Using Maps to Deliver Your Message
I had the opportunity to attend the Planning and Conservation League's annual Symposium this past weekend. There were many sessions to choose from but one in particular caught my attention. The topic was using maps to persuade and mobilize. The presenters were Larry Orman and Tim Sinnott from GreenInfo Network and Rebecca Moore from Google Earth Outreach.
Larry Orman started off with a great point: we're overloaded with geographic information. We've got access to road maps, mash ups, interactive maps, climate change maps, election maps, and geotagged photos. But Larry pointed out that mapping is about having a point, not just about showing data.
Why are maps a popular choice for displaying cross-sections of information? One reason is that data is not an obstacle. It's available and much of it is free. Also, computers and mapping software are less expensive. And new generations of folks are map-savvy.
GIS (geographic information system) is one mapping tool that marries data and places. GIS can be used to analyze information, such as land use, commercial development, pollution impact, and to define alternative outcomes.
Maps, in general, can be used to tell a story or convey a message. Mapping tools let you unfold data in layers to reveal parts of the story. It is important, Larry emphasized, that you think about mapping as communications. Technology is whizzy and great, but it is still critical that you have a good story. You need to know who your audience is, what your message is, how much time people will have to view your map as well as at what distance and in what context.
Rebecca Moore reinforced that maps can be very effective for telling a story or delivering a message, particularly when you don't have much time to deliver it. She noted that maps can change an abstract concept into something personal for people. When done right, maps can show what is at stake instead of just telling what is at stake. They can inspire action, influence decision-makers, reach the media, and impact public policy.
Should you send your press releases to blogs?
Flickr has a great blog post from plasticbag.org. The author explains his distaste for receiving press releases when his blog is a personal one and he has no desire to help market other people's or company's agendas.
This post made me think about how groups are now using the opportunity to get covered by progressive blogs. If you are going to send a press release to a blog, it shouldn't come across like a press release. And the blog you are sending it to should have a keen interest in what your organization is doing. Does your event or mission go along with the theme of the blog? Can it help the blog author? If it is a personal blog, and you are unsure as to whether the blogger will care, then don't send it. It's also better to know the blogger - and offer to promote their blog in exchange.
The blogosphere's climate constituency
I recently attended an event at the Center for American Progress that focused on "wiring the climate netroots." It was a really informative event that the Energy Action Coalition and ClimateProgress organized. I hope they do more of these! A lot of what I learned, though, could be used by the environmental community as a whole.
Matt Stoller, who writes at OpenLeft.com, explained that environmental progressives need to make a more concerted effort to blog about their issues and present the facts to counteract the other side and any details they are misconstruing. I agree - if we feel that environmental issues are not a big blogging topic, then we need to make more of an effort to blog about these issues and link out to one and other in an effort to connect on this.
Chris Mooney, who is the Washington correspondent for Seed magazine, noted that there is little global warming activism online. He explained that what we need to do is find messages that will work - if we are going to involve science in our messages, don't fall into the trap of not doing any fact checking. It's more effective to look at smaller basic examples than try to get into any exaggerations. We can even try to frame our messages in a moral or religious light - how will people be affected personally by climate change, water pollution or the loss of an animal species?
Joseph Romm, who oversees the blog ClimateProgress.org, added a few other key points. To him, there doesn't seem to be a lot of consensus on what action progressives should be taking. This is why there isn't enough debate about climate change and other environmental issues on blogs. What we need to do is improve our communication - we need to explain to our audiences what actions need to be taken and how we can work towards a solution - and don't forget to explain what that solution is!
When framing your message, think about how it affects your audience. When an issue truly touches a person's heart, when they really feel like they can be a part of the solution, they'll be more driven to act. Check out GMT's Media Training section on tips for developing an effective message.
Surviving PowerPoint -- a humorous take on avoiding the biggest mistakes
Well, there are books, articles, blogs, and entire courses all about how to use PowerPoint for good instead of evil. Now even comedians are weighing in on the pitfalls of using PowerPoint and the funny things that can happen when the software program falls in the wrong hands. Check out Life After Death by PowerPoint by Don McMillan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ORxFwBR4smE.