On March 14, the National Organization for Women held a media training workshop for NOW members in town for the Women's Equality Summit and Congressional Lobbying Day (see adjacent story). This day-long training session at the National Action Center offered the women and men who attended insights and skills for working with the media-from writing press releases to actual on-camera interviews. Moderated by NOW's Executive Vice President Kim Gandy and Action Vice President Elizabeth Toledo, the workshop featured professionals who deal with the media daily.
Activists from all over the U.S. attended, including interns (like me) who took advantage of the opportunity to prepare ourselves for the intensive day of lobbying ahead.
After a welcome by NOW's Public Relations Director Loretta Kane and opening remarks by Toledo, Takoma Park Area NOW President Colleen Dermody began the first part of the workshop. Dermody, who works in communications at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, focused on messaging and how the media can work both for and against us. Dermody discussed the variety of media and which kinds activists should utilize in different situations.
The training covered in detail how activists can manage the media. These strategies focused on always being direct, honest and, in particular, equipped to loop an interview back to your message when a reporter tries to get you off track. We watched looping in action on a variety of videotapes in order to gain a better understanding of how to loop ourselves when necessary.
In part two of the training, Toledo suggested ways activists can recognize the media's various tactics and use them to our advantage while effectively getting NOW's message across. Activists then broke up into groups to put some of our new skills to work. We took examples of tricky situations and questions activists might encounter when dealing with the media and brainstormed ways to counteract them.
The final session in the workshop dealt with presentation on television and radio. Gandy demonstrated in front of the camera herself ways to make yourself appear pro-active. She focused on facial expressions, diction and speaking modification, and professionalism, and Gandy also shared stories of her own experiences on-camera and gave us the dos and don'ts of television and radio interviewing.
Finally, NOW activists put all we had learned at the media training to work in front of the camera. We had to answer tough questions related to women's issues. For many, this was our first time being interviewed in front of a camera, so after everyone had their turn in the hot seat, the whole group watched the taped interviews. We evaluated all of our strengths and weaknesses and learned a great deal from one another.
The day ended with a brief question and answer period on the experiences of local chapter leaders and activists with recent NOW issues in the news.
With training under our belts and an update on the issues, we left the Action Center with the confidence we needed to get the feminist message out through the media and handle the challenges that come our way.