Your chapter has been doing amazing work around Medicare for All, everything from canvasses to political education. People need to know about it! This section will lay out a few best practices to get your chapter’s communications plan up and running.
First, there are a few things you will need:
- Chapter-wide Twitter and Facebook Accounts: This will be an important part of your communications effort.
- Communications Team: Having two to three people is ideal, since they can coordinate coverage and avoid any gaps in communication. These comrades will be responsible for managing the social media accounts and spreading the word.
- Calendar: Know what Medicare for All events your chapter has coming up. This way you can plan promotion ahead of time and not be caught off guard.
- Best Practices: Remember, your social media accounts are a reflection of your chapter and DSA as a whole. When posting to these platforms, you are using a powerful tool to represent the organization. Familiarize yourself with DSA’s national social media guidelines and adapt them for your chapter as necessary.
Facebook: Your chapter should use Facebook to promote all of your planned events. Videos, blog posts, upcoming events, and relevant news stories around Medicare for All can all go on Facebook.
Twitter: Twitter is where your team will do all of the the same promotional things they are doing on Facebook, but with the added touch of direct interaction with users. You should live-tweet events, immediately respond to healthcare-related breaking news, and encourage your followers to feed us their generated content for signal boosting (e.g. “Canvassing for #m4a today? Tweet us your best pics with #dsam4a”).
Video Content: Social media is a video-first medium, meaning this is the type of content most likely to generate engagement and visibility. If you have an upcoming event, be it an educational event with planned speakers or a Saturday afternoon canvass, consider making a high-quality video that can be shared across social media to help spread the word. Since DSA is a bottom-up organization, the national communications team will be relying on you to create a record of your amazing work.
User-Generated Content: Our members are one of the most powerful sources of content we have. Encourage them to send pictures and videos to their chapter’s social channels, perhaps with a custom hashtag, which we can then signal boost. This adds an important human element and can encourage DSAers who have yet to get off the sidelines and join the fight.
Just as you shouldn’t overestimate social media to do your organizing work, you also shouldn’t underestimate how many people get their news from traditional media outlets.
- Writing Press Releases: You can increase the likelihood that local press will cover your town hall, protest, or canvass by sending out a press release. It should be between 200-500 words long. At the very top, you should include the date and time of the upcoming event, and contact info for someone from your chapter. The title of the press release should sound like a headline, e.g. “Local Democratic Socialists Hold Rally Against Healthcare Cuts, Demand Single-Payer System.” The body should first explain what’s happening as clearly as possible, then provide some relevant context, rationale and even facts and statistics to acquaint journalists with the issue. Make it look nice — include a photo or two. And include your chapter’s social media info, too, so journalists can look into your chapter and decide whether they’re interested.
- Establishing Press Contacts: Once you’ve written your press release, send it around to your press contacts. These are people who work in local media in your area. The highest-value press contacts are people you know to be sympathetic to DSA, usually because they share our politics or personally know someone in the group. Ask your members to brainstorm acquaintances who work for local newspapers, alt-weeklies, websites, and television and radio stations. If your list is short, you can also find emails of reporters on local news outlets’ websites. Create a spreadsheet where you keep track of these contacts, and also keep track of when you reached out to them and whether they responded. The data will come in handy: if you need press coverage in a pinch, you’ll be able to see who has been receptive in the past.
- Dealing with Press Inquiries: You should set up an email address specifically for press inquiries, feature it prominently on your website, and assign someone to monitor it. You don’t have to respond to every press inquiry — in fact, you’re better off being highly selective, choosing only reporters and outlets you trust and topics that are actually relevant to your chapter’s work. If you do decide to respond to press inquiries, it’s best to go in with prepared comments that accurately reflect the group’s interests and values. You don’t have to answer every question a reporter asks; just say what’s important to you about the topic, and they’ll use it if they want to.
If you read news coverage about Medicare for All, and especially if the piece is a mischaracterization, consider writing an op-ed or a letter to the editor. Below are some tips for doing so, adapted from the Campaign for Guaranteed Healthcare.
Letters to the Editor are usually written in direct response to an article, editorial, op-ed, or column that the paper has printed, or a reaction to a newsworthy event. They’re short (150 words or less), can be summarized in 1 or 2 points, and are timely and relevant to news that’s at most 2 days old. These are more likely to get published than op-eds and can also be published in a quicker turnaround time. Check the guidelines of the paper you’re submitting your letter to, but in general here are a few style suggestions:
- Focus on one important point; don’t try to address separate issues in one letter.
- Maximize your chance of being published by removing every non-essential word. For example, don’t say, “I think…”
- Don’t use all capital letters or bold text to emphasize a word.
- Use local statistics if writing to a local/regional paper.
Op-eds are longer pieces (500-750 words) that can take the form of feature articles, commentary, or opinion. These pieces flesh out a bold or interesting stance (i.e., Medicare for All is fiscally responsible, Medicare for All is popular with the Republican base, etc.). They’re more likely to be published if the author has credibility or expertise on the issue, or is making their case through a powerful personal story. Unlike letters to the editor, op-eds will be relevant not only today but also for the next few weeks, and they will require actively pitching your piece to the editors. A few style suggestions:
- Write boldly and provocatively.
- Identify the counterargument and refute it with facts.
- Educate without preaching.
- Avoid clichés, technical jargon, and acronyms.
Offering health services that you can source from your community is a great way to get even more publicity for your events and may help to attract those outside your regular political circles. Community or medical student organizations may be able to provide glucose and blood pressure screenings. Blood banks, free mammogram services, vaccination clinics, and other health services may be available in your area. The key is to determine what your venue can support and to schedule these services as soon as possible. These services do require advanced notice and may need a somewhat separate space to provide services while protecting privacy.
You could also invite other organizations to set up information tables to help spread the word about currently available services to those that have no insurance or are underinsured. Make sure to set a deadline for registration if you do this, and have an organized plan (i.e., when are tables being set up, what time should tablers arrive and leave, etc.).