Successful communications for advocacy and organizing require a diversity of approaches informed by close attention to medium, message, messenger and audience. Here, we have collected key communications lessons for racial justice and human rights advocates that were shared during the convening, Using Human Rights to Achieve Racial Justice.

Examples from the USHRF’s 2011 convening include:

Media Outreach

  • Think broadly about media outreach. You are more likely to attract press coverage by presenting your work within the context of a broader social issue, rather than asking press to focus on your specific campaign.
  • Getting your organization, campaign, or issue to trend on Twitter may help you capture the attention of reporters more than traditional press releases. Make sure you link to your target reporters through social media.
  • Embrace ethnic and local media. Besides having deep community roots and reaching a broad audience, reporters at these outlets may hail from nations where human rights are familiar and commonly invoked concepts which can help your message resonate.


  • While inclusive messages can be helpful, be careful not to speak for people who were not part of your organizing efforts. Your message is weakened when communities feel misrepresented or left out of the process.
  • Feature only the most compelling facts. Research has shown that messages become less effective when too many statistics are included.
  • Control the message and be ready to do damage control if your communications efforts go off course. Strategies include anticipating potential problems from the outset, educating key stakeholders, and having a "blog squad" that comments on articles and posts to re-direct and re-focus the message.
  • Think carefully about your target audience before crafting your message—value often lies in influencing a few key people as opposed to reaching large numbers.


A photographer captures a protest unfolding. Credit: Gwenaël Piaser

Arts & Culture

  • The use of visual arts can reach people's hearts while other forms of communications appeal to the mind. Working with an artist can add emotional value that increases the impact of a striking statistic.
  • There are a wide variety of ways to incorporate art in human rights and racial justice communications—documentaries, short films, and live theater are all forms of artistic expression and can be created with a limited budget.
  • When relating sensitive personal experiences, be careful to protect the safety of your interviewees. Devise, adopt, and implement ethical standards to ensure that those sharing their stories do not become re-victimized.

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