These guidelines have been prepared by the Media Policy working group to help members of New Orleans DSA plan a media project. These guidelines draw from our experiences on several projects such as the Gimme a Brake! (Light) DIY Guide and the 2019 Voter Guide. We hope they will help you plan your project and evaluate its message, audience, and impact at different stages of the process.
As our local chapter grows, our work deepens, and we streamline our project processes, we want to collectivize our knowledge. By outlining political questions and strategies, we build cohesion in our chapter, create paths for new leadership, and provide an institutional structure for the experience gathered by individual members. We want organizers to develop this collectivized knowledge for projects large and small, to advance our politics and organize our processes.
We also want to preserve democratic input and review of the work our chapter creates.
Perhaps the most important principle guiding this democratic ideal is that the information itself should be democratically gathered. We should prize the perspective of many, and take care to ask for input as we develop materials.
We strongly recommend forming a working group to work on a project. A working group can form under the supervision of a committee in order to draw on its experience and knowledge, but it is not necessary. Working groups are informal and do not require permission to form. A working group can take advantage of multiple people’s eyes and voices, share the workload, and learn from each other.
- Talk to a few other people outside the working group to work on your “elevator pitch” — how to clarify your vision of the project
- Reach out to the Media Policy working group or Communications for their input and to see if similar work is already underway
- Create a Slack channel (or email chain) and set a first meeting
Consider Your Goals
At your first meeting, you should discuss the general shape and goals of your project. A project without goals beyond describing a problem or issue does not have much of a use.
- HOW will this project make an impact? and/or HOW did you start organizing on this issue?
- WHY are you organizing around this issue?
- Why is it an issue within a socialist frame?
- What are the broader goals and how does this project/issue relate to them?
- Talk about authority
- What are we commenting on, and do we have a strong knowledge base to offer our opinions here?
- Do we have direct organizing experience to speak to?
- Do we have a historical legacy to examine or integrate?
- Who can we ask for more information? Who do we trust as an authority?
- What will be our call(s) to action and method(s) of follow-up?
Some examples of goals are: recruiting people to the chapter, educating the public about a socialist response to a condition or problem, convincing people to vote for or against a ballot measure, putting pressure on people in power, supporting a chapter campaign, building relationships with other DSA chapters.
Consider Your Audience
You can see that goals, audience, and desired impact are all related, but it’s important to consider your audience carefully. We need to reach them where they are, speak to them in a language they understand, and provide them with a message that is credible and actionable. It is also very important to brainstorm segments of your audience that are not apparent at first in order to be inclusive.
- WHERE will this be distributed?
- Local? National? Print? Online?
- WHO is the audience?
- Local? Global? Comrades? Neighbors?
- WHEN will this be relevant?
- (For one election cycle, for the foreseeable future, forever)
- Ask some questions about audience
- Are we making assumptions about homogeneity?
- How are race, ethnicity, gender, age, ability, and orientation considered?
- Is this specifically a recruitment tool? If not, how can it also serve as a recruitment tool?
- Does the messenger matter? Who is the best messenger?
- What politics need to be directly outlined? What is our demand?
Consider Your Capacity
Projects always take longer than originally planned, but you can improve your chances of staying on time by making a project outline with different deadlines and making sure each person in the working group is aware of the deadlines for their contributions.
- Discuss your timelines
- Does this project have an absolute deadline? For instance, will you time your release in conjunction with election dates, a holiday, or a specific event?
- What is a realistic timeline for gathering information and knowledge, refining and editing it, gaining editorial feedback from diverse groups, and polishing it?
- What materials do we already have? How can they be integrated into our project?
- What other chapter events are members of the working group also committed to? Balancing commitments and priorities is a prevalent source of a project losing inertia.
- Will you need assistance from Communications or seek approval from Media Policy? Factor in the time you will need.
- Discuss the project’s scope
- How many pages or minutes will we need to convey this message?
- Is the message too broad for our format? Could this project have multiple stages?
- Can we reasonably expect to gather all our information and resources in a timely fashion? If not, what are our contingency plans or alternative formats?
- How much feedback should we seek out from people inside and outside our chapter? Are we flexible enough to incorporate their feedback and adapt the project?
- Does this project have multiple formats like an online version and a print version? If so, what are the capabilities of each and will they need to be conceived of differently?
- Will we need to also plan a social media promotion campaign around this project or compile a list of targeted recipients to share it with?
At your first or second meeting, determine who is responsible for which components and make a deadline for compiling a rough draft (or maybe an initial script for video or audio projects).
The Communications Committee & Media Policy Working Group
Both of these groups are ready, willing, and able to help members with their projects. The Communications committee can help with design, production, distribution, and social media promotion. Depending on the nature of your project, you may need significant help from them, so let them know early by filling out the Communications Requisition Form and plan accordingly.
The Media Policy working group also has a form to notify us that your project is underway. A representative from Media Policy will have a conversation with you about your project and link you with any others that can provide guidance as well as inform the Local Council of your plan. Working with Media Policy is not required, but it is strongly recommended. Read the Media Policy FAQ for more information about our abilities and approval process.
We recommend scheduling multiple meetings at turning points in your project process so that your working group can share issues, struggles, provide input, and evaluate the work. In between meetings, the facilitator(s) of the project should stay in touch with different contributors to support them.
At your meetings, there are many things to consider.
- Go over all the gathered material and hash it out. Review previous questions about audience, intent, and best way to deliver the message.
- Is the structure working?
- Are you missing any big pieces or perspectives?
- Can you write a one page manifesto that everyone feels represents the project and its goals?
- As the text nears completion, discuss what visuals and other assets you will need.
Once you have a final draft of your content (text for a pamphlet, script for a video or audio project, etc.) Discuss as a group the tone and vocabulary of the content.
- Is the language appropriate and accessible for our target audience?
- Does it strike a good balance between context, theory, rhetoric, and clarity?
- Is it too long to digest?
- Is the language urgent and convincing enough?
- Does the content embody specific socialist perspectives?
- Is there enough context for the audience to understand the issue and what should be done next?
- Do we have permission or consent to include contributions (quotes, stories, photos) from people outside the chapter?
Remember that the Communications committee is full of people who can assist with framing any data or developing the visual hierarchy of your information.
Approval and Release
Projects that represent the chapter as a whole and include the New Orleans DSA logo require approval from the Local Council or the general membership. After approval is given, your project is allowed to be promoted at chapter events and actions and through our official social media.
As mentioned above, the Media Policy group can evaluate your final project and vote to recommend its approval to the Local Council. You don’t have to seek approval from Media Policy, but keep in mind that if you propose your project directly to the Local Council for approval, they will need enough time to evaluate it and possibly ask for revisions. Keep in mind that you will need to notify the Local Council ideally at least two weeks in advance to get your proposal onto a general meeting agenda if you are going that route. Be prepared to explain your project and answer questions from the general membership.
Congratulations on releasing your project! What’s next? We strongly suggest having a meeting in the months after release to evaluate the response to your project, make sure that all follow-up has taken place, and if there are any new resources that arose out of the project (e.g. a potential mailing list). What went right and what went wrong? What could have made the final version even better? Determine if you will revise and refine the project in the future or start work on a new project that builds upon the original one.