Willie Dickerson’s Guide to Being a Media Advocacy Expert

Willie Dickerson, RESULTS Snohomish (WA)
October 20, 2016

1. Write letters and send them in.

All else is secondary to this. They don’t have to be perfect. Personally, I have never written a perfect one. Keep it simple, 150 words works for all papers, some take more. If you want to write op-eds, you can have more words, more like a Laser Talk with a few extra details. In a letter to the editor, you need a:

  1. Hook
  2. Problem/Solution
  3. Call to Action

And you are good, send it in. If you don’t like it, you can make it better next time. In fact, if you can find the same article in a different paper, write a better version of the same letter for each new paper you find the article in.

Try this out, you will find it works. Editors want your opinion! Everything else I have to say, I learned from following this first secret: Write letters and send them in!

P.S.: O Magazine says:

  • Limit your letter to one subject, and keep it brief. Check the publication's guidelines to be sure you stay within the maximum number of words allowed.
  • Make it timely and relevant to current news.
  • Reread your letter and be sure it is something you as a reader would like to see in that publication. Does it state your argument clearly, back it up with facts and maintain a civil tone?
  • Include your contact information so the publication can get in touch with you if it needs to.
  • Have fun!
  • Read more: http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Write-a-Letter-to-the-Editor#ixzz3MCScodWV

2. Set a Goal Based on the Power of Your WHY?

Of course this may seem hard to do at first, but it will give you a target. It’s OK to start small and overachieve. RESULTS Board member Beth Wilson encourages us: “If you exceed your goal, you set it too low!” So next time you can set it higher, and of course you can change it as you feel empowered by success. I took Beth’s advice and raised my goal this year. I believe the goal is what drives me to achieve… because I know my why: Kids are dying all over the world and I have the power to prevent it! I can write anytime, day or night, and send it in…

How often do you need to write to achieve your goal? I do my best to write each day, sometimes more than one letter. But no worries if I miss a day (still working on this); I just begin again the next day. Take the time to write down your goal now… feel free to send it to me: [email protected]. Telling it to someone (me or someone else) makes it real. Don't forget what Goethe said:

 “Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it… Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back — concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way… Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

3. Hooks are everywhere

I usually connect to an article, but the time of year (i.e. tax time, back to school, graduation, Thanksgiving), inspirational action stories can inspire us to action on our issues. Articles on food drives, food banks, and the unfairness of the 1%’s advantages usually work. Of course you can use history: on this day, or famous birthdays of our heroes… You can always just share your opinion in a letter or Op-ed. And remember, other letters are hooks as well! Need help on this? Ask your partners or others who have written and had a letter published, or email me.

4. Woody Principle

Once you have had one letter published, send another to them every 30 days or whatever they allow. You have been proven trustworthy. Some papers will print you monthly, others every so often. Don’t give up, but don’t waste your time either. Try writing to all kinds of media: papers, magazines, university newspapers, and alumni magazines. They all need submissions!

5. Get support!

Friends, family, RESULTS partners, RESULTS staff – find out what is holding you up and deal with it! Don’t give up (see rule #1)! Do get support.

6. Follow up!

Google your name, search online in the papers you have written to (check it if you subscribe or ask someone else to). You can also update your own letter, e.g. the global fund got the $$$$$, or what is taking Congress so long on the Reach Act with so many cosponsors.

7. Celebrate

When you are published, tell everyone. Post it on Facebook, Tweet it, link it, and tell the RESULTS office! Also send it to your representatives and senators or have the appropriate point person in your group do it. You have joined the great American conversation and now change is coming!