Organizing in Australia

I probably won’t be posting much about Texas in the next month or so because I’m currently campaigning overseas in the land down under! Organizing in Australia is completely different to anything I’ve ever done before, and I’ve already learned so much in the few short days I’ve been here.

First day in Sydney

First day in Sydney. Yes, that is a Texas for Obama shirt I’m wearing!

After a day of sight-seeing and a 10-hour jet lag induced coma, it was time to get down to business. I’m working in the NSW Labor Party campaign headquarters, which would be about the equivalent of working in the Chicago OFA office during the Obama campaign. I spent the entire first day sitting in a corner getting familiar with their voter file (it’s not VAN!) and trying not to look too foreign. About halfway through day two I realized there’s not much a Texas girl can do to blend in, so I gave up on that completely. On my third day in the office I met the Prime Minister of Australia for the first time.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard shakes hands and meets volunteers at the Labor Party Headquarters in Sydney, Australia

Tuesday was a National Day of Action, and over 100 volunteers turned up to make calls for the Labor Party that night. Prime Minister Gillard came by the phone bank to help make calls and thank everyone for their hard work. Australian Prime Minister Julia GIllard makes calls alongside volunteers at a large phone bank in the Labor Party Campaign Headquarters in Parramatta, Australia

One of the big differences here is that the Prime Minister is elected by members of Parliament instead of by the voters directly so, instead of campaigning for Julia Gillard, everyone in this office is working on separate campaigns for individual local members. The campaigns all share some general Labor Party messaging, but each operates independently of all the others and is highly targeted to specific constituents and issues. Each call list was for a different member of Parliament, or MP, so instead of writing lots of different scripts and trying to keep track of wich script went with which list, we just made a generic one and had volunteers fill in the candidate’s name as they were calling. All the volunteers know which local member went with which area, but I have absolutely no idea and would have been completely lost if I had picked up a phone that night!

I’ll do my best to post as much as possible while I’m here, and I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences with everyone back home.

hundreds of Texans attend a Gun Sense rally in support of common sense gun legislation at the Texas Captiol building.

Understanding Earned Media

A good earned media strategy helps organizers maximize our time and resources and makes sure our hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. So what is earned media, and how does it work? Keep reading to become an earned media expert and pick up some tips on putting the media to work for you.

What is earned media?

We’re all familiar with paid media tactics like TV ads in support candidates or issues, so understanding earned media is pretty straightforward–it’s just publicity you attract, or “earn,”  rather than pay for. Earned media usually refers to earning news coverage, either on TV or in a newspaper, but publicity on social networking sites (sometimes called new media) like Facebook and Twitter is important too.

This Austin American Statesman article about a recent rally in support of common sense gun legislation at the Texas capitol is an excellent illustration of the benefits of adding an earned media component to your events.

Some examples of earned media include:

  • News coverage of an event (like the rally at the Capitol)
  • Press conference
  • Letters to the editor
  • Airtime on a radio talk show
  • Blog posts about an event or organization
  • Social media buzz

Why is earned media better than paid media?

Paid media campaigns deliver a carefully crafted message to large audiences, but they can be expensive and it’s often unclear who’s behind the ad itself. Earned media is great because it keeps the best parts of paid media–careful messaging and large audiences–and is free! Even better, earned media naturally demonstrates widespread concern, and its messaging is more credible because it comes from neighbors rather than high-dollar ad agencies.

How do you earn media attention? What do you do once you’ve got it?

Stay tuned for more from me on best practices for catching the press’s eye, tips for the perfect press release, messaging do’s and don’ts, how to write the perfect letter to the editor, and more! In the meantime, check out the “resources for organizers” section of my What I’m Reading Page for more from around the web.