Creating Understanding And Support In Your Community
Taking the time to understand the Boston Strategy, how it works in Boston and how it can work in your community are the steps you have taken to decide to create your own strategy. This section is designed to help you take the opinion leaders and media in your community through those same steps and earn their support.
Developing and delivering a comprehensive understanding of your communitys version of the Boston Strategy before and during its initial implementation will enhance your effectiveness.
To accomplish this, it is important that your local media and opinion leaders understand the work that you are doing so they can support it and help explain it to others.
While the components of the Strategy - unlikely partnerships - may be unfamiliar to your audience at first, the communications strategy to explain it is simple. Dont spin - be honest. Its the same strategy that makes the Strategy work.
- Say what youre going to do.
- Explain the consequences and rewards that will be offered to the young people you are going to reach.
- Follow through.
While the Boston Strategy was developed from the bottom up, explaining it needs to be done from the top down.
Newspapers, TV, cable and radio stations operate in much the same way as the organizations in the partnership do. Certain reporters cover specific assignments (police, clergy, courts etc.). It is not necessarily their job to interpret inter-agency strategies and goals on a long-term basis. They have a day-to-day job to perform.
It is however, the role of media outlet owners and/or editors to listen, understand, interpret and report on complex issues that impact their communities.
The end result of this effort will be well informed reporters who will create the opportunity for well informed public, the people you serve.
Editorial Boards/Briefings/Op Ed Pieces
Most newspapers have editorial boards that meet on a regular basis. They consist of the people who edit and write the editorial page. They may also invite reporters who cover the issues being discussed to join the meeting.
Television, cable and radio stations may not have editorial boards, but may encourage briefings of station management and staff.
Three things are essential to have before you call to schedule your meeting.
- Know what you are asking them to support (local implementation of the Strategy) and who may be interested in attending the meeting (reporters who cover various aspects of the Strategy).
- Develop a clear, concise presentation. Practice it. Choose a lead member of the coalition to make the presentation and coordinate your response to follow-up questions. Most editorial board meetings will allow for a 15-minute presentation followed by 30 to 45 minutes for questions and answers.
- Bring a media kit that explains who you are, what you are doing and how you can be contacted for additional information. A sample kit includes: press releases, a brochure and related information, bios and statements from the speakers or appropriate personnel, background on the institutional partners, and a project timeline.
- Here is an editorial example from the Boston Globe of a successful editorial presentation.
Op Ed piece
Most newspapers allow for opinion pieces on topical issues that they run opposite the editorial page. There is a separate editor for this page who determines if the article is appropriate and timely. While this will give you the opportunity to explain what your are doing, it does not carry the endorsement of the newspaper.
- Here is an opinion editorial example from the Boston Globe by Reverend Eugene Rivers, a coalition member.
Most communities have organizations (Chamber of Commerce, United Way, etc.) that meet regularly and encourage groups to make presentations to their memberships or board of directors about issues that impact their members and communities.
Bringing a clear understanding of the strategy to these organizations and enlisting their support is as important as the media presentations because:
- They offer third party endorsement of your strategy and the influence it carries with their membership.
- They can commit financial or in-kind resources (jobs, facilities etc.) to the coalition.
The components of an effective presentation are the same as those for the Editorial Board.
- Call to action. Why you are here and what this organization can do to make your Strategy successful.
- A clear, concise presentation. This should be expanded to approximately 45 minutes and can use several members of the coalition.
- Press kit and attendant materials.
ADDITIONAL TOOLS AND RESOURCES
- Web Site - This web site has been developed for the sole purpose of documenting the success of the Boston Strategy so others can understand how it works and adapt it in their own communities, if appropriate. Invite everyone, including the media, to use all of it.
- Videos - The "Stories of Change" and "Unlikely Alliances" videos are available through Resources and are excellent as stand-alone information or as introductions to your presentations.
- Join Together Online is a web site dedicated to fighting substance abuse and gun violence and is also funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Its Media Strategy pages are an excellent resource to help develop basic communications strategies for your organization.