The Sexual Assault Advocate’s Guide to the Media, Communications, and Public Relations
We are all aware that communicating is central to our work and our lives. Providing and receiving information helps us make educated decisions and grow our understanding of others’ experiences. But communication is a process through which we must try to be as clear and accurate as we can, in order to convey our thoughts, intentions and objectives.
As advocates for sexual assault victim/survivors, we understand the complex dynamics of this social problem. We know it is not very well understood. Our communicating to the public through all the various channels available is key to addressing this complex issue, and why this manual was conceived for advocates to be better equipped to engage in each of those mediums. The objectives and outcomes of good communications planning include imparting our knowledge, creating awareness, projecting an image, shaping attitudes, and effecting change.
Why is a media/communications/public relations strategy needed?
To affect change in this environment, we need to continue putting forward our organization’s message and the message of victim/survivors. We need to use the media to communicate core messages to our community. Along with community education programs, messaging can be one of the single most important ways to change attitudes and awareness. Media advocacy includes creative social marketing strategies that help to accomplish the fundamental goals of any organization including branding, fundraising, social media presence, and creating a context for understanding sexual violence in our communities.
To better understand media relations, we have to understand those who are creating the content (e.g. the journalists, bloggers, Internet resources, etc.). This is one of the first steps in developing media literacy, a core skill when creating public relations (PR) strategies. So first we suggest that you strive to become an active consumer of media. Analyze and evaluate media, and actively seek out media that suits your needs. If you watch television news or listen to the radio, do so with the same focus. Surf the Internet for online news and up-to-the-minute-information on breaking stories. Social media has taken off in just the last few years but has become a central source of information, mis-information, and advertising in disguise. Be careful with what you read and/or share, and always seek a second source if the first is not considered reliable.
Media advocacy is victim/survivor advocacy.
Media advocacy is a way of talking to your entire community about sexual violence. People’s opinions are shaped by what they see and read. The media is a tool advocates can use to start responsible and complex conversations. Advocates can engage the media to instill values in our society and inform our community.
That is not to say that this guide will try to tackle all of the ills in contemporary media, but rather that we see media as a tool for socialization and education (good, bad and indifferent) and we hope to harness that tool in ways that drive our advocacy toward a world free from sexual violence. In sum, PR is your pathway into the media and will be the process for how you get your issue covered, how you shape the public discussion, and how you educate your community. The Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MNCASA) wants to help you get the word out about the good work of your organization.
This guide will help you develop the basic components of a media and PR strategy. We hope you will be able to use this as a resource for planning, training, and reference as you continue to work towards building your agency as a vibrant voice in your community.
Last modified: 7/7/2022