks, radio, television and community newsleters, etc and professional journals. Any thing you write or do should be available to all other communities for future reference and lessons learned even if there are failures in your attemps.

*Adapted with permission from FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting)

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