Local Leaders Gather in Washington, DC for NCC’s Inaugural Broadband Communicators Summer Camp

Campers gathered for the inaugural Broadband Communicators Summer Camp.

Next Century Cities’ first Broadband Communicators Summer Camp was held on July 18, 2023, in Washington, DC. The event brought together elected and appointed officials, as well as public servants, broadband advocates, and academics from Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and other states.  Each joined in hopes of upskilling their communications skills and left with new advocacy tools. 

Kate Black of K. Black Strategies

The three-part workshop was facilitated by Kate Black, of K. Black Strategies, and included guest presentations. Kate helped participants identify ways to (a) build press relationships, (b) navigate difficult interview questions, (c) strengthen organizational communications on broadband issues, and (d) improve oral presentations.

Campers kicked off the day by examining their respective organizations’ communications strengths and resources. Underutilized assets, such as including broadband issues on internal talking memos or practicing media interviews with team members, can be leveraged to engage stakeholders. The reflection exercise also encouraged participants to establish specific goals for their personal and organizational communications plans. 

Kate Black with Politico’s John Hendel

For some, meeting Politico’s John Hendel was their first experience with a reporter. Through a fireside style chat with Kate, he provided insights into his work as a technology and telecommunications journalist. Campers learned about fostering reciprocal relationships with journalists, tailoring their content to writers’ subject matter expertise, and ways to bring attention to emerging issues in the tech and telecom landscape.

Paloma Perez, the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC”) Press Secretary sat down with Kate for a lunchtime conversation reflecting on her work at the agency. She had brilliant insights on communicating with press and encouraged campers to get a strong handle on articulating their areas of expertise. Both are critical for conveying their communities’ stories. Additionally, she discussed how to best use social media to meet audiences where they are with a sense of purpose and urgency. 

The FCC’s Paloma Perez spoke with campers.

The day concluded with “Color Wars.” During this section, campers broke out into color-coded groups and were assigned topics around broadband current events such as extending the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program or improving community-level broadband data. Each group was tasked with building out detailed communications plans and presented their ideas in a panel discussion moderated by Black. Campers received immediate feedback on their strategic plans and interview question responses.

There were so many nuggets dropped throughout the day that helped campers at various stages of their respective communications outreach journeys. Three points that resonated heavily with participants were: 

  • Relationships with Journalists: When working to build authentic relationships with journalists and publications, be clear about your areas of expertise and organizational priorities. Consider setting up an informational call to discuss current and emerging issues. 
  • Making Your Pitch: When pitching a story to a journalist or an editor, they will evaluate your story or subject from various angles. First, think carefully about the hook, which will make the journalist want to delve deeper into the information that you are sharing. Second, ask yourself why your story matters to people writ large. Third, establish how the subject ties back into specific policy debates and promotes greater understanding.  
  • Writing a Press Release: When issuing a press release, include actionable information. Use data whenever possible, and keep your language concise. As Paloma Perez noted, “If a journalist has to scroll on their phone to read through your press release, it’s too long.” 

Broadband Communicators Summer Camp is just the beginning. NCC’s Communications Director, Brittany-Rae Gregory, plans to continue curating a space where broadband advocates can come together to work through telling the stories of their communities. Stay tuned for more information on our next gathering. See photos from the day at camp here

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