Yesterday the Women’s Media Center offered an amazing media training for the women of OWS in NYC. Jamia Wilson and Elisa Kreisinger led us on a tour of today’s media landscape that was both horrifying and validating, demystifying and giving us the tools to be seen and heard in the big, bad, dude-dominated world of Occupy media coverage (that’s right, ladies – it’s not in your head!). Seeing as it was Ash Wednesday, Jamia opened by sharing that this year for lent, she’s giving up ‘playing small.’
Here are the top tips I took away from the training on how to ‘play big’ when it comes to media.
1. Own Your Expertise
As organizers, we often have a resistance to making things ‘about us.’ But media is all about story-telling, and nothing is more compelling than a personal story. Take some time to identify your personal area of expertise and develop a (soundbite-sized!) narrative about the larger issue building from the story of who you are and what experience makes you an expert on the issue. Don’t consider yourself an expert? Here’s a secret: almost no woman does! In fact, Jamia noted that women who hold the most credentials are often the least likely to think of themselves as experts. Instead of getting hung up on titles and degrees, remember that your personal experience with home foreclosure, debt, or your bank’s policies make you every bit as qualified to talk about the economy as anyone on Wall Street. In other words, your personal story is your expertise. And here’s the best part: you already know everything you need to know to tell that story. All you need to do is own it.
2. Control the Conversation
One of the most important — and difficult — lessons to remember when being interviewed is that you don’t have to answer every question a reporter asks you. Instead of getting trapped into responding to a sticky question, simply repeat your message, linking it back to the question if possible (ie. “what I’m really here to talk about is…). I know it can feel strange — we’re conditioned to be helpful and to give the “right” answers — but there’s nothing impolite or inauthentic about sticking to your own truth. Remember an interview goes two ways: without you, the reporter wouldn’t have a story. Don’t be afraid to ask your own questions (ie. what outlet do you work for?) and jump in to make a relevant point or correct inaccuracies instead of waiting your turn to speak. If it seems like the reporter doesn’t have a grasp of what’s happening, offer to explain more about the issue or process they’re witnessing (ie. “Can I tell you how the General Assembly operates?”) — you’ll save them from embarrassment and make the interview more productive for everyone.
3. Social Media: Just Do It.
No, really. Now. Do it. Sure, there are demographics and stats to consider when deciding on what platforms to use for your audience, but once you’ve settled on one, the important thing is to go for it and keep at it. When it comes to blogging, Elisa stressed that like any sport, the only way to get better is to practice: “spend two seconds choosing your software, then post something. Now.” Don’t worry about saying everything, getting all the links right, having perfect grammar, or whatever it is that’s keeping you from posting something. You’ll get it next time. For now, just GET. IT. OUT.
And with that said, I’m going to hit post. Thanks again for an enlightening and inspirational day, WMC!
PS – Bummed that you didn’t get to attend the training? Join our next Women Occupy call, when media guru Celia Alario will give advice on dealing with and attracting press at your events! Also, be sure to check out this sample press release and other resources for upcoming International Women’s Day actions. And if you’re looking for somewhere to post your latest blog, send it on over to Melanie[at]codepink.org to share on womenoccupy.org!