External communication

From Activist Handbook

External communication is one of the most important aspects of your movement, it is crucial that you have a clear, easy to understand message for people to digest. The mediums that we recommend are social media, the media (traditional or new) and public interaction.

Handling the media

Social media

This section lacks platform specific tips (for example the difference between Facebook and Twitter). If you have more specific knowledge on how to use social media, feel free to add it. As this section grows, it might become useful to create a separate page on social media

The voices of dissent have been carried via the ever-evolving medium of the Internet. From #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter and #ClimateStrike, activists have used the strength of social media to pressure corporations, organise actions and provide a voice to those once unheard. Online activism has allowed for events to be organised with high engagement, focus and coordination. It provides movements with a collective identity that reduces attention to groups that were once suppressed (class, education, colour, creed, race).

But for Social Activism to succeed, it must be reinforced with real life events/consequences. Organisations like Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion have perfected this model. For example, Extinction Rebellion hold direct actions that are provocative in nature outside government buildings. In Ireland, activists have glued themselves to the Department of Climate Action, the event only lasted a few hours and people we’re still able to enter the building. But because it provided striking imagery, it went viral on twitter, caught the attention of mainstream media (front page of Irish Times). This is a good instance of a direct action being amplified by social media and then gaining attention of traditional media.

Ensure that the action you take has a level of symbolism and can be captured easily enough. This will mean that the event can be captured by viewers nearby. Remember that a successful event does not have to result in huge disturbance but can became a symbol for your movement.

Traditional media

This section could be elaborated upon. If you have experience with getting media attention, feel free to share your knowledge.

Communicating and developing a strong relationship with traditional media outlets that are sympathetic with your cause is also crucial to your media strategy. Generally, these outlets have greater respect among the general population than their modern counterparts. Facilitating traditional media for their coverage would allow your movement to garner more respect and ensuring more conversation to occur about the issue among the general population. This can be accomplished by reaching out and connecting with the press via press releases and media advisories on the upcoming events of your movements.

By inviting and informing the traditional press about events and actions is an alternative as they would be able to develop a more detailed and informative story about the movement. If your movement has long term goals, inviting an outlet to cover the progress and journey would allow for people to get a more “humane” insight. This would create an emotional resonance with people and may activate people to become active supporters instead of passive supporters.

A good example of this positive relationship between a movement and a traditional media outlet is Extinction Rebellion and the Guardian. XR allowed the Guardian to create a documentary about the London bridge occupation in November 2018 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAH3IQwHKag).

Check out our contact list for a list of news media.

Public events

To ensure clear communication, becoming comfortable and familiar with public speaking is critical. Here are a few point on how to perfect your public speaking!

Be prepared

Make sure that you have a speech prepared. Either one written to be recited in verbatim or has a summary of points that you want to raise. Give the speech to members of your group. Get their feedback and make sure they are critical and honest, the public needs to hear the best speech you can give! Don’t include words that you struggle to pronounce or explain. You want to reach the maximum audience possible and education should not be a barrier. Keep sentences short. While you are giving your speech, people will be looking for that has an iconic key phrase and keeping sentences short and direct will create these. Try tie every paragraph back to your overall aim. You want to really highlight your message and ensure that no one forgets your aim.

Be loud, be proud, move around.

While there is no question that what you say matters, studies suggest the words you use represents just 7% of the impact you have. The remaining 93% is split between your body language and tone. That’s why it’s imperative to master the nonverbal cues you send.

Make sure that you control your facial expressions. Our expressions are closely tied to our emotions and are often involuntary and unconscious. Letting our emotions control is can have a negative effect on impressions. Make sure that your face and emotions are within the context of the event. Smiling or being positive at a serious event would hurt the reputation of your organisation /movement. Make sure that you control your emotions and ensure that they match the mood.

Make eye contact with your audience, give them your full concentration. Show that your words are personal and directed. But don’t hold eye contact too long as it would come across as creepy.

Don’t remain rigid and hide behind a lectern! If you have a stage, use it! The more active you are the more attention you gain. Capture attention by moving from one side of the stage to the other with motivation but don’t pace too much, there is a fine line between nervous pacing and powerful walking.

Do not cross your arms! If you cross your arms, it comes across as you are shielding yourself from conversation. Keep them free and in view. Try to keep them open to show that you are inclusive. Don’t fiddle and look distracted. It is normal to be nervous and shy away on a big stage. Your nerves can come across as a lack of dedication so fake it ‘till you make it. Keep your hands free (except for your speech if you need it).

Improve your speech

There are 5 Ps to remember when it comes to giving your speech; Projection, Pace, Pitch, Pronunciation, Pause. Remembering these five P’s will improve your tone when speaking and give a more impacting speech!

  • Projection: Make sure that those at the back can hear you but also don’t deafen those in the front!
  • Pace: keeping a steady pace is important. Make sure that your nerves don’t get the better of you and speak fast but don’t be a sloth and bore your audience. Try change the pace slightly so when you are highlighting a point you can slow down and emphasise it.
  • Pitch: Try varying your pitch, becoming monotonous makes your speech difficult to remember and allows people to drown out. Don’t overdo it though or people will focus on your voice not your words. Also using an upwards inflection (medium to high pitch) at the end of a sentence will make it seem like you are asking a question not saying a statement.
  • Pronunciation: Don’t mumble. Ensure that all of the syllables are clear. Practice hard to say words and phrases. If you don’t know a word, don’t say it.
  • Pause: Pausing during sentences highlights points you want to make and makes your speech easier to digest. It is better to be silent instead of “um”and “ah”s

Learn from your mistakes and have fun

Even with all these notes, you will still make mistakes. That is okay…. Everyone makes mistakes. Learn from them and make the next speech better. Try to enjoy yourself. Most people have not made speeches, and fewer have done it in a public space so enjoy it and relish the moment.