Bioneers 2008: How to Use Digital Media for Environmental Activism - Advice from the Experts

digital media flip camera photo

Photo via Nick J Webb

A centerpiece of the Bioneers conference is how we use technology to further environmentalism. One panel I couldn't possibly pass up was "iTube, YouTube, WeAllTube: Digital Media and Distribution Innovators." The panelists were experts in media distribution and how to get a message across effectively with new avenues.

The panel consisted of:
Leila Conners, Tree Media Group founder, journalist and filmmaker, including co-directing the 11th Hour;
Richard Wolfe, technophile and former 20th century Fox technology chrief;
Richard Graves, Youth Voice/Youth Vote and Global Environment at Americans for Informed Democracy program director;
Mark Sommer, executive director of The Mainstream Media Project, author, independent journalist and internationally syndicated columnist

These four experts gave their advice on how to be effective activists through digital technology- what to do and what to avoid to get your message across. Compiled here are knowledge nuggets as well as do's and don'ts so you can be effective with getting your green message across to others.

A few paraphrased pearls of wisdom:

Innovation is not something that just happens organically — it takes nurturing. — Richard Graves

Younger people are leaving movie theaters because it isn't interactive. To capture the younger audience, make your media interactive. — Richard Wolfe

Niche TV is a new wave. Focusing a program or station on specific issues rather than broad strokes is on its way in. But it needs money. We have to demand money be sent to visionary media makers, rather than junk TV. — Leila Conners

Innovation journalism is becoming more relevant than investigative journalism — finding out how everything works together and taking a look at it in new ways. Media is changing from a one-way messaging service to an interactive format for information exchange. — Mark Sommer

Younger people are not automatically technically savvy. They are early adapters, not technology natives. — Richard Graves

The real innovations come from the outliers - those on the fringes. They are the ones that seem to always have amazing ideas, not necessarily those deeply involved in social media. — Mark Sommer

No one has totally figured out how to measure on a large scale the impactfulness of a message. Emails from the audience, hits to the website, and similar measurements are some of the best ways, though, to know an effect. — Leila Conners

Groups need to be noticed more than they need money. Media attention often brings the other resources a group needs in the form of volunteers with various expertise they are willing to donate. — Richard Graves

Good Things to DO to Get Your Message Across:

• Come up with interactive and mutable forms of educating people through technology. An example is Educasting. Use a combination of old and new media to create values-driven innovation. Chiseled down, this means everyone wants a story (the oldest form) and they want it in an easy-to-access format (the newest forms). — Mark Sommer

• Using our high speed outlets for fast reporting to even beat out major news networks — camera phones and Twitter make a great couple. — Man from the audience

• Bird-Dogging — get candidates to commit to something by using accessable tech devices like a flip camera to get them on record about an issue, and ensure that they can't back down. — Richard Graves

• TV is a powerful medium whose agenda was once created by newspapers, Newspapers, though, are on their way out. You can set the agenda for television by using new media — blogs, YouTube, Facebook and other popular sites — and being the source of stories that television stations will want to pick up. Don't pay for a commercial; get someone else to want to pay for it because your issue is so important to them. — Richard Graves

• Non-Profit communication directors once ensured that all the papers and TV stations knew about the non-profit and its events. But these forms of media are not primary any longer. Instead of an expensive communication director, a non-profit can spend far less money on an effective media project, utilizing the myriad of free resources like Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, free blog sites and more. The audience can and will find them through an effective media project, and the non-profit will save a significant amount of money. — Richard Graves

• Get a group of "fans" to work with you as volunteers. It is not the number of people you reach, but the quality of a core of dedicated people. Usually these people can volunteer their experience or networks to help your issue move forward. — Mark Sommer

• Be Generous. Provide materials, video, sound clips and more for free to people who are working to spread the word about your event. When you refuse to provide materials to the press, bloggers and media outlets, or make it too sticky with copyright law to safely use, you shoot yourself in the foot. - Me

Good Things NOT TO DO to Get Your Message Across:

• Don't put something in just one form and expect it to last. Keeping your message fresh is key, so if you put up a website about an issue, also do a video, do a forum, do a blog, do any other creative thing you can to keep your message from stagnating. — Richard Graves and Leila Conners

• Don't start a blog for an event — once the event is over, people stop visiting. Instead, create your blog around your issue, and include the event in posts. — Richard Graves

• Don't use an event to create an audience. Rather, create an event to feed your existing audience. — Richard Graves

More on Bioneers 2008:
Bioneers 2008: How to Use Digital Media for Environmental Activism - Advice from the Experts
Bioneers 2008: High Tech High Students Creating Our Future
Bioneers 2008: Familiar Faces — Interface Carpets, WiserEarth, Nepalese Paper and More
Bioneers 2008: Mark Sommer Creates Educasts for Mobile Learning
Bioneers 2008: Opening Speech by Kenny Ausubel
Bioneers 2008: Nature and Technology Joining Forces
Bioneers 2008: A Green Conference Standard
Bioneers 2008: Solar-Powered Water Fountain a Great DIY Project

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