Beyond broadcast in communications for organizers

Notes from communications session at SjTech Skillshare

In early May, a few of us ventured down to Los Angeles to host a Social Justice Technology Skillshare. In one of the sessions, we explored what people learned while doing communications in service of community organizing efforts.

We invited people to gather around a big piece of blank paper and populate it with their tips, challenges, and ambitions in applying online communications to on-the-ground efforts. The question that guided the conversation was:

    How can online communications move beyond one-way broadcasting, and instead support conversations and relationship-building in service of organizing efforts?

Participants came up with several awesome ideas:

    1. When wording things, write from the perspective of the audience. Describe the world using the language of your readers. The underlying process for this is, of course, to know thy audience. Listen to what words are being used. Find ways to say things in a way that resonates. Careful with mimicking, though.

    2. Don't forget to ask! Do you ever encounter those newsletters or status updates that read "Our program is doing things, and these things matter"? These broadcast-y messages do a good job at updating the world, but the opportunity of communications is in making people participants in your ongoing efforts. All program work is relational, meaning that it lives and breathes via its interactions with others. So in communications, keep in mind what is being asked of the audience and how to invite them to participate (e.g., sign up, show up, share out, support, etc).

    3. Celebrate incremental victories. Pause to acknowledge defeats. Communications tells an ongoing story. Like any novel, it's important to have chapters end and new chapters begin. These moments of celebration and pause are subjective; they don't need to be reserved for the moment all obstacles are overcome. A great example of this kind of incremental storytelling is the Battle for the Net. It keeps morale up, and lets people know the impact of their participation.

Many thanks to all who contributed to this brief session in Los Angeles (Quincy, Ross, Andy, and several more!). There is still a lot to be learned, processes to be developed, and strategies to be explored.

Javier and Misty will continue holding space for this conversation at the Allied Media Conference with other communicators, media-makers, and organizers in Detroit next month. Consider joining this session at the AMC! If you ever want to talk comms with us, feel free to get in touch: