Shanelle Matthews, lead communications strategist for Black Lives Matter, recently did a Q&A with PR Week in which she explained how the group uses communications as a strategy to help end state violence against Black people.
In it, there were three important takeaways for racial justice organizers who are engaging new and traditional media in their efforts to achieve systemic change.
1. Communications strategies should focus on long-term movement goals.
For example, Black Lives Matter aims to rebuild the Black liberation movement and affirm the lives of all Black people by imposing a call to action and response to state violence and anti-Black racism. Communications is a strategy to advance this long-term vision. While the group receives a fair share of attention, both on and offline, it understands that popularity is not the goal.
2. We should have a clear understanding of how communications will advance these goals.
Too often, organizers think of communications on the fly, as a way to make an announcement or bring attention to a single event, rather than taking the time to think comprehensively about why they’re communicating in the first place. But the key to a successful strategy is knowing exactly what it is that you want your efforts to accomplish.
For Black Lives Matters, it’s clear.
“Strategic communications is three things: a blueprint for creating visibility for our work; a manifestation of our goals and vision; and our approach to maintaining dialogue about what ending state-sanctioned violence against black people looks like.
“Our strategy is to organize and mobilize people, actively working to broaden international conversation about the impact of state violence on black people and communities, drive critical conversations from the ’hood to the White House about authentic transformation of American democracy, and ensure policies reflect and prioritize the needs of black people.
“Communications leads with bold, visionary values rooted in the black experience.”
3. We should tailor our strategy to meet our specific goals and audiences.
We all love a dope tactic. But too often, a group in one city will see something a group in another city does and replicate it just because they think what they’re doing is dope and they want to do something dope too. When thinking about communications tactics, we should consider who our audience is, what we want them to do, and what they need from us in order to do it.
An example is the way Black Lives Matter balances its approach to communications strategies within its chapters.
Got a question about how to use communications to advance your organizing strategy?
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