Media Power for Advocates: Breaking the Osama News Cycle

Media has often been a challenge for the Sikh American community. Post-9/11, it was thanks to the 24-hour media images of Osama bin Laden and his cronies that so many Sikhs were repeatedly mistaken for “the enemy.” Since then, it has been notoriously difficult to find someone with a turban and a beard depicted positively in the press, let alone to get Sikh concerns covered by the media.

More broadly, media access and coverage is also often lacking for small social justice organizations like ours. With just a handful of staff on board to do the work, communicating our message to the media is a luxury that often drops off the plate. Because of the problems Sikhs have had with media in the past, we’ve long felt the need for a more coherent approach to the press in our work. Previously, volunteers have assembled media databases and helped clean up our press policy. Now, with assistance from our funders, the Sikh Coalition has discovered a fantastic new resource to highlight both the issues facing the Sikh community and our response.

As a grantee of the Proteus Fund’s National Security and Human Rights Pooled Fund, the Coalition is receiving media assistance from Rethink Media, a communications firm specifically for non-profits that address issues like racial profiling.  With that comes access to a massive media database called VOCUS, which contains the names and up-to-date contacts for over 800,000 reporters, editors and columnists worldwide. VOCUS also has the power to slice, dice and filter these contacts in any number of different ways. Taking into account the tremendous flux in the media industry, every single contact is vetted and regularly updated to keep it current.

Along with access to the database, Coalition staff members will also receive media and messaging skills training, resources for coordination of communications strategies, rapid response capability and research-based messaging recommendations that advance the goals of our campaigns. It is like having our very own Public Relations firm on call!


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