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Storytelling with Storify

Guest post by Community Media Workshop board member Teresa Puente

Looking for an innovative way to tell a story?

Try Storify.

Storify uses social media to curate and create stories.

You pull publicly available information from Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram and You Tube. You also can paste a link from anything you find in the web and post it on Storify.

You can pick a topic that is in the news, such as a recent protest, sporting event or anything sources have posted content about on the social media networks.

Or you can create a Storify on an issue that your nonprofit is following. Say you have an event or press conference. You can take photos, videos, tweets or stories from that event and create a Storify of the event itself, of news media coverage of the event or a combination of the two.

Here is how you start:

Login with your Twitter account.

Write a headline for your Storify.

In the box below you can write a lede or a summary.

You build a Storify by using key words or hashtags (#) to search topics on the right.

Drag the content you want to use into the left space. This is where you build your Storify.

Also note that you can write mini text blocks in between each item you curate. You can use this for captions or add additional information about the social media content.

You may want a total of eight to 10 items in your Storify. Make sure there is a balance of tweets, Facebook posts, photos, video an text.

Then you publish your piece. You can share it with others on Twitter. People also can follow you on Storify.

Many news organizations and bloggers are using Storify as a storytelling tool. Once your Storify is published you can share the link or embed it on a blog or website.

It’s a great way to aggregate and curate content as well as share your original content that you have posted on the various social media networks.

See my video tutorial here:


Teresa Puente, author of “Chicanísima” blog on the ChicagoNow network is founder of “Latina” A veteran journalist, she is also an Associate Professor of Journalism at Columbia College Chicago and a long-standing board member of Community Media Workshop. Follow her tweets @tcpuente

Internship Tales: My Summer as a New Media Intern at the Community Media Workshop

Guest post by Community Media Workshop new media intern Lucia Anaya

When I began working at Community Media Workshop this summer as a new media intern I was looking to improve my web and social media skills. I had prior experience posting to content management systems (CMS), as well as posting on several types of social media platforms; however, I was unfamiliar with the strategizing and planning it took to successfully engage our followers and measure that engagement; something I hoped to learn through my time at the Workshop.

Lucia Anaya, new arts journalism graduate student at School of the Art Institute of Chicago, earned course credit as an intern at the Workshop through her school’s internship program.

Throughout the summer, I worked alongside New Media Manager Adriana Diaz and fellow new media intern Jennifer Wolan to not only increase followers and likes to the Workshop’s multiple social media platforms, but also engage and keep those new followers interested. We wrote original blog posts, asked readers questions and shared content pertaining to the subjects of that social media platform (i.e. individuals standing up to the violence in their community for the We Are Not Alone Facebook page and city news for the Newstips Twitter). We planned these posts ahead of time, and tracked our progress using social media management software like Sprout Social.

While my title indicated I was an intern, I certainly never felt like one—there were no coffee errands to run, no busy work. I was given the opportunity to not only sit-in but participate in staff meetings, and given responsibilities that were geared to develop my web and social media skills. And though my initial goal was to familiarize myself with strategizing and planning, I came away with much more insight than I ever expected.

It’s been a great three months and while I’m sad my time is over at the Workshop, I’m confident that I’m walking away with essential skills and insight that will help place me in the career I want in the future. The guidance that I received from Adriana, and other Workshop staff members have helped me tremendously and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to work alongside them.

Interested in an internship at the Workshop? Check out opportunities here.

Lucia is a journalist and graduate student at the School for the Art Institute of Chicago. Follow her on Twitter @luciaanaya_ 

In Defense of the Spanish Language: How to Give Meaning to Your Translations

Guest post by Community Media Workshop board member Queta Rodríguez Bauer

Ever since I came to this country more than 30 years ago, one of my pet peeves has been the poor quality of Spanish translations.

When I see posters, ads, brochures or signs, I cringe.

I even wonder whether the quality has deteriorated in recent years, or whether it may have become an obsession of mine to avidly read all translated materials that fall into my hands with the futile hope that this time I will find no errors. Most likely there is some of both, since the former feeds the latter.

As a result of the increase in the Latino population, there are two consequences that affect language. One is that there are more first-generation Latinos who learned Spanish from their parents. The second is that governments and organizations who want to reach Spanish-speaking immigrants are developing more materials in Spanish. But the efforts are often wasted due to the poor quality of the translations.


So why the poor quality? I have a theory.

My sense is that more often than not, translations of items like brochures, labels, taglines and signs are made by first-generation Latinos, employed by the organizations that need the translations. These employees are acculturated Americans, having grown up and gone to school here, and speak Spanish because their parents spoke Spanish to them when they were growing up. They are well-intentioned when they offer their services; they will save their organization some money and show their willingness to help; and the organization may also view this as a money-saving practice. And how hard can it be to make a short translation? (For long translations organizations usually use professional services.)

The problem is that often the people making the translations have grown up hearing or speaking the wrong vocabulary or the incorrect syntax without realizing it. Moreover, people may repeat the incorrect words so many times that after a while they stop sounding weird.

In some cases, first-generation Latinos come from immigrant homes where the parents had little formal education because they had to work as children. These parents spoke to their own children using a type of Spanish that reflected their lack of education. As a result the children picked up their parents’ Spanish, and their written Spanish lacks the correct grammar and syntax. Furthermore, because their vocabulary is limited, their translations tend to be too literal.

Many first-generation Latinos speak Spanish very well, and even write it well (including my daughters and my Latino employees). But even they make mistakes sometimes because they did not learn the language as they would have, had they gone to school and grown up in a Spanish-speaking country.

In order to have the best possible translations into Spanish, I recommend considering the following guidelines:

• To begin, if your English copy is confusing, unclear, or poorly written, you will have a poor, unclear translation in Spanish. (“Garbage in, garbage out.”) Make sure your English copy is clear and understandable.

• Always have a professional, or somebody who was educated in a Spanish speaking country, translate your materials, or at least review the translations your first generation Spanish speakers did for you.

• When you know you are going to need materials in both languages, develop the materials in English and Spanish at the same time, with the help of a bilingual person. Sometimes people think of taglines or descriptions that sound very well in English, but once translated don’t make very much sense. They then have to be explained in Spanish, taking much more space than normal, which is important for graphic designers.

• Keep in mind translations into Spanish normally expand about 30%. Your graphic designer will have to take that into account.

• Do not confuse correct grammar and syntax with style. As with English, things can be correctly described but awkwardly phrased.

• Do not use metaphors or sports terminology in English or be prepared to use a different metaphor in Spanish.

• If possible, run your translations by native Spanish speakers from several countries to make sure you are not using words that may be offensive, or at least strange, for other nationalities. For instance: “guaguá” in Mexico means doggy, and “guagua” (no accent) means “bus” in Caribbean countries and “baby” in Andean countries.

• It seems obvious, but many people, whether they are native speakers or not, forget that when in doubt they can use a dictionary. I also recommend to verify the meaning of words; the website even has very useful discussion forums and links to authoritative sources. But avoid overly literal translations!

While trying to reach Latinos in the U.S., one of the first rules is to show respect for your audience by showing respect for the language.

It can seem rather condescending to provide materials in Spanish that are plagued with mistakes. Good communication, whether in English or in another language, is all about meaning; and meaning has to be conveyed with clarity. If your English copy is clear, and your Spanish translation has the correct syntax and vocabulary, it doesn’t matter if the translation is not literal. You will be saying what you mean.


Queta Rodríguez Bauer, MSC, ABC, is Principal of Cultural Communications, LLC., a strategic communications firm in Chicago. She may be reached at 773-285-1055 or

Modern Mobilizing: Activism in the Digital Age

Guest post by Thom Clark

The Internet brought more information to each of our desktops than we ever dreamed of 10, 15, 20 years ago. But in the last five years, the rise of social media and digital tools, like the tablet and smart phone, are transforming how many organizations get their work done, engage existing members and expand their base.

“While engaging your current community is critical to fulfilling your organizational mission,” according to Tracy VanSlyke, co-director of The New Bottom Line, “Broadening your community to advance your work is equally important.”

Effective use of digital tools for organizing one’s members, campaigns and program is critical in this 24/7 world of data dumps and info overload.

VanSlyke will moderate an afternoon panel June 4, 2013 at Making Media Connections on activism in the Digital Age, featuring activists who use digital tools in their work: Martin Macias, Jr. of Chicago Fair Trade; Eric Tellez of Grassroots Collaborative and Charlene Carruthers of National Peoples Action.

“Digital tools allow you to go beyond one-way organizing to engage and build relationships within your community,” she says. “If you want to be influencing the media, to expand and deepen impact of your work, you have to be serious about building community both online and off line.”

A veteran of many local and national campaigns, most recently around stemming the tide of home foreclosures and holding banks more accountable, VanSlyke will engage her panelists in a conversation about successful, and some not so successful efforts to use these tools to further organizational goals. “There is still so much to be discovered with these new tools,” she reports, “with many possible complications. It’s still more an art form than a science, that is constantly evolving with experimentation.”


Modern Mobilizing: Activism in the Digital Age
2:15-3:30 June 4 Film Row Cinema, Columbia College 1104 S Wabash

Digi-wha? Digital organizing is modern campaigning and we’re here to help you improve your digital work in activism and organizing. Learn how digital tools, like social media, can help you not just say something, but be heard.  Panelists: Martin Macias, Jr. (Media activist/Youth Organizer at Chicago Fair Trade); Charlene Carruthers (National Peoples Action); Eric Téllez (Grassroots Collaborative); Moderator: Tracy Van Slyke (co-author of The Echo Chamber)

Making Way for the Mobile Revolution

responsive web design example

The Making Media Connections conference website boasts a responsive web design.

Guest post by Marissa Wasseluk, opinions are that of the author.

When a stranger asks you to use your phone, what are the chances you’d wholeheartedly pass it to them? Personally, I have trouble passing my phone to good friends without trepidation. A phone is an object with deep personal attachment. It’s your personal connection to the rest of the world – the communications tool you carry with you nearly all the time.

If you’re reading this blog in America, there’s a 50% chance that the phone in your pocket is a smartphone. Recent studies show that half of American adults own a smartphone, which means that half of American adults are regularly carrying an Internet browser, audio and video recording devices, games, and social networks on their person

Given these statistics, it is estimated that by 2015, most interactions with the web will occur on a mobile deviceSo in order to stay ahead of the curve, now would be a good time to consider incorporating mobile-friendly messages into your organization’s overall communications strategy.

Here are some things to consider when making your communications mobile:

  • Design your website to be “responsive”
    Responsive web design is a web design approach that aims to create sites that adapt the layout to the viewing platform (tablet, computer, mobile phone) for easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling. This is achieved by using fluid, proportion-based grids, & flexible images. You can tell a site is responsive when you resize a web browser and the website content continually fills the screen.
  • Make your content interactive
    Focus on action; what do you want your users to do? Sign up for your e-newsletter? Donate? Define your goals and make your call to action. Make it 
    obvious, and make it easy. 
  • Keep your content simple
    Small screens mean less time reading, more time skimming. Text-heavy content is less likely read. 
  • Get Personal
    Every social media platform can be done accessed by a mobile device, so remember that your social media efforts are already a part of your mobile strategy.

More resources and tips on utilizing the mobile web are available from the Knight Digital Media Center.

The rise of mobile technology not only changes the way you consume content, but also the way you create it. Charlie Meyerson, freelance mobile journalist and moderator for our Mobile Storytelling panel at Making Media Connections had an astute observation about mobile technologies reshaping the way we tell stories:



It’s true that there’s an app for just about everything, and digital storytelling is no exception. There are apps that will allow you to take and post short videos, create slideshows, record audio, blog – any tool a journalist can think of using to tell a story is available on a mobile platform!

There is no doubt that mobile technology will revolutionize the way we send and receive messages, and at the rate this communications movement is advancing, it might seem difficult to keep up. But with a little practice and research, you’ll be a mobile mogul long before the mobile revolution!

At Making Media Connections this June, we’ve lined up experts in this field to further discuss what tools you’ll need to create your content on the go, and what to keep in mind for your mobile audience. Join us! 

Practice makes perfect, and other interview tips

Photo courtesy of Red Media Group, Flickr, Creative Commons

When I work with nonprofit leaders who are preparing for media  interviews, one of my first pieces of advice is, “Remember, you’re in control!” The media needs your help to tell the story, and you’re the expert on your organization’s issues. So, if that’s the case, why do we find ourselves floundering in media interviews, being dragged off topic with no sense of how to bring it back to our core messages? It’s because most of us just need a little practice. We need to sharpen our interview skills, and learn some easy tricks to maintain control and stay on message.

If you’re looking for an affordable, efficient way to brush up on your spokesperson skills, sign up for our Spokesperson Superstar webinar on Feb. 23.  Learn interview performance tips like “bridging” and “flagging.” Find out what to wear on camera, and get advice on how to prepare. You’ll also have the opportunity to participate in a mock interview during the session.

You can also check out the Workshop’s “11 tips for broadcast interviews.” We hope to see you on the webinar!

11 tips for broadcast interviews

You’ve done the hard work–you developed a communications strategy, wrote media materials and pitched reporters. And voila! The local television station wants to interview your organization about your issue. Here are 11 tips to improve your spokesperson skills.

1. Practice, practice, practice. I can’t stress the importance of this one enough. Some call in the three Rs–rehearse, role play, repeat. Review your key messages and materials beforehand. Know what you want to say in the interview. Ask a colleague, friend or partner to quiz you as if he were the reporter.

2. Be prepared for hard questions. Draft tough questions in advance, and think through how you’d answer them. Then ask your colleague to ask you those questions. The saying ‘practice makes perfect’ exists for a reason.

3. Keep it simple. Remember, most broadcast interviews will be edited down to a sound byte here or a couple seconds there. Keep your answers short and simple. Don’t use jargon. And as I’m fond of saying, use the Grandma Test. If your grandma can’t understand what you’re talking about, then you’re probably making it too complicated.

4. But don’t answer with just ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Use every question as an opportunity to tell your story. If the reporter asks you, “Was it disappointing when the legislation to support more affordable housing wasn’t passed?”, you could just answer ‘yes’ but you’d be missing a chance to promote your message. Expand on why, talk about what else can still be done, discuss the impact of that legislation. Use the opportunity to drive your message home.

5. Body language and facial expressions matter. How you sit, how often you smile, when you make eye contact – these things matter for television. Make it easier to convey expertise and authority by practicing good posture. Smile to put the interviewer and the audience at ease. Make eye contact with the reporter to develop a relationship and to convey the fact that an engaging conversation is happening.

6. Don’t fidget. We all have tics that come out when we’re nervous–we rock back and forth or we keep our arms crossed or we play with our hair. If you practice (see tip #1), you can identify these “tells” and address them in advance to appear calm and comfortable during the interview.

7. Paint the picture. If you’re talking about the need for more funding for schools, can you show the camera tattered books? Can you walk the reporter through a school in disrepair? If you can’t take the television crew on location, use colorful, descriptive words to paint the picture for the audience.

8. Tell the human story. Offer the reporter someone who has been directly impacted by your issue. Ask that person to be available to be interviewed as well. If they aren’t able to tell their own story, have a compelling example ready for the reporter. In your own words, tell them why your organization makes a difference for someone.

9. Dress for the camera. Solid, bright colors work best for television. That said, avoid an all white shirt if you’re fair skinned or an all black shirt if you have darker skin because they’ll wash you out. Avoid busy patterns–they don’t translate well on the screen. Pick a nice solid color (you’ll see a lot of blues, yellows and purples on TV reporters). If you plan to wear a dark suit or a blazer, where a colored shirt or tie underneath. And, think about where they can clip the mic. Do you have a lapel? A turtleneck won’t work. Finally, avoid anything that will distract from your message such as sunglasses or large hats.

10. If you don’t know, don’t make it up. If the reporter asks you a question you don’t know, it’s okay not to know. You can answer the question in a couple different ways. 1) “I don’t know the answer to that. Let me check on that when I get back to the office.” This works especially well if the interview is being taped. Or 2) “I don’t know the answer to that question, what I do know is…(and then promote one of your key messages).” The second technique is called ‘bridging’ and you’ll see skilled spokespeople do this regularly.

11. If the audience remembers one thing… Know your key messages in advance of the interview. If your target audience sees the story on the news the next night and only remembers one thing about it, what do you want them to remember? This is your key message, and you should use every opportunity during the interview to make that point.

The Community Media Workshop conducts media, messaging, social media and spokesperson trainings for hundreds of nonprofits each year. If you’re interested in learning more about how to become an effective spokesperson, shoot me an email at

Reframing stories of the Great Recession

Photo by Carrie Sloan on

It’s not news that the Great Recession has taken its toll on nonprofits and those they serve. The mom on food stamps for the first time, the widow who lost her home to foreclosure, the shuttered community counseling center–these are all important stories that put a face on the economic downturn. But how do nonprofits move beyond these personal stories to spur systemic change?

Our free Brown Bag forum happening next week on Tuesday, Reframing Stories of the Great Recession, looks at how agencies can reshape their communications strategies to move to a narrative that engages policy makers in the midst of city and state budget crunches and ongoing belt tightening in the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors.

“Demand outweighs the supply because budgets are being slashed across the board. I think this narrative is tired” says Thom Clark, president, Community Media Workshop. “Nonprofits need a media strategy that goes beyond recounting the human impact of an agency’s financial dilemma. The media is hungry for new angles to tell the ongoing recession story. Nonprofits should be at the center of this news frame.”

The panel discussion with some of Chicago’s top journalists and policy makers includes Laura Washington, Woods Fund; Mark Brown, Chicago Sun-Times; Chip Mitchell, WBEZ; Sarah Karp, Catalyst Chicago; Ralph Martire, Center for Tax and Budget Accountability; Amisha Patel, Grassroots Collaborative; Amy Rynell, Heartland Alliance; and the Workshop’s Thom Clark.

When/where: Tuesday, August 24, 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Columbia College Chicago, 33 East Congress, Room 219

Visit the Workshop’s website or call us at 312-369-6400 to sign up today.

What nonprofits can learn from LeBron James (guest post by Jennifer Lacey)

Photo by Keith Ellison on

Last Friday, a Google search of  “LeBron James Media” produced 108,000,000 links and 1160 related articles. On there were 10,857 stories posted.

If, during the past two weeks, you lived in the forest with no phone, internet, television or interaction with other human beings, you might have missed the story. Here’s what happened: James dominated the 24-hour news-cycle with his impending free agent decision. When it was all said and done (after a well-publicized hour-long special on ESPN), James’ career decision had been given the attention of a world-changing event rather than the simple business process it began as.

What are the lessons behind the LeBron James PR show?

Steve Buckley, at the Boston Herald, drew on lessons from Vince McMahon of WWE fame, to help explain James’ media mastery.

McMahon, an impresario who turned a regional dog-and-pony pro wrestling circuit into what today is known as World Wrestling Entertainment, has known for years that it’s easy to bypass the meddling media middle men and bring your product/message directly to the public. All you need to do is set up your own network, and then use it as a stage on which to play out all your story lines, plot twists, interviews and “breaking news.”

While nonprofits can’t set up their own media outlets, they can deliver their stories and issues to the public directly through available technology. By using social media applications, nonprofits cut out the “middle man,” taking the heart of an issue to a local (or worldwide) audience.  Rather than waiting for a press conference to be covered, nonprofits, like James, can take control and tell their own stories by tying them to a timely news peg.  Write your press releases with flair. Know your story, conflicts involved, and be transparent. Know who your sources are and be prepared to rise to the occasion when pitching reporters or when they come looking for you.

It’s true that James owns a PR company that’s focused on creating an iconic image of James, and it’s also true that most nonprofits will never have the star power of a famous pro basketball player to entice the media. But, nonprofits can tell their own stories and be clever and creative about using the range of tools now available to talk directly to their audiences.

Lesson: First, control the issue. Don’t allow the issue to control you.

James’ media strategy did have its critics. Phil Rosenthal at the Chicago Tribune wrote the outcome would have been better if James’ communications team had seized control from the start.

If James and company had been on top of this, his Web site would have tracked his whole courtship process. He could have kept an ad-supported video diary, including behind-the-scenes video of meetings with franchises.

Of more importance from a business standpoint, fans would have been invited to register to vote for their team and receive updates through e-mail and Twitter, creating a valuable marketing database.

Just one problem: James has owned the domain since 2002 but hasn’t done much with it until recently. Until Tuesday, James also had not used Twitter to address the public directly. So much for a New Media offensive.

Do any of these missteps sound familiar? Has your organization attempted to use social media tools in the past, only to fail to put the necessary time into the endeavor because of busy schedules? Perhaps constant Twitter, Facebook, and blog updates are just too much to juggle when you’re already swamped trying to provide services to a community or support to your colleagues.

But don’t underestimate the importance of tending these tools. Posting regular online updates about your organization’s journey, creating a digital archive of past articles on your website, or asking clients for input could give you a powerful platform to engage your audience and keep them coming back.  In other words, use your work to create brand recognition.

Lesson: When given an opportunity to connect, don’t hesitate.

LeBron’s decision to wait to give his answer until his ESPN event was also seen as a big public relations failure by some.  Michael Flood McNulty of wrote:

LeBron James created a publicity circus unlike any other Thursday night — this was his choosing, not the media’s so don’t blame the messenger — and he humiliated his hometown fans in the most public way possible…

LeBron James alienated a lot of people tonight. Actually, alienated is the wrong word. He stunned and hurt a lot of people tonight.

What’s one of the first rules of communications? Who’s your audience and how can you reach them? Whether you’re trying to educate a specific group about an issue you’re working on or you’re trying to get people to take action, how you say it and when you say it and the channel you use to convey it are so important.

Lesson: Don’t forget your audience. Be thoughtful of what they need to hear your message.

Budget follies: message and audience

As friends at social service agencies are getting set to layoff staff in the coming weeks and organizing rallies in the hope that they can stop it, we get the sense of the limits of the power of effective communication.

The situation, which calls to mind the phrase “if you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention” is that governor and Legislature are at a standstill in fixing problems a long time in the making. Governor Pat Quinn says the current budget “creates a $9.2 billion dollar funding gap and forces deep and distressing cuts to our vital social service agencies” on his home page. Rich Miller’s authoritative Capitol Fax (fair warning, if you haven’t been following along, you may have to spend 15 minutes or so reading to get a sense of what’s going on in springfield) documents that legislators feel Rod Blagojevich’s replacement has done a less than stellar job of convincing them to support his income-tax increase solution.That’s the simplistic (maybe overly so) sum-up of the situation.

The news coverage has been good, as a recent google news search shows. Some favorite columnists such as Mary Schmich and Phil Kadner, have both had nice stories on local rallies, for example. (Mary’s story ends with a great quote from a picket sign: “the state budget is a bigger mess than my room.”)

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