Media Advocacy: Shifting Public Opinion, Building Public Will
The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance is dedicated to telling the housing story for all Washington communities. And we can't do it alone. In order to build the movement for affordable housing, the Housing Alliance needs to make the case for affordable housing to people across the state who could become advocates for our cause. This page has tips and resources, including suggested messaging, to help you utilize both traditional and social media to help build the movement for ending homelessness. We also have press release templates, example letters to the editor, Example tweets, and lists of media contacts in every region in Washington.
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These messages were developed by the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance. Our focus groups and statewide survey proved that they work. By framing affordable housing in terms of closely held values, these messages convince Washington voters to support our work.
Use one or all of these messages in conversations with legislators, letters to the editor, comments on blogs, tweets, Facebook posts, and anywhere you want to be effective in making your case.
- Everyone should have the opportunity to live in a safe, healthy, affordable home.
- It should be possible for working people to afford housing and still have enough left over for the basics like groceries, transportation, and childcare.
- Children deserve a chance to succeed in school and in life, which all begins with their families being able to afford a decent place to live.
- It's better for society, the environment, and families if people can afford to live close to where they work.
Want to learn more? Download this Value Based Messaging One-Pager.
Which reporters should you contact in your part of Washington state? We've put together media contact lists for our members, organized by region. Download the list from your region to get started.
East King County
South King County/North Pierce County
Kitsap and Olympic Peninsulas
Press releases are generally reserved for announcing a significant event or information, like the opening of a new building or the release of a report. They are straightforward, informative, and easily altered to fit your needs. A few things to keep in mind about press releases:
- They must be released in a timely manner to get people’s attention.
- They must be interesting to a news organization's audience.
- You can work press releases into larger opinion pieces for a more widespread run – these pieces can be submitted to local blogs or newspapers.
If you are unfamiliar with the formatting and language of a press release, start out with the template. It contains pointers and serves as a skeleton for working on your own document. If you’re already comfortable with press releases, take a peek at the sample press release and check out our Press Center, which has past Housing Alliance press releases. Fully formed, it is an example of the types of press releases that get printed.
Letters to the Editor
While letters to the editor (LTE) can be more informal than press releases, it's still important to maintain a general order and style to them. Here are some tips for writing a publishable LTE.
- Before writing an LTE, look at the media outlet's past two-weeks worth of LTEs to see what kind of writing, style, and topics they tend to publish.
- Keep the letter to 200 words or less. Word counts vary, so please check the newspaper's submission guidelines before writing.
- Most published LTEs are in response to a specific column or article. They are generally intended to provide a counterpoint or alternative view to a column or topic the newspaper has published, so it can be effective to reference a past article. For instance, if an article reports on the legislature and doesn't mention housing and homelessness issues, then you can write about how disappointed you were in this omission. Just make sure the referenced article is within a week of your LTE submission.
- LTEs tend to be a bit more informal in style and personal in voice. Write to the editor as you would your next door neighbor. But, the position you’re arguing should be clear.
- No need to go heavy on the numbers. Facts and statistics are great for full articles and maybe an op-ed, but not for a LTE. Maybe a story of someone you know or someone who recently testified in the legislature would be more appropriate for an LTE. If you do include a number, just use one. and have that be the centerpiece of your LTE, e.g. 27,000 homeless students in Washington State.
- LTEs should be timely; writing a letter in response to an event six months ago will go unpublished.
Op-eds are similar to letters to the editor, but you are allotted much more space to write. They are generally written by those who have an established voice in the community and whose voice will be the most powerful when it comes to that particular topic. Use this as an opportunity to get specific and support your argument; details and facts will help back your opinion.
For even more information, or to schedule a communication training for your board, staff, clients, or community organization, contact Reiny Cohen at firstname.lastname@example.org
About Social Media
The Housing Alliance utilizes social media to outreach for our events and to educate advocates about the latest developments and information related to our state and federal advocacy priorities. We use this simple definition for social media: a group of Internet-based applications that allow for anyone to create, exchange, and modify user-generated content. This section covers how to use social media sites Twitter and Facebook for advocacy. It does not cover the basics of opening an account or how to use each site.
On Twitter, people use the hashtag symbol # before a relevant keyword or phrase (no spaces) in their Tweet to categorize those Tweets and help them display more easily in a Twitter search, like: #sequestration. Also, clicking on a hashtagged word in any message shows you all other Tweets marked with that keyword. For instance, in a Twitter search, you’d see all tweets related to news of #sequestration.
Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day
An Advocacy Day (also known as a "Lobby Day") is a day for like-minded individuals to collectively educate and move their elected representatives to act in those constituents' interests on a particular bill, set of bills, budgetary decisions, etc.
We spearhead the organizing of Washington's Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day, with the help of our individual and organizational members, allies, and community members. On this day we mobilize hundreds of advocates to Olympia to advocate for our state legislative agenda and to forward the mission of ending homelessness by making sure all our residents have the opportunity to live in safe, healthy, affordable homes in thriving communities. You can register for this year's Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day here.
Please add this to all your tweets related to Advocacy Day leading up to February 2 and on the day-of.
The Housing Alliance has a State Legislative Agenda and a Federal Legislative Priority List. Our State Legislative Agenda contains lead items, which are legislation and policy that the Housing Alliance directly advocates for. You can see our full list here.
Our 2016 Federal Legislative Priority list consists of affordable housing and homelessness legislation working its way through Congress. While our advocacy focus is statewide, we work to educate and empower our members to also advocate in the "other Washington." You can learn more here.
Each state lead item and federal priority has a unique hashtag that we’ll be using throughout the session and even during Advocacy Day to provide up-to-the-minute legislative updates on Twitter. For all tweets related to housing a homelessness issues we will use #WAhomes. You should use them too, as you advocate for certain items and learn more about where your legislator stands on the issue.
|Capital Budget Investments in Affordable Housing (Housing Trust Fund): #HTFwa
||National Housing Trust Fund: #NHTF|
|Housing and Essential Needs/Aged, Blind & Disabled and SSI Facilitation Programs: #HENwa
||Mortgage Interest Deduction Reform: #MID
|Fair Tenant Screening Act: #FTSAwa
||United for Homes: #UnitedforHomes
|Truth in Evictions Reporting Act: #TIERwa
||Revenue Not Sequestration: #sequestration
|Source of Income Discrimination Protections: #SOIDwa
||Preserve the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit: #HousingCredit
|Expanding Medicaid to Help End Chronic Homelessness: #MEDICAIDwa|
If your elected official has a Twitter profile, you can tweet advocacy messages to them. You just need to know their username, which always has the @ symbol at the beginning (no spaces). For instance, Senator Patty Murray’s twitter username is: @PattyMurray
If you include their username anywhere in the body of the Tweet, then someone at Patty Murray’s office is more than likely to see your message to her and maybe even respond back. Others who look at your feed will also see that you are involved in online advocacy. They may even be inspired to join in.
Don't forget our username: @WLIHA
#WAleg voting on #HENwa today! Get on the phones & advocate for these valuable safety net services. Contact info: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder/Default.aspx
First, LIKE our page at: www.facebook.com/WLIHA. Then, make sure our posts appear on your newsfeed. Check our posts frequently. We encourage you to LIKE, SHARE, and COMMENT on our posts.
Unlike Twitter, Facebook posts can be as long as you like them to be. Though we recommend keeping your posts as concise as possible. Also, you can tag the Housing Alliance in your posts by typing the @ symbol followed by our name. When our name comes up in their list, click on it. This ensures we can see who is advocating for what.
@Washington Low Income Housing Alliance Advocacy Day is tomorrow. I’m so excited to meet my district legislators for the first time. I’m ready to talk about the Housing Trust Fund because I’ve seen firsthand how these permanent supportive homes can transform the lives of individuals. Let me know if I’ll see you in Olympia tomorrow!
Why do I care about Housing and Essential Needs/Aged, Blind & Disabled programs? Because without it, people I care about would have found themselves not only temporarily disabled, but also homeless. Join me in advocating for this important program. Learn more at the @Washington Low Income Housing Alliance website: http://www.wliha.org/advocacy/state#HEN
Confused About the Online Advocacy Dos and Don'ts?
That's okay. You're not alone. There is a lot of confusion and reluctance on the part of nonprofit organizations regarding advocacy, much less advocacy over the Internet. Thankfully, the D.C.-based think tank Alliance for Justice has this very thorough guide for nonprofits on using social media tools for advocacy: