MEDIA STRATEGY WITH JEHMU GREENE
Jehmu Greene is an evangelist for social good, Fox News Political Analyst, and political strategist. Throughout her career, she has worked to build high impact social justice movements. A widely sought-after speaker, Jehmu's commentary has been featured on The Daily Show, CBS News, NBC News, ABC News, The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Rolling Stone, Essence Magazine, and others. Prior to Fox News, Jehmu served as President of the Women's Media Center and President of Rock the Vote. Jehmu has worked on more than twenty political campaigns at the local, state, and national levels, including serving as an advisor and surrogate for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Jehmu started her career as a campaign organizer in Texas, working for many candidates, including Ann Richards’ 1994 campaign. Her mission has been to organize disenfranchised, vulnerable and marginalized communities. She was working at the DNC where she was presented with the opportunity to appear on TV and talk about Al Gore. Without any media training, she jumped in. Later, through working with Rock the Vote, she learned how to use the media to have an impact on social change.
Jehmu’s Top Ten Tips for Media Strategy
Jehmu’s Ten Tips for strategies for media coverage, even for those without a budget, staff or time. In no particular order, here are her 10 Tips:
Understand the media environment, and that starts with the reality that journalists, producers, media professionals have less time than ever before to do the work they are tasked to do. They have fewer resources, support and time. To increase your media impact, “part of your job is to make their job easier”.
The current news cycle is sped up and follows shiny objects. Often leaders want the news cycle to follow us, but that’s almost impossible. The focus should be to respond to and pivot off the existing news cycle.” Example: media has recently been focused on the college admissions bribery scandal. As someone who is an expert in education or wants to move forward a platform about racial disparity, that story is an opportunity to engage on what the media is covering. College admissions is the focus, so take your work on education or racial disparity to get your foot in the door on this topic, and then pivot to the the topic that you want covered. Respond and pivot off of the news cycle, not thinking that you can get the news cycle to focus on what you want them to be focused on.”
Content is king (or in this case queen), but it doesn’t have to rule your world. Journalists and decision makers in the media are pressed for time and have fewer resources. So, you can help them by creating your own content for them to use. If you can capture the most interesting content, ie, the pictures and video, you can push it out into the world. This will help lift your media platform and you’ll be identified as someone who can provide interesting content for the media.
“Drama, personality and surprise.” Unfortunately, there is some truth in the “if it bleeds, it leads” in local media coverage. The media “is looking for drama, they’re looking for personality, and something surprising.” As you pitch a story to a journalist or a producer, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds of the story, but what the media wants is good storytelling - drama, personality and surprise. Yes, the facts are important, but make the story come alive by telling that story through an individual’s authentic story that has drama, personality, and a surprising ending. That is something that will appeal to these decision makers.” In the end, you may not be the best face of the story.
Tell the authentic story of someone you are highlighting. Don’t worry about the pursuit of perfection in the video or images - it can be time consuming and require a lot of resources. The easiest thing to do is to just get the story out. When Will Smith joined Instagram, he didn’t worry about the perfect lighting or camera angle. He was unfiltered and authentic and that helped to shift the paradigm. It’s now much easier to get your content out. With limited time and limited resources, tell an authentic story that is unfiltered.
“Influencer strategy.” Everyone loves good content. “There are influencers in your town who have a large following, have a lot of respect, and a personal brand.” “Slide into the DM of influencers in your community. Start a direct conversation whether on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.” It’s no longer about press releases or building a relationship over a long period of time. “Slide into the DM of those media decision makers and start a direct conversation with them.” Mediaite is a website that the media follows. It aggregates the daily news coverage and highlights what’s important that day. Jehmu, as a progressive news analyst on Fox, felt she wasn’t getting any coverage on the site. She realized that the founding editor was following her on Twitter, so she DM’d him. She’d share her perspective on what was being covered and gradually got his attention. It took time to build that relationship, but he eventually did an Op Ed agreeing with Jehmu’s position about the DNC not using Fox News as a platform for their debates. She was able to eventually impact their work.
Field of Dreams - if you build it they will come. The reality is, if you build it, they WON’T come. The media will not come to you - you must go to where they are, on social media, even from an event standpoint. There’s a great opportunity in local communities to find where decision makers in the media and journalists are going to be and go to them, “Go find them online, go find them offline. That’s the best way to start a relationship.
Become a source. Share your unsolicited opinion until it is solicited. Build a relationship so that when that media decision maker needs something, you will be someone who is top of mind and they’ll come to you. This requires takes time and consistent outreach.
Get to the right person. For example, if you want to get coverage of a piece of legislation about education, find out who the education reporter is on your local paper or local tv network. Which anchor might mention their kids and school on the air. Blasting to a random list doesn’t work.
Put together your toolkit:
Google alerts. Not just for when you are mentioned, but set an alert for anytime issues that are important to you are covered in the media. This allows you to respond to the news cycle. (See Tip #2 above.)
Journalist alerts. When you’ve identified the relevant journalists in your community, set an alert for them. This allows you to build a relationship. All the people in the media have an ego. For example, if you congratulate them, or retweet an article by a journalist and praise their work, the journalist will see it, and the next time you want coverage will remember your shoutout.
Lists. Create a media list, using whatever format you wish. When you see an article of interest, put the author’s name on the list. If you come across an interesting tweet, enter the Twitter handle. Add the email address. Keep this up on an ongoing basis and when the time comes, you will have the go-to list of all the right people to contact.
Additional tips on how to increase your brand: “Your personal brand has to be aligned with how other people see you.” How you see yourself and how others see you need to be aligned. For example, Jehmu thinks of herself as funny, but people she has asked don’t see her that way. It’s important to be aligned with how we see ourselves and how others see us. Write down a list of adjectives of how you see yourself. Ask friends and colleagues to write down a list of adjectives of how they see you. Then swap those lists - give your list to your friend/colleague and get their lists. Cross out what doesn’t fit. The adjectives that remain are that alignment of how you see yourself and how others see you. However, this can be changed. If there are traits you wish to incorporate, you must be very consistent and intentional in in how you present yourself in order to accomplish that change. Your personal brand must be authentic and represent who you are as an individual.
State Senator Faith Winter in Colorado is an example of someone with a great personal brand. She is a leader on issues around children, education and equity. To build her personal brand, she brings her family into her personal branding and highlights the role her children played in her campaign. Faith’s daughter was running for school council at the same time as she was running for State Senate, and she incorporated that into her campaign. She demonstrates work/life balance which is aligned with the legislation she is supporting. The environment is also an important issue for her, and her personal brand includes the fact that she hikes with her family. #onsundayswehike is her hastag on Twitter. There is a good mix of the substance of the legislation she is sponsoring and the full picture of who she is.
The two most important things to develop a personal brand: Content and Consistency. When you are building your personal brand pushing out content and pushing it out consistently is very important.
Question about open meetings: It is important to understand what the open meetings rules are in your specific area. Educate yourself on open meetings and understand what the rules are that govern local elected officials in your area. The rules will vary from place to place. There are so many different platforms to use to share what is being covered in a meeting. Use those tools and make sure there is a diversity of distribution. Use multiple outlets to communicate with your constituency. Older people use email more, Gen X might use Facebook, Gen Z uses Instagram. Embrace the fact that content can be distributed for free with a greater reach than ever before.
Question about how to get national attention for a local issue: Getting national attention for a local issue is a great goal. However, that is extremely hard. And the key question to ask “is it really necessary”? Always question what the goal might be, especially when the decision making will be impacted at the local level, not national level. For certain issues, find other national organizations that you can partner with, such as Change.org, or Color of Change. Find those authentic individuals to tell the story. You can use the same tips described above to connect with journalists on a national level as well, and start to build that relationship. But always ask what the goal is for national attention. Can you create change on the local level?
Question about the necessary frequency of social media engagement: There isn’t one standard. However, if you have capacity to tweet once/day, that’s fine. Remember content and consistency. Some experts believe there should be 6 pieces of content to push out on a daily basis. Understand your own capacity. Don’t stress out about it. If all you can do is one/day, that’s fine. One trick is to retweet, or share other good content. But be careful to ensure that your feed also contains original thinking.
Question about how someone who lives in a more conservative district can push back against the label of Democratic Socialism: Release yourself from the label and define the values that define our work and what we are promoting. Connect with the heart and then the mind. We often forget that we have a lot of shared values, as a nation, as a community and as a culture. Think about using social media to talk about shared values and not the label that means something different to everyone who uses that label. Move away from that language and focus on the values.