The following media resources are basic guides and tips for dealing with the Mainstream Media, and using Social Media effectively. They can be used by squatters and homeless campaigners when trying to communicate with the general public, or bringing media attention to particular issues.
The PDF files for the two guides can be found here:
Dealing with the Media
Key Messages –
These are succinct messages which are the main points you want to get across. They are points which you should refer to again and again when doing an interview. The following are SQUASH’s key messages –
- 1. Unjust – The criminalisation of squatting in residential properties has resulted in young homeless people going to prison
- 2. Unnecessary – Everyone arrested so far has been squatting in empty properties, not in lived-in homes which shows that this law was never about protecting home-owners as claimed
- 3. Empty Buildings – There are over 1 million empty properties in the UK while homelessness rates are increasing. Criminalising squatting encourages property speculators and unscrupulous landlords to keep buildings empty.
Sending out Press Releases:
To create a press release, use the title “For Immediate Release – [Headline]”, followed by three paragraphs, 1) What the story is about, 2) Background, 3) Qoute from campaigner, and lastly, press contact details ie someone’s name and mobile. When sending the press release to numerous journalists, send in the BCC section. Avoid sending to hostile journalists. Key messages should always be worked into a press release.
Try using ABC if you can. A- Acknowledge B-Bridge C-Communicate. This allows you to take control of an interview and gives you the opportunity to pro-actively get your key messages across. More explanation of ABC at “How to Win Campaigns – Bridging” –
You need to think about your voice and your image when doing media on squatting. What are you wearing? Do you have loads of tattoos? Do you have lots of piercings? Do you have dreadlocks? How are you dressed? Are you too middle class? etc etc You need to think how the media might try to portray you and work around this. This is called playing the media game because remember all you are there to do is to put the key messages across, you don’t want the interview to become about you.
Practice with your friends. Get a friend to pretend to be a journalist and ask loads of difficult questions as if you are in an interview situation. This is the best way to practice and become comfortable with the key messages.
Have a read of this ‘good media practice’ guide from Climate Camp which is really handy.
For an example of doing TV interviews, Catherine Brogan (SQUASH’s ex-spokesperson) gives a good performance here on BBC, keeping to the key message – “Criminalising squatting will detrimentally effect the vulnerably housed”. The clip also shows how the media uses images, & insinuation, to undermine the messaging of the interviewee.
Social Media for Campaigns
Types of Social Media:
- Facebook: acts as a filtering process, prioritises paid for content;
- Twitter: Chronological feed, changes quickly; private messages: more personal, builds goodwill;
- WhatsApp: replacing email in the modern world of mobile smart phones, secure instant messaging for groups.
- Email Lists: can be stronger than social media. Emails are good if you have something 1) specific, 2) simple and 3) clear you want the respondent to do – eg sign a petition. Text messaging and emails “like a postcard” – are easily read by anyone looking, therefore not secure.
- MailChimp: Mass-mail-out tool, with tools to improve the image of send-outs, get statistics on engagement (whether email opened), and free up to 2,000 emails.
- Tumblr: somewhere between Twitter and a Blog.
What is the Purpose of Social Media for Campaigns?
- Spreading the word beyond your existing group or contacts;
- Acts as a complementary tool/ an aid/ add-on, to existing ways of working;
- Keeps communication/ dialogue going in-between big events;
- Awareness raising, rather than an action tool.
Social Media: What is it Good For?
- Asking for things, such as help or stuff. Lots of people out there with skills who want to help but don’t know how. Using something like twitter to ask for things, brings people in, they become invested, which builds an online community;
- Can get stuff for free; contributing and tapping into a broader knowledge-base, by asking Questions, eg for information;
- Encourages reciprocity and people helping each other
- The success of a tweet/ post will measured by “how much a subject is on people’s minds”; this is a variable which can’t be planned for.
Some tips for Twitter & Tweets:
- Hashtags: Tweeting in relation to things going on in the world (using hashtags) can get your messages to a wider audience (eg #elections). Hashtags useful for sharing stories along common themes, and interact with different people. Hashtags – 1) organise discussions, 2) bring people in who may not have known about you before;
- Tagging in Tweets: Tagging too many people, too often in photos, etc to promote tweets becomes spammy after a while. Always think: “What’s it like being on the other side (of the action)?”
- Timing: good times to tweet are: 1) later in the workday, mid-afternoon/ evening (people waiting to go home), 2) first thing on weekend mornings (people in bed, with time).
- Tweeting @EvilCorporation: The tweet will appear in their mentions, so they will be aware of it. May get their attention if there is a big Retweet. Some corporations are more susceptible to negative social media, especially if they rely on social media for their marketing.
- Getting Attention: Issues may be major for the campaign, but a blip on everyone else’s radar. Need to get people’s attention with emotive language, or use it as a conversational medium.
- Twitter Insights: analytics which can be used to see when the best time of the day to tweet is, who is online when, popularity of tweets, Tweet Activity, etc. Click on “Analytics” in menu options.
Tools for Twitter:
- Share Link Generator: People can tweet link to politicians, to get them to commit to things
- Organising: programmes like Hootsweet and Tweetdeck allow you to schedule tweets into the future, however cannot tag people in photos using scheduling.
Creating Tweets with Maximum Impact
- Distill key bits of information into 140 characters;
- Victories & Positive stories are well received because they stand out from doom-and-gloom stories;
- Should keep a balance between plain text (black) & clickable bits (blue) so the message is readable and stands out – suggested clickables: 1x#hashtag, 1xlink;
- Can use ALL CAPS headers to grab attention, such as “BREAKING: xxxxxx”;
- Message should have an “internal logic”, ie it should make sense on its own, without wider explanation.
- Strong images, with high contrast, stark, gets peoples’ attention;
- Pictures increase profile of a tweet – 2:1 (photo:words), jump out;
- Images which tell the whole story, as well as having major contrast, are the best;
- Can add up to 4 images in a tweet, stacked;
- Can put text in the photo, eg short quote, to tell more of the story;
- Can reuse images for different tweets but best to wait a few days.
Tips for Facebook:
- Text: Text with the post should be short, as people have low attention spans on social media;
- Videos: links to youtube videos do not show so well on Facebook and can’t be shared. Best to upload your video to Facebook direct. Videos should be 3 minutes tops, 90 seconds is best;
- Events: Cannot boost Events, as FB expects you to have a personal connection with the people you are inviting. However, put an Events link into a post on a blog, or FB post, and share/ boost it that way.
- Hits & Boosting: For example in the FB analysis stats, Organic refers to normal hits, and Paid refers to hits after boosting post. To boost a post, you pay on a scale (av. £10-20) to FB, and appears as an advert to a wider audience.
- Images: Images with lots of text useful on facebook, as it is a picture/ visual medium
Immediate, short, peer-to-peer, encrypted messaging. Good organising tool for small group with a specific purpose, eg local campaign working group. Can share images from an event (eg demo), and create subgroups. Not a generic tool for a mass audience.