A powerful tool in the advocate's toolbox is the ability to harness the power of the media to work on behalf of your client. This collection of articles from the Clearinghouse Review archive explains how to do that and provides concrete examples of how media strategies have paid off for advocates and their low-income clients. Also view this July 2015 recording of the Advocacy Exchange with the staff of Voices for Civil Justice.
Clients do not have a ready outlet through which to share broadly lived experiences of injustice in a way that might make things better. Legal aid organizations—including those funded by the Legal Services Corporation—can change this by developing expertise and infrastructure to help clients broadcast their stories with targeted advocacy goals in mind. Legal Aid of Arkansas undertook a two-year media advocacy effort that illustrates the possibilities and pitfalls of media advocacy.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight for freedom and racial justice shows how to advocate change. To eliminate poverty, an American and moral imperative, advocates should follow—as did the civil rights movement—King’s blueprint: Recognize the need to right a wrong and inspire the masses to act. Create a unifying message that resonates with different audiences, and develop a media strategy to move the public and combat negative press.
Chuy Sanchez, Tammy Besherse & Diego Iniguez-Lopez
Advocates for immigrants’ equal rights need a clear narrative that speaks to the public and emphasizes the values shared by native-born Americans and immigrants. A narrative is a set of broad themes and values that advocates can adapt to their voice and purpose. The Opportunity Agenda partnered with advocates in South Carolina to develop a narrative to build support in the state for immigrants’ equal rights.
Patricia Bath, Elizabeth Arledge & Joe Surkiewicz
Strategic use of the media can be an important part of a legal aid lawyer's quiver of advocacy tools—it can humanize clients, prod officials, and educate policymakers. Every public interest legal program should have a media strategy and develop relationships with local reporters. Following some basic rules in building these relationships can raise the organization's profile, give advocates an opportunity to help frame the way issues are presented in the press, and, most important, benefit clients.
In 2002 the Illinois legislature passed FamilyCare, a program that offers health insurance coverage to tens of thousands of working parents in low-income families, many of whom recently left public assistance. The campaign for FamilyCare was led by an unusual and symbiotic alliance between the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty law and United Power for Action and Justice, a Chicago-area community organization. The allies brought different but complementary world views and skills that proved to be an effective combination offering lessons for future collaboration of lawyers and policy advocates with community organizers.