Panels, participation and press releases – Rhizome at the Rebellious Media Conference

Both Carl and I were busy at the Rebellious Media Conference last weekend. We facilitated the 2 participant-led sessions –  a short Open Space on ‘Activism and the Media on Saturday, and the “Have Your Say” session on Sunday. Neither were heavily attended, but that’s hardly surprising given the weight of other things in the programme. And there was plenty of ‘open space’ happening without the need for facilitation over tea and coffee. However, it felt important to offer the space in a conference with more than its fair share of panel debates, experts and big name speakers.

I was also facilitating a couple of short workshops on engaging  the mainstream media (which felt a little out-of-place at the Rebellious media conference). The first was on writing effective press releases, including a short section on engaging the media strategically to ensure that we use them and don’t let them use us. Given it started at 9.30 on a Sunday morning, I was gratified to find the room full. It was a lively session which, if the evaluations are anything to go by, people found useful:

“Excellent communicator…. practical exercises were very useful and I learnt good skills”

“Fantastic session”

There was however a request for “more time for the practical exercise” which is a very fair point – we were a little behind schedule by the time we got to the final press release writing activity, for example.

I like to think that the workshop draws heavily on the experience of the folk in the room. One way I sometimes draw that out is through a simple ‘press release quiz’. Sharing the answers brings out the full spectrum of knowledge in the room. I thought I’d type it out and upload it, so go test your knowledge of writing effective press releases!

The second was on giving interviews. Many people come to a session of this kind thinking that they have no experience of interviews. In practice we’re all experts in what works and what doesn’t in TV and radio interviews. We consume so many of them through our TVs and radios, that even if we’ve never given one the groundwork is there. It’s simply a matter of distilling those lessons and applying them. This workshop was a space for people to do just that – help each other to prepare an interview, give it a go and get some supportive feedback. Again the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, but then people always appreciate a supportive space to practice.

For those who couldn’t make it but want to be involved, there’s an interactive website where the conversation and organising is still happening