ReThink Media
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February 13, 2020
Democracy News
Hi <<First Name>>,
Hope your new year is off to a great start! As we gear up for what will be one of the most critical and consequential election years of our lifetime, we want to take a few minutes to reflect on the work of the past several months, sharing the successes, lessons-learned, and strategic engagement of our Democracy Collaborative. Highlights from this issue of our Partner Update include training democracy advocates across the country on messaging recommendations, writing letters to the editor, and using new online tools; pressuring debate moderators to #AskAboutDemocracy; and some new faces (and new roles) on the ReThink team. 

(Did you miss our prior issues? You can find them here and here. Also check out our 2019 Year in Review edition of the Echo Chamber.)

Is there someone else on your team who you think should receive these newsletters? Please let us know!


Marking Citizens United at 10 

A decade after the US Supreme Court gave corporations the ability to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence our elections, advocacy groups across the country commemorated the 10-year mark of the Supreme Court decision with reports, fact sheets, and a coordinated media strategy. 

ReThink Media helped position groups to make the most of this media moment, including:

  • Creating templates for ed board memos and press outreach about the fallout of the SCOTUS decision for groups in New Hampshire, Oregon, California, North Carolina, and Arizona, all top state priorities for our democracy work;
  • Drafting, pitching, and placing op-eds in the Fulcrum, New York Daily News, Truthout, and Common Dreams; and
  • Delivering a training on writing letters to the editor so organizations could respond to media coverage about the anniversary. Participants included staff from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, RepresentUs, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), Take Back Our Republic, Campaign Legal Center, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), and America Votes, amongst other organizations.   

“I really liked the ‘do say/don't say’ graphic,” said one participant. “That will be very helpful to me when I am trying to find the right words to use and it is a great tool to pass along to our coordinators as well!”

Another participant wrote, your tip on “referencing a specific and recent article/column in the newspaper that I'm writing to is important to getting published,” was a big takeaway. “I had not done that in the past.”

Training Advocates Across the Country 

Voting Rights Messaging Training
In the Fall of 2019, ReThink trained two dozen leaders—from organizations such as the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, the Campaign Legal Center, the NAACP, the Brennan Center, All Voting is Local, the National Disability Rights Network, and the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, among others—on best messaging practices, how to avoid competing factors that interfere with doing the best media work possible, and how to navigate this new political landscape to achieve the wins we need in 2020.

ReThink then delivered a similar training in December to 19 ACLU staff members.

“This was amazing!” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU Voting Rights Project. “I can’t thank you enough. I learned a ton. I hope we can continue to talk about other ways that our staff can learn from your insights here.”

As part of that continued partnership and learning, ReThink traveled to Ohio this week to train members of ACLU Ohio and All Voting is Local, a collaborative campaign housed at The Leadership Conference Education Fund.

Also in December, ReThink partnered with the National Institute on Money in Politics in the second part of an online mini-series intended to get money-in-politics advocates prepared for the legislative season. The trainers walked the participants (42 in total) through how to use Follow the Money’s new power mapping tool to map donors to their local elected officials. 

“Being able to align every member of a legislative body according to the financial contributions they have accepted and plotting that specifically against the likelihood of each legislator to support important legislation is incredibly valuable," said one participant. "I am so glad to have access to this tool that allows for that!” 

“Mostly I appreciate that some other people have put so very much effort into making all this campaign finance and lobbying information ACCESSIBLE and USABLE by advocacy campaigners such as myself," said another. "And that you have set up the system to stay up-to-date. Wow.”

Pressuring Debate Moderators to #AskAboutDemocracy

After the Georgia Secretary of State announced plans to purge 330,000 “infrequent voters”—just weeks before Democratic presidential candidates descended upon Atlanta in November for a debate—ReThink worked with Helen Butler of the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples' Agenda on an op-ed published in The Fulcrum calling on debate moderators to #AskAboutDemocracy.

Op-Ed in The Fulcrum
And #AskAboutDemocracy, they did! Moderators called on candidates to share their views on special interest spending in politics, gerrymandering, equal access to the ballot, and more. Read the full transcript here.

New Resources

Managing in Crisis

Managing in Crisis BookletIn October, we rolled out a new crisis planning response resource, “Managing in Crisis.” This 28-page guide features interviews with 14 people at the center of some of the most heavily covered crises facing Muslim, Arab, Sikh, and South Asian (MASA) communities in the last 20 years. While the resource focuses on a unique set of crises, it also looks to identify the critical  “lessons learned,” not just for the MASA community, but also for the progressive community more broadly. The guide also includes a sample crisis response timeline, as well as best practices for messaging in a crisis. Want a copy of the guide? Contact

In response to requests from voting rights advocates who attended our media skills bootcamp in Georgia last summer (and others), we will be developing a new series of crisis communications trainings, partly based on the lessons in the guide, but adapted to the scenarios that voting rights groups will likely face across the country. Simulations will focus on issues such as how to handle the crush of national media attention when voting irregularities occur in a hotly contested state or local race, while still driving a consistent and impactful message. Stay tuned for dates.

New Webinar: Using Media and Communications to Raise More Money and Build Power in 2020

In December, in response to requests from advocates across all of ReThink’s program areas, co-founders Lynn Fahselt and Peter Ferenbach presented a new webinar on “Using Media and Communications to Raise More Money and Build Power in 2020.” The training walked more than 100 participants through 12 tips they could immediately put into practice including how to:

  • Create a buzz to build their organizations’ reputation and reach;
  • Fundraise for paid media efforts and campaigns; and
  • Build a rapid response communications fund.

Participants left better prepared to devise their 2020 communications, fundraising, and field plans as an integrated organizational-wide strategy, rather than siloed departments. 

Here’s some of their feedback:
quotation mark“[I learned] the 8 motivations for donors and the importance of emphasizing impact rather than just media hits. The realization that media hits are a means, not an end, was a game changer.” 

quotation mark“I'm excited to try to fundraise based on the premise of the money going towards a specific communications effort, whether it's something like a rapid response fund [or] doing x amount of paid media.”

quotation mark“I am excited to come up with a media strategy to get media hits not for its own sake, but to bring back to our audience on how we can capitalize on this and lead to our ultimate goal.” 

quotation mark“Normally when I think of tiers of sponsors, I think sustainer, first-/one-time donor, major donor, etc. I had never thought about investing donors in / allowing donors to self-identify as sponsors of different aspects of the organization's work. Innovative and empowering—for the orgs and donors.”

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Staff Transitions 

Joe Newman headshotWe’re sad to share that Ricardo Ramirez moved on from ReThink at the end of December to work on issues more rooted in his new home state of California, but we’re thrilled by the outstanding contributions that Joe Newman is already bringing to our Democracy team as a senior communications associate focused on voting rights. Joe joins ReThink with more than 20 years of experience both as a working journalist at numerous major outlets as well as a communications staff member at Public Citizen and the Project on Government Oversight. You’ve probably already seen Joe’s voting rights media tracking, but behind the scenes, he’s been cranking out op-ed content and stepping into message training (with media skills building workshops coming soon!).

We hope to announce a new Program Director sometime in the first quarter of this year. | facebook | twitter

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