8-9-2011By Beth Tuckey
2011 Whitney Ellsworth Communications Fellow
I worked with a couple of different advocacy non-profits before beginning my fellowship with Human Rights First, and there was a common thread among them: small organizations tend to be really good at program and policy work, but are often lacking in their ability to effectively communicate their mission and achievements to the outside world. Perhaps it’s something about the type of person that pursues a social justice career, but we aren’t always very good at marketing or “selling” our work.
Partly because of this, and because I am hoping to enter the non-profit field in New York when I graduate, I applied for a summer position with the Communications department at a larger nonprofit, Human Rights First’s New York office. My task would be to focus on social media and some of the newer methods of communication, rather than traditional press work. I had some prior experience with website analysis and new media, so I was thrilled at the opportunity to gain additional skills and to see how best to put such tools to work on human rights issues.
When I was interviewed for the position, I was also told that I could be involved in podcasting over the summer if that was something that interested me. As it turned out, this became my largest project during my time at Human Rights First, and it was a great learning experience. Working with Marc Climaco, the Program and Communications Assistant, and Daniel Littlewood, another Communications intern, we conducted market research on podcasting and took steps to improve Human Rights First’s podcasts. It was the little things – like bringing in more external audio clips to add more voices to each podcast, adding new intro/outro music, and obtaining a professional microphone – that really made the difference in quality. As the summer wore on, I also spent more and more time drafting and editing podcast scripts to ensure they were reflective of the organization’s goals and user-friendly enough for a wide audience.
By mid-July, we were ready to launch FirstCast on iTunes. Through the power of email and social networking, our podcast climbed the charts to #1 overall under “Government and Organizations” and was among the top three “New and Noteworthy” podcasts under “News and Politics” for several days in a row. Success!
Though I worked on every podcast in some capacity, I had the opportunity to draft and narrate four of my own, which was incredibly rewarding. I also conducted interviews with staff from several different programs, which gave me the chance to get to know the issues better and to meet other people in the organization. I was impressed by the level of trust and respect Human Rights First gave to interns and fellows. We were treated as valuable members of the team, not as mere worker bees or temporary labor. The intern program was both structured and flexible, giving everyone the opportunity to show their strengths.
By the end of the summer, I gained new skills in storytelling for advocacy and in the nitty-gritty technical side of podcasting. I also knew much more about tools like Google Analytics, Google AdWords, Facebook, and WordPress, and I got a broad picture of how non-profit communications works in today’s fast-paced media environment. These are all skills that will help round out my resume, and put me in a good position to work in the not-for-profit sector. What’s more, I felt like I really contributed to Human Rights First’s work and mission, making for a fulfilling and exciting summer.
Beth is a current Master of Arts student at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, studying human security and international environment & resource policy.