By Abby Ross, NCJW|LA Policy Intern
Standing up for what you believe in can be rather difficult. Advocacy is all about showing outward support for a specific cause, and NCJW|LA’s Advocacy Training Project (ATP) is the ideal way to hone in on the skills necessary for effective social action. As NCJW|LA’s summer Policy Intern, I attended the ATP workshop on Presenting Your Message just a couple of weeks ago, and I am able to confidently say everything I learned would be useful for advocacy, and beyond.
Although I have been an advocate my entire life, including communicating with members of Congress and telephoning my elected officials, I have never received formal advocacy tools. Despite that this is my chosen career path, the skills I acquired at this workshop are also useful for anyone who is a passionate about any issue. It was truly incredible to share our passions, feel the enthusiasm, and discover practical tactics best utilized in getting a message across. The Advocacy Training Project’s workshop on Presenting Your Message made standing up for a concern or cause, whether to elected officials or through different media outlets, much more ascertainable.
What better way to learn about Presenting Your Message than from such a master presenter as Edina Lekovic! Edina is a Communications Strategist with the Muslim Public Affairs Council. She offered us insights into effective communication. First, she defined the goal of communication, which is to be persuasive. Coupled with persuasion is passion, which can lead to communication through feelings, rather than facts. Often times, people care deeply and have passion about the same issues; however, they sit on opposite sides of a cause. The primary conundrum is getting people to care about the issues you care about–the way you care about them.
There are three steps to accomplishing this, according to Edina:
- Know your audience
- Identify something you both care about
- Describe your issue in relation to the thing you both care about
Through utilizing these steps, mutual values are discovered; even between those who are separated by 180 degrees of beliefs. This humanizes both parties in the communication, and creates connection rather than conviction. Ultimately, the end goal is that someone walks away from a conversation with a desire to dialogue again.
Edina discussed the party who maintains the responsibility when interacting; effective communication is in the hands of the communicator, not the recipient. In other words, the advocate is charged with steering the conversation in the direction she or he wants.
There are five steps in order to best relay one’s message. Each item on this list can be particularly useful in print, broadcast, and radio media as well as in lobby visits and everyday communications:
- Come prepared! This means wearing appropriate clothing, being well rehearsed, and having three key takeaway messages.
- Communicate your values! Relating values and framing messages makes this step useful.
- Consistently stay on message! Bridging, flagging, and repetition all ensure that you are communicating what you mean to communicate.
- Concisely deliver your message! Once you have made your point, stop talking!
- Control the conversation! You don’t want to risk your words being taken out of context.
Following these steps ensures that anyone you communicate with is an ally, not an adversary. This will ensure everyone involved in the communication is calm, cool, and collected leading to a respectable environment. In advocacy communication, it is essential to start with the big idea, then talk about the issue type, then finally move to the specific issue. This formula and these steps will make certain not only that you present your message, but that it is received the way you intend for it to be received.
Advocacy is crucial to the advancement of any cause, but knowing how to advocate well will certainly make all the difference.