I spent this weekend past in Bristol on a Media Training course organised by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations project, it brought together a diverse group of about 40 Muslims including community leaders, activists, writers, bloggers and opinion leaders, the youngest of whom was 21. The course, Best Practices for Media Management, ran over two days and was conducted by New York based Fenton Communications.
The areas covered were:
Communication Planning Tips
- defining the problem,
- set clear and measurable goals,
- know who you want to reach and then figure out how to reach them (know your audience),
- frame issues around emotions of your audience,
- use images, words and messengers that reinforce your frame
- effectively targeting your message by choosing suitable and affordable means
- general rule of messaging – Not more than one key message and one or two secondary ones.
- repetition – repeat your message over and over
- deliver a sound-bite that encapsulates your message
- use language that evokes images, it should create a picture in the mind
- keep it simple – simple messages one or two sentences.
Media Relations Tips
- how to form relationships with journalists and media outlets
- opinion writing
- expert commentary
- event hosting
- report writing
- pitching a feature
- crisis response
- prepare – develop your key message and how to deliver it effectively
- know your interviewer – watch their show or read their articles to get a sense of what angle they will take.
- what type of interview – live, live-to-tape, recorded, satellite, telephone, press? In-studio interview is always preferable, to help build a rapport with the interviewer and producers.
- watch and critique – watch how you did and determine how you can do better
- role play – get together with friends and practice interviews
- don’t be obliged to answer the question if you don’t want to, bridge to the point you want to make – “that’s an interesting question but….”, or similar techniques to get your point across. DO NOT BE FORCED INTO ANSWERING A QUESTION
- Clothes – TV – wear, grey, blues, browns – don’t wear black or white. Pastel shades for shirts and blouses. Avoid patterns.
- Speak slower than you would normally, drink water periodically
- Plan for a crisis – Identify key individual to pool in the event of a crisis
- develop a communications plan
- practice message delivery
- develop a crisis protocol – what events you set in motion to manage the crisis
- frame story by communicating key messages
- never give a “no comment” response
- speak as part of the wider community, not just as Muslims
- gather facts and then respond if a response is needed
- check what is required
- give the readers a brief overview of the issue and then give analysis
- give anecdotes
- use metaphors and analogies
- don’t self-promote by mentioning your organisation
- offer deep analysis
- give key facts
- use colourful, visual and snappy language. Be evocative.
Commentary – writing analysis and comment on an issue
We covered a lot more but this was the gist of it, some conducted on-camera training interviews and the rest did a op-ed writing exercises. I chose to write on Geert Wilders and the permission granted for him to come to the UK. The title that I gave it was “You Geert from the Qur’an what you bring to it”, my analysis was to point out that people approach the Qur’an (and other literature) with filters set in place by one’s mindset and I likened Wilders’ mindset to that of perpetrators of terrorism and acts of conflict who only see the verses that legislate for war and conflict, I argued that Wilders mindset is not that different from Usama bin Laden’s.
On Sunday evening we were driven to The Mayfair hotel for a speech by Political Editor of the Daily Mirror Jason Beatty who urged Muslims to engage the media more than we are doing, he said that everyday, by way of example, he gets an inbox full of pro-Israeli email and not a single email from any Muslims.
Anyway, thoroughly enjoyed the weekend, some really impressive and dynamic young people around the UK, I was one of the older delegates and I am given a sense of hope that the Muslims of Britain will be in good hands in the future insha’Allah.