League of Michigan Bicyclists

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Communication Resources

Any successful bicycle advocacy campaign starts with effective communication.  SPIN Project offers simple tutorials on various aspects of strategic communications.  They also regularly update their blog, Spin Academy with timely posts about using effective communication to enact positive social change.


Other than the telephone, press releases and media advisories - often lumped together under the term “news releases” - are the basic methods of communicating your news to reporters.

The purpose of a strategic communications plan is to integrate all the organization’s programs, public education and advocacy efforts. By planning a long-term strategy for your efforts, you will be positioned to be more proactive and strategic, rather than consistently reacting to the existing environment. The strategic plan will help you deploy resources more effectively and strategically by highlighting synergies and shared opportunities in your various programs and work areas.

There is an adage in communications: start where your audience is. The advice is simple to follow, but only if you know who your audience is.

While some of us are great prose writers, essayists or poets, writing for communications requires a different set of skills to powerfully propel your issue into the media landscape. Our new tutorial outlines the cardinal characteristics of strong and effective writing for communications. Some of the tips you'll learn: the importance of writing that is goal oriented, values-driven, inspirational and newsworthy. We review the 5 Cs of good writing--compelling, concise, correct, clear and complete--and we outline the importance of writing to fit your strategy and reach your target audience. From media advisories to delivering your message uncut on the Op-Ed pages, our publication will help you learn how to successfully write for communications, strengthen your organizing strategy, and offer you the opportunity to reach the hearts and minds of constituencies beyond your base.

Broadcast media (television and radio) is still the news source that most people turn to for more comprehensive coverage about what's happening in their local communities, the nation and the world at large. Pew's 2006 survey found that 34% of respondents got their news from the cable news networks, 36% said radio and a whopping 54% said they got their news from local television. For reaching the biggest number of people in the shortest amount of time, you can't beat broadcast media. And being effective on broadcast media means being an effective spokesperson.

One of the cruel ironies of nonprofit communications today is that, just as many organizations have begun to realize the importance of adopting a strategic approach to their communications work during the last five to ten years, the communications landscape itself has shifted radically beneath their feet.

In 1996 the fax was state-of-the-art for press release distribution, newsletters required stamps, and only computer nerds knew what HTML meant. Today, of course, trying to work without Internet access is nearly unthinkable, especially in an area like communications, where ease of distribution and cheap bandwidth made possible by technology are revolutionizing the discipline.

One of the most effective things an activist can do to promote her views is to cultivate relationships with reporters. In his book, Making the News: A Guide for Nonprofits and Activists, Jason Salzman quotes a reporter from a major daily whose sentiments are probably echoed by journalists everywhere: “A lot of what gets covered depends on personal relationships at the paper.” Can’t get more explicit than that.The SPIN Project offers excellent tutorials with concrete advice on various aspects of strategic communications.

In our work with hundreds of community groups across the country, we at the SPIN Project have begun to observe a common set of questions emerging for organizers embarking on and evaluating communications efforts. These are vital strategic questions with serious political implications, and the goal of this piece is to identify these strategic choices so they are made consciously and deliberately. Communications is often a vehicle for surfacing some of the toughest choices in organizing campaigns, and we hope to lay out those considerations here to enable front-end deliberation and planning.

Working with professional public relations consultants reflects a significant step up in the sophistication and media professionalism of non-profit organizations. This publication is designed to help those groups as they take their next steps in shaping public opinion through the media.


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