Welcoming Communities Initiative uses Shelbyville propaganda film

….and gives tips on how to use the media to “change the conversation” in “communities” overloaded with immigrants.

Here a Canadian group reports on a conference held in October in Seattle.

The Fourth Annual U.S. National Immigrant Integration Conference took place in Seattle,Washington from October 24 to 26, 2011. The conference brought together policy-makers, practitioners, researchers, elected officials, government employees, business representatives, and faith communities for three days of dialogue. Keen to benefit from the discussion, the Welcoming Communities Initiative participated in a number of conference sessions. In the weeks that follow, we will share some of the key findings and best practices from the conference. This article is the first in the series and puts the spotlight on a session entitled, “A Buzz for Welcoming: Using New and Traditional Media to Change the Conversation.”

Here we go again with that deceptive Shelbyville film.

The second, Welcome to Shelbyville, looks at a small American town as it adjusts to a growing Latino population and the influx of refugees from Somalia. The project is based on a film and a set of companion activities, including a series of YouTube videos, discussion guides, and training modules. You can learn more here.

Longtime readers know that we chronicled the creation of that film from the earliest days in Shelbyville and have reported that the film is a prime example of how editing with a certain goal in mind becomes propaganda.  One post from a year ago is here.  But, check out our whole archive on the film here.

The article does give us ten tips for manipulating the media that are useful:

Top 10 Tips for Engaging the Media

*Change cannot be a “one off.” Activities must be linked, integrated, and ongoing. For example, Welcome to Shelbyville advanced the notion of an “ecosystem of change” that included funding, research, leadership, grassroots organizing, policy, and philanthropy. These pieces fit together, as did their strategies and products; nothing was stand-alone.

*The focus must remain on the community. Communication strategies must be place-based in order to resonate emotionally with their audience. The emphasis must be on why activities matter to the community. If videos or projects with a more national or regional focus are produced, local screenings and discussion groups should be organized to involve the community.

*Multiple channels are needed to reach multiple audiences. These include having an active website and a Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube presence. Short, punchy video clips and small news articles can be forwarded, shared, and “liked.” People are more likely to pay attention to items that come from their friends.

*Traditional media can be engaged by simplifying their work. In place of simply sending out media advisories about activities and events, the media should be provided with professional copy and ready-made clips and images that can be printed or aired. This meets the need for interesting stories about people in the community.

*Communities have a voice. Supporters and contacts can be encouraged to submit op-ed pieces or write letters to the editor about community activities and the contribution that newcomers are making to the community. This helps spread the message and builds connections with the mainstream media.

*Stories matter. Though facts and data are essential, stories will be remembered more easily and powerfully. Stories engage receiving communities and show them the diversity of the immigrant experience.

*Media engagement is possible even with limited resources. Communities should use the skills and resources of their network and supporters. Supporters can help make films, serve as actors in public service announcements, and call on their contacts in traditional media.

*Communities should find ways to identify their supporters. At a minimum, communities should develop electronic distribution lists, but they can also employ more creative techniques. For example, Uniting North Carolina had supporters sign an online pledge to support immigrant integration; they were then added to the organization’s email list and now receive all communications.  

*Communities should take advantage of the power of leveraging. Communities should create engaging, fun content that supporters can disseminate to others.

*Communities should not forget the “and then what?” question. Engaging local communities in immigrant integration is a long-term project. Videos, news clippings, and radio ads all have a shelf life. To go from story-telling to action, it is necessary to bring together groups, not just to listen and learn but to work together to welcome newcomers.

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