My first week at the Miami Workers Center, I was handed a press list and told to get reporters to a press conference the following week.
“How?” I asked.
“Figure it out,” was the response.
But I wasn’t left out to dry. I worked closely with a dedicated mentor and manager. She invested time in teaching me the hard skills of communications work, from press release writing to throwing awesome press events. She, along with other staff and member leaders, invested countless hours developing my strategy chops. I learned in campaign meetings crowded around a second-hand table plotting plans on a dry erase board, in casual early morning conversations over coffee, on late night phone conversations debriefing actions, and most importantly – through doing the work and learning from my mistakes (of which there were many).
I was lucky.
I had a mentor and a whole organization invested in my development as a strategist and a communicator. They wanted to win justice for their community and they had the foresight to see strategic communications as central to the fight. When I started doing more work outside of Miami with other groups in Florida, and then outside of Florida with groups across the country, I realized that this perspective and stance – communications as an integrated strategy for building power and winning – was exceptional.
While a handful of organizations offer trainings in media engagement, digital organizing, or campaign strategy development, there is still a woefully small number of communications strategists in social movements with a deep grounding in organizing. Somewhere there is a hole in the pipeline.
I am partnering with Center for Story-Based Strategy, with support from Ford Foundation, to build an experiment that seeks to solve this problem. We are launching the ReFrame Mentorship, a strategic communications program that supports emerging strategists and their organizations to bring communications in from the cold, and integrate it throughout their campaigns. We are building an awesome team of veteran movement communicators to serve as mentors and trainers, and we have an extended group of advisors who have been offering leadership and guidance.
While this program has been a long-time dream of mine it is not mine alone. Countless scheming and generative conversations with people from the Center for Media Justice, Center for Story-Based Strategy, Praxis Project, and the Progressive Communicators Network led to this*. The Reframe Mentorship rests on the shoulders of those who came before us creating foundational theories and practices for strategic communications for social justice movements. In this way it is nothing new, just a next phase.
This blog will be a place for reflection on the program from mentors, mentees, trainers, and co-conspirators. We will post what we are learning about the changing field of communications, the cool tools we are discovering, the lessons we are learning, and resources for the communications nerd in all of us.