Reflection: What lessons have you learned?

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Reflection: What lessons have you learned?

Give yourself some space in this discussion to reflect on the work you've done and share what you've learned. Consider these questions when sharing your comments in this discussion topic:

  • What challenges have you faced? How were they overcome?
  • How have campaigns overcome media bias and corporate or state control of the media?
  • What new opportunities exist now for social change advocates to engage and utilize the media?
  • What advice, tips can you share to help advocates engage the media successfully?

Share your experiences, thoughts, ideas and questions by adding a comment below or replying to existing comments!

For help on how to participate in this conversation, please visit these online instructions.


Opportunity to deepen the conversation

One tool that is consistantly underutilized by social change advocates is their personal story about why they are so deeply inspired to do the work they do. Being willing to tell your personal story of the life experiences and values that brought you to the work you do today can really deepen the conversation and open the door for connection in a way that wasn't available before when you were just speakng about the issue. It can be helpful to journalists, potential supporters, stakeholder etc when they have the context for why YOU are so passionate about the issue as opposed to just saying why the public should care.

Have you had experinece telling your story? What was the response reaction you got from the media? What medium did you use to tell your story?


I would love to see any examples people might have where they used stories of advocates.  We often use our staff to talk about their work. They're not necessarily social change advocates but they do help us talk about our work (caring for torture survivors) from a more optimistic viewpoint, which is important because we think some people are so frightened by the thought of torture, they can tune out our messages.  But it would be very helpful to see how others are using the personal stories of advocates to build

Here are some examples of how we used staff to talk about our work. This was a message by a colleague on International Women's Day this year. And this was a message from a colleauge who is working with counselors who are helping survivors of the Lord's Resistance Army violence in Uganda.


Why I do what I do

We frequently use the power of personal story to engage professionals and community members alike. We'll often open conversations with this question "Why do you do what you do?"  and share a few exampes of how many, many folks have answered this question via the following site & related social media

And many of the folks on our team share our personal stories of why we do what we do via our blog. My whole career is based on an epic strategic fail, and you can read the story here:





Using stories to help people understand your issue

Heather and friends,

I agree that explaining our issues through stories is the best way to make our information "stick." Humans have been communicating information to each other through stories since the beginning of time and continue to do so in every culture around the world. For others to care, we need to humanize our issue, put faces on it. Many of you have heard this time and time again and are doing just this.

What I want to discuss is the role of facts. Many people have interpreted this new fervor for telling stories in the social change movements as a signal to "ditch the facts." I hear it all the time. "People can't process facts." "People can't remember facts." I want to argue that facts are still really important when it comes to media coverage. Stories need to be based in fact for a journalist to run with it. There is room for story AND room for facts. Use both when describing your issue. 

Stories bring facts to life.

Facts ground stories in reality.

Use both to make really powerful, news-making stories.

Liz Banse, Resource Media

Using facts/data in a compelling, creative way

Yes! it's hard to argue the facts, isn't it? It would be great to here some stories about how facts have been used in a compelling, creative way to successfully engage the media.

And join us for our November online conversation on Visualizing Information for Advocacy to make those facts (data) come to life!

- Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder

Subtle technique to help facts stick

I totally agree that stories and facts can and should co-exist!

Here is one tip I have for make facts more acessible and memorable. 

At the Million Person Project we use Marshall Ganz's public narrative technique for the base of our storytelling: story of self, story of us and story of now. When we work with people we often suggest they put their facts in the "story of us" section when they are using the pronoun "we." 

Here is an example. I was working with a young man who is making shoes out of tires fished out of Balinese landfills. In his presentation he was giving several overwheling facts about tire use around the world. When he was done sharing the facts I was left feeling, well, overwhlemed! So we shifted the way he presented the facts to: "Today, we are living in a world where X amount of tires go to landfill everyday. We are each part of a society that produces X amount of waste everyday. X amount of the tires we use on our cars in US end up in landfills abroard and that is why WE need to take action to divert these tires, my company is one piece of that, blah blah blah." When he finished presenting the facts in that way I felt much more empowered. The problem felt like my problem, not a problem that was "happening." 

Make sense?



Tire example

Heather, that's a great example. Thanks so much for sharing the details of his tire story!


The changing media = new opportunities

In response to this question 'What new opportunities exist now for social change advocates to engage and utilize the media?' I thought it would be good to reflect on the way the media is changing. 

Adrian Dodd wrote about this on the Plan to Win blog last year. His observations are from the Australian context but I suspect are relevant in other countries. Here's an excerpt from his article 'The media game has changed':


  • Less journalists doing more work – they’re now expected to file at anytime, tweet about it and upload the images to Facebook.
  • More deadlines – constant demands for content.
  • Exclusives are harder – and there’s less of them.
  • Press conferences go live.
  • There’s less fact checking and rigorous interrogation.
  • More journalists interviewing journalists.
  • Media more likely to follow up what’s already been reported without the time to find more sources.

It is important to say that this is not universal but rather the trend. There remain good journalists, people who do put the work in to break stories properly.

What are the impacts?

  • There’s less people to cover your story.
  • There’s more chance once you get a story for it to be covered live.
  • Media is less relevant, less trusted, less able to cover large issues with less resources.
  • More likely to go with opinion over solid news.

Are there benefits?

Not if you’re a journalist, but there are if you’re a campaigner. So, while the media models are taking these changes hard, it’s not all bad.

  • You now can shape more of the story
  • There’s lower thresholds to getting stories up
  • Less space in newspapers – but more space online
  • You can now DIY and reach tremendous audiences

What are the lessons?

  • Shape your own stories, get your own case studies and do your own reports.
  • Aggressively use social media and owned media.
  • Build your own distribution channels.
  • Organise press stunts that are simple to understand, have good pictures and vision.
  • Ensure to combine offline, online and traditional media as elements of an integrated campaign model – don’t rely on one.

There are more lessons in the follow-up article Navigating the changing media.

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