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Selecting the Right Medium(s)

What is a “medium”?

(Cohen, et al, 2001)

A means or channel of communication. “Media” is the plural of medium.

“Mass media” are those specific means used to communicate to large groups of people. For example, national newspapers, magazines, radio and television. In many situations, David Cohen also advises advocacy groups to consider creating alternative media that can work for them. This might include, but not limited to, songs, popular theater, dances, recognizable motos. Of course the expanding use of the internet creates several new opportunities for new me channels of media such as internet logs (blogs) and e-peitions.

You will likely need multiple media to communicate your messages to your key audiences. For each audience, choose a medium based on your assessment of that audience, as well as your access to and capacity to work with that medium.

For each audience, think about:

  • What are the audience’s primary sources of information and influence? Who or what do they listen to? What do they read? What do they watch?
  • What are the audience’s characteristics? Where do they live or work? What language do they speak? Do they read? Can they afford to buy newspapers and other media? Do they have access to the Internet?

Once you have chosen a medium, assess whether it is possible to use it. Think about:

  • How do we access the medium? Who owns it? Who are the gatekeepers?
  • How do we get attention for that medium?
  • Is it possible that the gatekeepers will distort our message? If so, is it worth it to use this medium? Why?

Next, assess whether you have the organizational capacity to work with that medium. Think about:

  • What skills are needed?
  • What resources are needed?

Using Media as a Tool for Social Action

(Coady International Institute’s Advocacy and Networking Manual, 2004)

Many tactical tools are available to help you get positive media coverage and sustain media interest in your issue. The following chart offers a brief summary of the many media tactics available to activists and suggests how to use them effectively.

News Release To raise awareness about an issue, explain a position, describe an event
News Advisories To invite reporters to attend an event
News Conferences To explain breaking news to reporters
Letters to the Editor To respond to media coverage, demonstrate community support for an issue
Editorial Meetings To influence the editorial position of a newspaper, radio or TV station, especially before an important vote or decision
Editorial Mailings To explain the status of an issue or campaign. And ask for editorial support
Opinion Editorials To express your opinion on issues and establish your credentials as a spokesperson
Special Events To demonstrate strength, solidarity, gain attention for a cause, apply pressure on decision-makers

The Diffusion Process

(Coady International Institute, Previous Source)

The diffusion process shows how people and groups make decisions. It can be broken down into the following six phases:

Phase I Awareness Phase II Information Phase III Evaluation Phase IV Trial Phase V Adoption Phase VI Reinforcement
Learns about and idea or practice but lacks detail Gets facts, develops interest, sees possibilities. Tries it mentally, weighs alternatives. Social acceptability, experimentation. Full-scale use, adopts it. Continued commitment, unswerving.

According to the research:

  • mass media are effective only in Phases I, II & VI
  • information by itself has almost no power to influence behaviour or attitudes
  • impersonal media like print and broadcast are effective and efficient ways to create awareness and satisfy the information-seeking that follows awareness
  • to gain adoption of an idea, product or behaviour, personal media (people, experts, opinion leaders) are necessary in order to provide psychological support and social acceptability.

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