“If you don’t like how the mainstream media manipulates you, learn to manipulate mainstream media”
So, you are the person who has convinced your movement to care about its image. What are the steps involved?
1. “We trained the nation,” said Srja Popovic, one of the student leaders who engineered the nonviolent overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic. Intramovement education and training is first.
2. Develop relationships with mainstream media reporters, correspondents, photographers, videographers, editors and anchors. Help them understand that your movement desires an image, is working diligently to train and educate itself to live up to that image, and is highly motivated to help them get the story and get it right.
3. Same with law enforcement. If they believe you are coming out to rock and roll they will cheerfully oblige, much to your detriment. Do not settle for any liaison officer. Work very hard to help each one learn that you are nonviolent, you are not sneaky, and you earnestly want to encourage them to fade back, in general, and let your people provide their own security and policing. Obviously, if your primary objective of your movement is in fact police brutality this is of a much more sensitive and difficult order, but it can and should be done or the police will work very hard to erode your image.
4. Develop conversations and working relationships with those who favor violence or random property destruction. Let them vent; it’s their strong suit. Appeal to their sense of movement manners, i.e., when you do all the organizing for a campaign or event and they aren’t part of the hard working planning group, they should show the respect for your hard organizing work that you show for theirs. This common understanding of how tough it is to recruit and organize is your strong link to them and they will generally respect it. Don’t dis them. Don’t tell them their methods stink. Stress that your leadership has been meeting and meeting and meeting and have consensed on the tone, tenor and practices of your events and you will not come to their events and try to act against their decisions—and you expect the same from them.
There are, of course, innumerable smaller steps involved in creating the image you feel will garner what Dr. Bernard LaFayette called “the sympathy of the majority, if not the active participation.” It involves a great deal of discipline, follow-up, relational upkeeping and anticipation. The greater the goal, the more complex and sustained your movement needs to be to overcome any image problems or erosion. The payoff is victory. You can change public opinion 180 degrees. It happens and it’s connected at least somewhat to the work you do to create and successfully defend and propagate your image to the constituencies who can do you the most good.