Strategic communication for Cal Wellness transition cohort

The California Wellness Foundation is a grantmaker that aims to address the health needs of underserved populations and to support the nonprofit organizations that work with these populations. To that end, Cal Wellness commissioned Berkeley Media Studies Group in 2015 to provide strategic communication assistance to its nonprofit grantees transitioning out of the foundation's Advancing Wellness program.

As part of our work for this project, Berkeley Media Studies Group provided media advocacy trainings, technical assistance, and a series of webinars designed to help participants become competent spokespeople, use data to enhance their messaging, blog more effectively, market their nonprofit organizations, and communicate through a health equity lens.

We are now continuing our work with the foundation by providing webinars and technical assistance to Cal Wellness grantees working at the intersection of health care, immigration reform and hate violence.

Through this project, we have made a variety of related media advocacy resources available online. Although the below resources were intended to supplement our Cal Wellness trainings, advocates from any group are welcome to use them to support their communication efforts. We will continue to add new resources as they become available.

Related resources

Media advocacy basics

Media advocacy 101
An introduction to using mass media to support policies that improve health.

Layers of strategy [pdf]
This document outlines BMSG's four-stage approach to media advocacy planning, a process we call the layers of strategy. It follows the idea that message should never be first or foremost. Rather, before deciding what to say advocates need to know what they want their targets to do. That involves developing an overall strategy tied to an advocacy campaign's specific policy goal. Media, message and media access strategies follow.

Lessons in framing

Framing 101
An introduction to news frames and why they matter.

What surrounds us shapes us: Making the case for environmental change
This framing brief helps advocates explain that what surrounds us — our neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces — influences our health. When people understand that, it becomes easier for them to see why policies to support healthy environments are needed. (Look here for a version that applies to tobacco control.)

The problem with obesity
Obesity has become the popular term for a set of problems that result in premature death and injury from diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. It is a convenient term, but we should stop using it. This framing brief explains why.

Moving from them to us: Challenges in reframing violence among youth
This report explores how youth and violence have been framed in the news, how the issue of race complicates depictions of youth and violence, and how public attitudes about government can inhibit public support for violence prevention. It also includes recommended next steps for reframing violence among youth for UNITY, a national effort addressing the root causes of violence. The Appendix describes the methods for the literature review of research on news coverage included in the paper.

Developing your message

Worksheet: Developing strategic messages [pdf]
To advance public health policy goals, advocates must know how to communicate strategically about the issue they want to address, why it matters, and what should be done about it. Use this worksheet with your partners to practice developing messages for your target audience.

Using social math to support your policy issue
How advocates can make dense data meaningful for reporters, policymakers and the public.

Are you reinforcing your opposition's arguments?
Do you ever find yourself bringing up your opposition's frame before she or he does? By raising the precise frames we intend to counter, even to refute them, we are creating hurdles we now must jump over. And we may be suggesting these arguments to those who had not yet considered them.

Creating and responding to news

Worksheet: Elements of newsworthiness [pdf]
Media coverage can provide a powerful way for advocates to shape public conversations and public policy. But gaining coverage requires understanding what makes an issue newsworthy. Use this worksheet to brainstorm ways to make your issue relevant to the media.

Worksheet: Creating a media advocacy calendar [pdf]
Creating a media advocacy calendar can help you identify key moments in the political process or opportunities — such as holidays, anniversaries or other key dates — that you can leverage to garner media attention. Use this worksheet to help you identify news hooks and prepare for newsworthy events in advance.

Winter on the web: Strategic communications on the offense (Nov. 14, 2017)
In this webinar, BMSG trainers discussed how to use the Trump administration's first anniversary to influence the public conversation on the issues most important to advocates.


Delivering your message

Activity: Delivering effective messages [pdf]
It's one thing to develop a strategic message. It's an entirely different skill to deliver your message in a strategic way. Use this mock interview activity to help you stay on message and further your policy goals.

Worksheet: Answering hard questions [pdf]
Being strategic means anticipating your opposition's arguments and preparing for hard questions, whether they're from a news reporter, your target decision-maker(s), or even a community member who could one day become an ally. Use this worksheet with colleagues or others to brainstorm hard questions and practice your responses.

Tips for writing effective letters to the editor
Letters to the editor can signal community interest about a particular public health issue and send a message to policymakers. Here are some tips to help advocates craft compelling letters and increase their chances of getting published.

Blogging tips for media advocates
Blogging can be a powerful communications tool for media advocacy. Blogs can help you establish your online identity, share expertise, and, ultimately, advance your social change goals. Whether you are just getting started or have been blogging for years, here are some tips and tricks to help your organization build and maintain a better blog.

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