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1 Make media a priority
Radicalism and effectiveness are not alternatives. Effective campaigning means making media engagement a priority. I have often seen activists organise an event and then think about promoting it to the media. Put media at the centre of your planning from the beginning.
2 Choose the right media
Who are you trying to influence? If you’re aiming to shift local public opinion, the local press is, of course, vital. When People and Planet launched the ‘green education declaration’, they targeted specialist education media. The news was read by fewer people than if it had been in mainstream media, but they included the vice-chancellors and ministers who the declaration was aimed at.
3 Offer news
Something is only news if it is new. Discussions of opinions are not news – but you can make them news. When the University of London Union campaigned on fairtrade, they could not make headlines simply by repeating its benefits. But by conducting a survey that showed that London students were among Britain’s most enthusiastic fairtrade buyers, they made a good news story. Don’t forget to be imaginative!
4 Have a clear message
Decide what you are calling for and keep repeating it clearly and concisely. Don’t dilute strong arguments by getting led off on tangents or trivialities. Relate your cause to everyday concerns. For example, if campaigning for ethical investment, point out the evidence that it is financially viable as well as having a positive effect on the world. If you speak calmly and appeal to common understandings, radical ideas can appear not only sensible but even obvious.
5 Watch your timing
If aiming for a weekly paper that goes to print on Tuesday afternoon, don’t hold an event on Tuesday evening. Be where journalists are, both literally and metaphorically. It’s difficult to get journalists along to a protest outside a company’s offices, but if you demonstrate outside the company’s AGM, business correspondents will already be there. Contact them in advance and there’s a good chance they’ll come over to speak with you.
6 Talk with journalists
It sounds obvious but is often overlooked! Issue a news release when you act or respond to events (you can find advice on writing releases in the sources below), but don’t rely on the release alone. Phone around the journalists who have received it. Be concise and brace yourself for disappointments – most of them will not be interested. But the chances are that you will find someone who wants to know more eventually.
7 Build contacts
Go back to journalists every time you have a story, especially those who seemed interested earlier. If you’re concise, reliable and give them good stories, they will soon be phoning you for comments. When this happens make sure that someone is available. A good relationship with a few journalists is worth a thousand press releases.
8 Keep it human
A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic. For example, Disarm UCL is a group of students campaigning for an end to their university’s arms investments. They discovered that a UCL graduate called Richard Wilson had written a book about his sister’s death as a result of the arms trade. By involving Richard in their campaign they made the story more human and made it harder for their opponents to dismiss them as inexperienced and unrealistic.
9 Make it visual
A good image can make or break your chances of coverage. Photo stunts should be original and meaningful but not too complicated. A great example is students who dressed in military jackets and mortar boards to illustrate military influence on universities. With photos of protests, be careful about the background. I’m amazed how often people protest outside a shop or company without ensuring that the company’s name is visible in shots of the demonstration. Specialist media will often use photos provided by campaigners, so it’s worth finding someone who’s good with a camera.
10 Keep going
Media liaison is hard work, especially when you are new to it. But don’t give up! The more you do, the more contacts you will acquire and the more coverage you will get. Keep your press releases and your phone calls regular. It will all be worth it when you see the coverage making a difference to your campaign.
Sources of help
An Activist\’s Guide to Exploiting the Media by George Monbiot
Be Your Own Spin Doctor by Paul Richards is published by Methuen at £10.99
Symon Hill provides training and media support to campaigners and faith-based groups
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun