Is the collective voice of the coalition being heard in the media?
If a coalition is seeking to build up its visibility and credibility, then appearing in the media as the coalition will be important. By speaking through the media a coalition can promote its objectives by applying pressure to key targets and by raising awareness of the issue at stake. But these opportunities can also be a source of tension between members, leadership and staff.
Here are some questions that might help in thinking this through.
- Do you have a clear media strategy that sets out what the coalition wants to achieve in its media work with the international audience and with specific national audiences?
- Do you have criteria – or basic parameters – for deciding who speaks to the media on behalf of the coalition? Do you have designated spokespeople for specific issues or for specific regions?
- Do you have a division of labour between what members’ spokespeople do and what coalition spokespeople do? For example members might take responsibility for speaking to national media in their own country (such as regional or national newspapers and television) and the coalition might speak to more international media outlets (such as Reuters, AFP, BBC World).
- Do the communications officers in major member NGOs participate in developing media strategy for the coalition, or come to coalition meetings?
Some NGOs (particularly large NGOs with communication departments) will often, quite naturally, seek to promote the work and identity of their own NGO, either at a national or international level, ahead of the work or identity of the coalition. Sometimes this might be because the individuals responsible for dealing with communications are not aware that their NGO is working as part of a collective. It might also be a conscious decision to ensure their NGO ‘brand’ is strengthened through media exposure. Sometimes the individuals that represent an NGO within a coalition might have to struggle against their own communications people to be allowed to speak on behalf of the coalition rather than just their own organisation.
“At this stage for ICAN it is ok to be loose and open, but once we get into negotiations with more media work we would want to make sure that the message is clear and disciplined from ICAN.”
Tim Wright, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons