Sharing Your Story

If you’re new to organizing or parent advocacy, you might be wondering why it is so important to share your own personal story. After all, educational choice is an issue for all of us, so does your own story matter that much? In short, yes! There is nothing more impactful than personal stories. This section explains how to tell your story and includes some optional activities to get you started.

Stories matter because even someone you think will never agree with you might see the issue from a new perspective after hearing your experience. More importantly, finding out for yourself what drives you to make a difference on this issue will get you through the long, hard fight for educational choice. Finding your “why” will help you stay motivated when times are tough and make victory sweeter when it comes.

Whether you’ve shared your story before or this is the first time, you should remember the following.

Everyone has their own story. We hear from so many families who don’t realize they have a story to share – but each and every one does! It’s important for every family to share their wide range of experiences, which will help you reach more people than if everyone had the same story. Every family is different and has different needs, so whatever your unique story is, it helps to show the range of reasons why we need educational choice.

What are the top three reasons you want educational choice?

You can choose what details to share – but honesty is always important. When you are asked to share your story, a scary idea might come to mind – does this mean you have to share everything? There might be family financial information or personal details about your children that you don’t want to share with strangers. You don’t have to. Preparation can help you figure out the parts of your story you are comfortable sharing, and nobody can make you divulge personal details you’re not comfortable sharing.

This advice comes with an extremely important note: Never withhold details that might change your story or undermine your point because that can be a form of dishonesty by omission. For example, it is completely fine not to share exactly why your child is being bullied, if your story is about needing a safe place to learn. But it would be a big mistake to withhold that there was a documented discipline problem with your child if you are talking about him or her having to leave school. In that case, you still don’t have to get into personal details, but you need to mention that your child struggled and had some issues that the school wasn’t able to help with. If you’re not sure what is okay to leave out, you can always ask one of your fellow parents, or consult with IJ or another partner.

Why would your student benefit from having more educational options?

You are not alone. We know that every story is unique, but it is also important to remember that you have more in common with other parents than you might realize. Problems like children struggling to learn, dealing with bullying, or not having their needs met in large classrooms are shared among many families with many different backgrounds. Sharing your story will help bring attention to your unique challenges, but as you come together with other parents, you will also be able to see just how much of your challenges they also share – and the shared opportunity to make things better.

What do you think is unique about your story? What experiences do you think you share with others?

Sharing your personal story might be a little uncomfortable at first, and the best thing you can do to maximize your success is practice. You know your story better than anyone else; now, you can get to know the way you tell your story. This doesn’t mean rehearsing or memorizing everything you say. It does mean thinking through the details that you share, preparing ahead for the ones that might make you uncomfortable or emotional, and being ready at any point to share why you need educational choice. That might be to the stranger at a school carnival where you’re talking to other people about your cause, or to a state representative who you’re meeting for the first time in his or her office. It might even be at a rally or on television. With the right preparation, you can tackle all of this and more.

Some final tips:

    • Relate to your audience. Do you remember the first time you heard someone speak about educational choice? Depending on how well they did, you might remember that as the time you heard about other people’s issues, or the time you realized that you had a story to tell too. Everyone’s story is unique, but all parents share common ground. Using phrases like “we all know what it’s like to hear our child had a bad day at school,” or “we all want what’s best for our children,” can signal to others to start thinking about their own stories and needs.
    • Speak slowly and clearly. Whether you’re talking to a stranger you want to sign up or a state representative you want to vote your way, you might be nervous. Being nervous makes everyone – even the most seasoned public speakers – want to talk faster. Try to be aware of when you’re speeding up and find tricks to slow yourself down and speak clearly, and with authority. That can mean taking a breath in between sentences, or practicing your story ahead of time. One trick that helps is practicing alone and slowing yourself down so much it might seem ridiculous – then using those new skills to slow yourself down from “too fast” to “normal” the next time you’re nervous and realize you’re speaking too quickly.
    • Be honest at all costs. We’ve already covered this issue earlier in the guide, but it bears repeating. When you are advocating for educational choice, the stakes are high, and you cannot assume your audience will always be on your side. You can’t control that, but what you can control is making sure everything you say is true. When you’re frustrated, it’s easy to exaggerate, blur details, or skip things that matter. It will be your responsibility to be as specific and accurate as possible when you start sharing your story in public, because even small and accidental errors can undermine your whole point. The best way to avoid it is to be honest and precise at all times.

Have questions or need assistance? We are here to help! Contact us at activism@ij.org. 

Check out these videos of other families sharing their stories!

Let Kids Escape Failing North Carolina Schools
Nevada Parents Stand Up for School Choice
U.S. Supreme Court Will Hear Montana School Choice Case
Andrea Weck & School Choice

How to Launch Your Group

By this time, you have done some of the hardest work and your group is off the ground. You’ve talked to your family and friends, you’ve canvassed events talking with strangers, you’ve created a mission statement – and perhaps you’ve even had your first meeting, started having parent leaders take on roles, and found some partners. Now it’s time to officially announce the formation of your group to the media, the public, and policymakers.

Just a note: It’s okay if a local reporter already called to ask about your work before you officially launch. But planning your launch as soon as you are ready means that you have a chance to control how you introduce yourself to the world. And that can make a big difference!

As with everything you’ve done so far, lists and spreadsheets will be your friend. Before you launch, identify state, regional, and local media outlets and specific journalists at those news sources that you want to reach out to. IJ may be able to help you identify media outlets to target, but you’ll be surprised by how many you can find by looking at recent local or state news reports.

Before you launch your group, it’s important to be as prepared as possible. For instance, at this point, you will have already met with your members and started identifying leaders – maybe even people who will lead important committees and take on certain tasks. You will have learned about the bill you want to pass – or at least the type of program you think your state needs the most. You and your group should agree on main points and have practiced sticking to them when you’re talking with others.

IJ can work with you on all aspects of your media launch, because we work with media and grassroots groups all across the country! But here’s a checklist of some items you can prepare or we can work with you on together before launching your group. You don’t have to do every single one, but it helps to try to check off as much as possible before going public so that everything goes as smoothly as possible once things kick into high gear!

  • Set up your social media accounts and come up with a strategy to keep them updated (even if it’s just once a week)!
  • Create a media list of local, regional, and state outlets.
  • Go over your main talking points and make sure everyone who’s talking for the group is comfortable with them (for more on this, see “Getting Your Message Out,” below).
    If you’ve reached out to national, state, and local partners who want to help, ask them if you can share their support with the media.
  • If possible, have your next event planned so that you can announce the details at your launch
  • Write a compelling press release announcing your launch.
    • IJ can help you draft this.
    • In your press release, you will want to include: (1) an announcement about the formation of your group; (2) its mission; (3) quotes from core members and any supportive elected officials you have identified already, organizations or allies; and (4) your group’s next steps.
    • Send the text of your press release in the body of your email, not as an attachment, individually to each reporter. Include your logo at the top. Always send yourself a test message before you fire off anything to the press.

IJ is happy to help you with your media launch – please reach out to us!

What does a launch look like?

Every launch will be different, and you know your community better than anyone outside your community can. Some communities will have one media source that people turn to, while others might be more active in community Facebook groups or in-person forums.

If there is interest in your issue, you might hold a press conference to announce the launch of your group – but make sure that you have enough people who will agree to attend and stand behind the speakers at the podium. Visuals are powerful, so ask supporters to create posters and hold them. Look for a news hook that you can base your event on – did the legislature just pass an education bill? Did new test scores just get released? You should make sure everyone who speaks at the event stays positive. Focus on the hope that educational choice would bring, not the anger at the current system. Your “hooks” can highlight the urgency of the issue.

If you are going to hold a press conference, you will need to identify a location and get the necessary permits and permission. IJ can help with this! For instance, we could do a practice press conference via video-conference with you and your network so that you’re prepared ahead of time for the type of questions that might be asked. We can also help out with one-on-one training so that each of your members is ready to speak on behalf of your group.

Do your due diligence and make sure you have taken reasonable steps to ensure you have permission from the venue you choose to hold your event. IJ and other groups can help you learn more about this process – reach out to your partners!

Then, identify three or four speakers who will give brief statements. The media isn’t going to stay for long, so you want to make sure they get the sound bite they need to run on their newscast or the quote they need for their article. Work to make each statement by each person personal, brief, powerful, and memorable in both what they say and how they say it. Nobody should speak for more than 3-4 minutes.

You need to send out a media advisory to local media before your press conference. It should include a catchy headline that explains what event is taking place, the date and time, location, who is speaking, and an overview of what is being promoted. You will also need to send an email to your entire list of supporters about the event, as well as announce it on all social media platforms you have.

At the press conference, things will be relatively straightforward. You’ll announce the formation of your group, its mission, and your next steps. Your other speakers will take turns sharing their stories, and then you can take some questions from reporters. Stick to your talking points. Getting Your Message Out” goes into more detail on how to be successful on this front.

Leading up to and after the event, make sure to check your email regularly and respond to any interested media. Don’t wait to respond, or you might lose the opportunity!

After your press conference, it is even more important to keep regularly communicating with your email list and social media. If things go well with your launch, you can expect people to start looking for more information about your organization and what you’re working on – so make sure they have things to find when they start looking!

If you’re not sure what to post about, you can do a weekly story about the children of your members who would be helped by this program. In your private group, you can do regular polls and ask members for input on what topics they would like to learn more about, such as how certain programs work in other states, what the research says in your state, or how to talk to state legislators.

Keeping an active social media presence isn’t easy, but it can help you reach people that you wouldn’t be able to get in touch with otherwise. Here are some ideas for keeping your page active:

  1. Post a daily news story about the issue – make sure you read the story before you post it!
  2. Ask your members to send you their education stories, which you can share on the page if they agree.
  3. Use a website like Canva to make graphics about why you need educational choices.

Finally, be vigilant to keep your posts on-topic as much as possible. It might be tempting to share the latest outrageous story that’s going around your news feed, but if you want to keep reaching out to people who might not agree with you on other issues, make sure to stay focused!

Have questions or need assistance? We are here to help! Contact us at activism@ij.org. 

Time To Make Some Noise

Events

Events and demonstrations have three purposes: (1) recruit public support, (2) cultivate goodwill and enthusiasm among your base of support, and (3) apply political pressure. You can make events fun, and you should make sure that each event has a specific purpose and a critical mass of people.

Events are great ways to get media attention and show how much support you have. Imagine what you want the picture on the front page of a newspaper to look like – and then make it your goal to create it. Make it as easy as possible for the media to cover your event. Make sure that you have spokespeople ready to deliver your main points, and always stay on message. Remember, the microphone is always on, and it can be easy to get distracted with any number of issues that might come up in your town or state. Make sure that you and everyone who comes to the event knows how important it is to focus your attention on the cause that you share and the bill you want to pass.

Educational choice is a very personal issue, and it means a lot to every parent who takes time out of their busy schedules to rally for the cause. Joining with other parents to get loud and support your cause at a big rally or event can be fun in addition to helping spread the message. Just remember that your actions represent your cause, not just yourself – and make sure that everyone in your group who attends knows how important it is to represent the cause well.

No matter what type of event you plan to organize, it is important that you do your due diligence. Find out what types of permits you need from the city or state to host an event or demonstration on public or private property. Sometimes it can take over a month to obtain a permit, so plan early, if possible. If you expect a large turnout, contact the local or state police department and find out if there are any additional regulations you need to adhere to. If you’re going to be using sound equipment or a megaphone, check with the police about whether there are any noise codes you need to follow.

Different types of events:

  • Rallies: If you have a critical mass of people, rallies are a great way to educate and engage the public while applying pressure to the powers that be. Make sure to have lots of posters, signs, (the same color shows unity), stickers and press packets. Rallies typically have a more positive tone, as opposed to protests. You’re rallying around a solution. Even your promotion of the event can serve as an opportunity to educate the public. Have just a few speakers and give lots of time for chanting. People like to participate. Tell positive stories. If you have elected officials who support you, invite them to speak, and advertise their presence. This may be a good opportunity to draw out their support, as they will have a public forum to champion your issue. If you are rallying at the state capitol, couple your rally with a lobbying day.
  • Protests: On the other hand, protests will typically focus on objecting to a bad policy. Maybe the legislature is talking about not voting on your bill, making changes that you cannot accept, or voting to kill a program. The goal of a protest is to motivate people to be involved. You’ll also want signs here. Speakers should tell the negative impact of the action you’re fighting, but your message should always be solution-oriented and always, always bring it back to the stories of the families. Hold your protest in a high-profile location and preferably around another relevant event, such as a vote.
  • Vigils: Vigils are somber events and often involve a march around city hall, the state capitol, or some other symbolic structure. These are held in the evening, and all participants are provided a candle.
  • Town halls and community meetings: Similar to your initial planning meeting, holding town halls and community meetings in different parts of your city or state is a great way to educate people about your cause, with time for questions and educating people who are new to the issue but want to get involved. Advertise your event in advance through the tools detailed above. Keep the events brief and explain why your fight is relevant to them. Close with an immediate call-to-action.
  • Film screenings: The movie Miss Virginia tells the story of the grassroots fight for educational choice in Washington, D.C., and we at IJ have been able to partner with parent organizations to hold screenings. Some of the most motivated parent leaders have signed up afterwards, having seen a real-life example of how things can work. You can work with partners and community organizations to keep costs low, and make sure to lead a discussion after the film, as well as sign up attendees.
  • Lobbying days can be powerful tools to reach your policy makers. These can be coupled with a rally beforehand. It’s important to meet as a group ahead of time, to provide handouts with talking points and maps of where the different policymakers’ offices are located. You can also help attendees figure out who represents them. You can find more information about lobbying and working with policy makers in “Passing a Choice Program.”

In addition to the ideas above, you can also consider the following recruiting events. You can either host your own, or partner with another group that is already hosting them. The goal with these is to bring a crowd to have fun while signing up new members to your organization. Make sure to collect your new supporters’ contact information.

  • Carnivals and seasonal festivals bring the community together to celebrate an event or holiday and are a great place to sign up lots of new people.
  • School fairs can be a great place to talk to parents who are already thinking about educational options. As before, always make sure to get permission if you are not hosting the event yourself!
  • Mother’s Day and Father’s Day events where volunteers watch kids can give busy parents a time to relax, have lunch or dinner together, or do other activities.
  • Back-to-school barbecues and other community events are a great place to have casual conversations with families who are figuring out what their school year will look like.
  • Charitable events like food drives and neighborhood cleanups help support needs in your community, build strong relationships among your neighbors – and are a great place to meet others who care about their family’s options.
  • Holiday-themed gatherings like Halloween or Christmas parties give your members a chance to meet each other, relax after hard fights, or just have fun.

It is not enough to plan a great event – you will need people to attend! Plan to start promoting your event at least two weeks in advance. The list below has some ideas for promoting an event. You don’t have to do all of them for each event, but make sure you’re being creative and thorough when you promote your events because successful events can help show the strength of your group.

  • Make flyers and postcards to promote your event
  • Pass them out at community events and post them where you’re legally allowed to post them
  • Give extra flyers to your core team and supporters and ask them to commit to bringing a certain number of people each (say, each leader brings three friends)
  • Create a Facebook event and invite all your friends
  • Send out an announcement to your email list
  • Create an incentive for attendees to come, such as a coupon for local stores or a raffle for a prize (if legal in your state)
  • Ask for RSVPs and remind everyone via email or phone before the event
  • Issue a media advisory (for certain events) or call local reporters and radio stations asking them to promote it

If absolutely necessary, you might consider paying for advertising, such as with a radio ad or Facebook ad campaign, but that can be an unnecessary expense. You probably will be successful without paying to promote your event!

Sometimes, you do your best, plan as much as you can, and events just don’t work out! If it looks like too few people can make your event, you will probably want to cancel it and not notify the media if possible. This will be rare, but don’t beat yourself up if it happens – just learn from what went wrong and move on.

Advertising and Materials

Paid advertising can be expensive but effective. Facebook advertising is relatively cheap and lets you identify very specific audiences of people who will see your ads. For instance, you could make sure parents in your ZIP code who are interested in private school and online education see your ad about an upcoming event. IJ can help you learn how to get the most out of Facebook ads.

Another advertising option is yard signs. You can fill your city with signs that speak out about your effort to bring a program to your state. Design (and distribute) a simple sign to put in the window of local businesses, homes, and in yards. Such signs should have no more than five to ten words. You can also design these signs and make them available at-cost on cafepress.com. IJ can help you design signs if you decide this will be helpful in your efforts.

Advertising in newspapers is another option, but be deliberate about where you put your ads and who you are trying to reach. For instance, if your fight is at the state level and you know that legislators read a specific capital-area newspaper, you could consider advertising there. Alternatively, if you’re targeting a specific legislator, he or she likely reads the hometown newspaper, so you could advertise there.

Billboards, although expensive, are a very bold way to draw attention to your cause. Keep in mind that they typically stay up for a minimum of one month, so you should not consider this option if you expect your issue to be resolved in a shorter period of time. Be sure to choose locations that are heavily trafficked and directly face oncoming traffic.

Buses are similar to billboards: They are expensive but make a very bold statement if you live in a larger city with a high quantity of mass transportation. Your message has to be even shorter than it is on a regular billboard, because it’s harder to read a moving billboard!

Also, don’t be hesitant to ask for free advertising. When canvassing neighborhoods and grocery stores, you may find organizations willing to help but unable to financially. Consider asking them for advertising. Other free ways to advertise include putting flyers on community boards at libraries and coffee shops.

Have questions or need assistance? We are here to help! Contact us at activism@ij.org. 

Getting Your Message Out: Working With the Media

This section is one of the most important ones because of what we covered in “The Facts About Educational Choice.” Fighting for educational choice is uniquely difficult because of misconceptions in the public, and you have very few chances to combat the other side in the court of public opinion. You want to make sure to make the most of every single opportunity.

But the responsibility is not just on you – it is important that every member of your network speaks with one voice and stays on message.

Why does this matter? Because reporters and the public can get confused if your members are talking about different issues. Imagine you are meeting with a reporter, and you talk to her about how your group wants greater educational choices in your state. But then, the reporter goes to chat with a new member – and you forgot to talk to him about staying on message. He’s upset about a new local tax in his county to fund public schools and talks about how he thinks this new tax should be stopped at all costs. The reporter could be doing her best to fairly report on your group, and your group could still be introduced to the public as an anti-tax campaign – which is something you’ll have to deal with going forward, explaining over and over what your real mission is. It would be a headache, and one you could have avoided simply by making sure all your members know to stay on message.

The good news is that you are already the expert. It is natural to be unsure when talking to the media for the first time, but you know your story better than anyone. You want to be prepared  with the facts on educational choice and remember that the core of what you are doing is simply telling your story – and nobody knows it better than you do.

Remember to always personalize and humanize your story, because that’s what it is: personal and human. This means:

  • Connect your story to the specific journalist you are talking with.
  • Show how the lack of choice personally impacts you.
  • Demonstrate how the status quo compares to the better, brighter future your solution has to offer.

It’s okay to show emotion when you’re talking about your situation! What you are going through is difficult and may be downright horrible, and the media should know that. But your message must focus on the simple, clear and outrageous facts of the situation. You should explain what educational choice means to you and your family, your community and your state, battle the myths, and explain the solution.

Preparation is key. Keep your message simple and repeat it over and over again. Remember that it is rare for you to get more than one quote in the media. Make sure that you would be comfortable with anything you say being the only thing quoted in the press.

Developing talking points allows you to establish the terms of the debate and argue on your turf, and ensures that you are consistent and effective in getting your point across no matter how challenging the situation.

You may also find that this is an effective way to put your thoughts into words when writing letters to the editor, op-eds, media advisories, and press releases. Make sure that your talking points focus on just one or two main issues about your battle. Here are some general examples. You will want to make yours specific to your fight and your state:

  • All children deserve a chance at a great education, no matter where they live.
  • At its heart, educational choice is simply the idea that all parents, regardless of means, should enjoy the freedom to choose where and how their children are educated.
  • Educational choice programs shift power from the bureaucrats at state departments of education, as well as school districts and unions, and return that power to parents, who know better than government officials what kind of educational environment will best suit their children’s needs.

When you’re crafting your points, remember that you should not concede claims that your opponents make if you have facts that show otherwise. For instance, opponents often say that more money will fix all the problems your children are having in their assigned public school, but we know that funding will not ensure every American child gets a good education. In fact, there is ample evidence (discussed in “The Facts About Educational Choice” section) that funding has increased over time, and there is not a correlation between more funding and greater outcomes. So, when you’re talking about your fight for educational choice, it would be a mistake to start by conceding that more money will improve educational outcomes – because then your opponents will say that you don’t need educational choice as long as traditional public schools get more money.

Similarly, your opponents will argue that educational choice programs take money away from the public school system, but the evidence shows that is not the case. Arguing, then, that public schools have enough money and should have some taken away for other options is a mistake too! Because it starts by admitting to a premise that is not true.

It is helpful to identify a key spokesperson to speak on behalf of the group, to ensure the group’s message is consistent and the media has a main point of contact who can be reached at any time. This person should be articulate, and other members of the group should be comfortable with this individual speaking on their behalf. The spokesperson should be readily available to do television, radio, and newspaper interviews.

Calling reporters

Track the names and contact information of journalists who have been covering your issue in the news and start keeping a list. Also, think creatively about alternative media outlets, like community blogs and neighborhood email listservs. If the mainstream media won’t cover your battle, force them to by making it top news in alternative outlets.

You should try to get to know the reporters who are covering your issue. Are they for or against you? What might sway them? What angle are they most interested in? The more you know, the more you can tailor your pitch to them accordingly.

When you call a reporter to pitch an event or story, there are two questions you should ask. First: “Are you on deadline?” If the answer is “yes,” apologize for taking their time and suggest a time later in the day when you might be able to speak. Second: “May I give you a 30-second pitch on a story I thought you would be interested in?” This demonstrates respect for the reporter’s time, which will be greatly appreciated. Practice your 30-second pitch ahead of time and do not take any more time. Reporters are often busy, and you can burn a bridge by talking their ear off. You want to be someone who members of the media look forward to talking to.

Finally, remember: The microphone is always on, no matter who you’re talking to. It can be tempting when you’re in a private conversation to assume that things will stay private, but when you’re talking to a reporter, don’t say anything you wouldn’t want to read in print the next day or watch on the evening news that night.

The media is an incredibly valuable (and free) tool to get your message out and bring others to your side.

Media tools:

Letters to the editor. If a story is printed and you think you have something relevant to say in response, write a letter to the editor. You will want to keep your letter short. Check the word limit of your paper, but typically letters to the editor are 150 words or less, and they are automatically dismissed if you exceed the limit. You want to make just one point very clearly with your letter. You don’t have enough words to do more than that. If a newspaper won’t run your letter to the editor, you can respond to the piece on your social media page.

Op-eds. An op-ed is a longer piece, generally between 400 and 800 words, that newspapers publish. Again, you will want to limit the number of points you make – three is good – since you have limited space. You want a strong introduction, engaging language and simple points. Don’t get into the nitty-gritty of the law. Focus on sharing your personal story about how a scholarship program would impact your and other families. Use your talking points. You want the reader to be able to relate to you. IJ is happy to help you with your op-eds and placement.

Radio. Radio programs may be interested in having you on their show, especially in anticipation of a big event, hearing, or vote. Practice your talking points, have a copy in front of you, and stick to them. If you don’t know the answer to a question you are asked, it is perfectly okay to say that you are unsure of the answer but you would be happy to get back to them. Speak slowly and clearly, and smile while you speak. Believe it or not, smiling will make the tone of your voice friendlier when people hear it! If you are calling into a radio program, it helps to stand while you’re being interviewed. Ask the producer ahead of time how long he or she anticipates having you on the program so you can be prepared. If you’re asked at the end of the program, if there is anything else you would like to add, seize the opportunity to say any talking points that you were unable to work into the conversation.

Television. The same principles work for television – get all of the information you can about your interview ahead of time. Will it be live or pre-taped? If it is pre-taped, you will have a few more chances to make mistakes. For instance, if you stumble over a sentence, you can put your hand in front of your face and ask, “Do you mind if we try that again?” You should be able to restart a sentence if you really need to. But remember, as always, you should never say something you wouldn’t want to see on the evening news.

Sometimes, a television reporter will show up at your event and want a quick interview. This is great news! And if you are prepared, it is an exciting opportunity. Remember your talking points, take a deep breath, and go for it. If you get asked a tricky question, something that’s too personal, or you just don’t know the answer, you can politely redirect to your main points. And when you’re asked that golden question, “Is there anything else you’d like to add?” remember those remaining talking points again!

One final note: If you know you are going to appear on television, wear solid color clothing. Avoid small, complex patterns and stripes, as well as white and black. If you wear earrings, avoid ones that dangle. If you wear makeup, go with subtler, matte colors.

Media advisories. At least 24 hours before any event that you hold, you can issue a media advisory. It should be no longer than one page and contain the following information: (1) date, time, and location of the event, (2) a short description of the issue, (3) a short description of the event and who the speakers will be, and (4) a contact number for questions. The advisory should go out to all local media, especially those who are following the issue.

Press releases. Press releases are longer than advisories and allow you to comment on a significant event or call for a specific action. A press release reads like a news story. The headline needs to demand the attention of the editor in just a few words. It should be catchy, informative, and well-written. In the opening paragraph, introduce the who, what, where, when, why, and how. In other words, summarize the news you are reporting with a “hook” that an editor is likely to determine newsworthy. Throughout the body of the press release, add details and insert quotations from your group’s members and other noteworthy supporters where appropriate. Be sure to include the contact information of your spokesperson for media contacts. When sending your release, don’t blanket email editors; instead, email them one by one.

Social media. If you have decided to use social media, make sure to promote your op-eds, letters to the editor, news appearances, and events through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms for even wider exposure.

When you first get involved as a leader, there’s a lot to learn, and you can refer back to this section often as you conquer new challenges. Don’t forget to stay in touch with IJ with any questions that come up. We are here to help!

Have questions or need assistance? We are here to help! Contact us at activism@ij.org.