Winning the story. Winning our lives.
Science is helping us understand how stories in the news and across media are human processes that impact people’s lives. With a decade of experimentation and movement gains in harnessing the power of people’s stories, Shanelle Matthews has become an expert in winning the story in order to win lives. To win the story, to uprise, it takes both personal and political participation and collaboration. To win our lives and thrive, we must continue to experiment, celebrate, and drive narratives for positive change together.
“When you’re a queer, Black woman, you get used to making your own way in the world. You do a kind of alchemy on your emotional and psychic experiences so that you can transform fear and pain into courage, delight, and strength. And if you’re like me, you do that personal work so that everyone can see and hear, because you know the deep loneliness of lack of empathy, and you don’t wish it on anyone.”
Part social science iconoclast, part feminist theory maven, Shanelle Matthews has spent the last decade injecting social justice movement work with a much-needed dose of strategic and tactical experimentation. Working in the laboratory of applied political communications with Sierra Club, ACLU, Forward Together, the National Network of Abortion Funds, Black Lives Matter Global Network, and others, Shanelle has successfully brought a scientific mindset, including novel hypotheses and custom-tailored tests, to the art and practice of storytelling in order to systematically investigate how people make positive social change.
Because Shanelle knows that a story is an embodied, full-body experience, she has given her whole self — her own story and her own body — to testing her hypotheses. After training as a media spokeperson, Shanelle understood the need for media people to have personal experience with the stories in the media. In 2016, she developed Channel Black, an immersive training program that prepares the next generation of Black, millennial spokespeople to make critical, real-time interventions on racism through the media. By working across issue areas, Shanelle has also discovered that intersectional oppression requires interdisciplinary, whole world thinking, and that we must see beyond the limitations of social power structures in order to ignite people’s psychological and spiritual power within social systems to transform our world. She is also the founder of the Radical Communicators Network (RadComms), an online and offline community of people working within social change and public interest communications who are committed to taking a radical approach to winning.
In the fall of 2017, Shanelle became The New School's inaugural Activist-in-Residence. Here she works alongside faculty and students to research and develop strategies that significantly reduce anti-Black bias. Until January 2018, Shanelle served as the Director of Communications for the Black Lives Matter Global Network, organizing to end state-sanctioned violence against Black people by building power and winning immediate improvements in our lives.
Shanelle holds a degree in Journalism and New and Online Media from the Manship School of Mass Communications at Louisiana State University.
Winning the story today and tomorrow.
Real events happen in people’s lives every day. There is a short moment between the time when a crisis occurs and the time when the story of what happened is told — the established truth. We must get agile at making the most of that moment, often and with precision.
Over time, events that accumulate in the news cycle become well-worn neural pathways and well-worn body responses. We must tell stories over time that integrate the range of human experiences, concerns, and dreams, as well as the range of world systems in which people move and function.
Drive the narrative locally and globally.
Human development never ends, making rigorous approaches to designing and teaching both small and large communities how to move a progressive agenda a strategy that can always produce real impact.
All people have power, and with open access to knowledge, tools, and mentorship, all people can make positive change.
Uprise, celebrate, thrive.
All people are innovators, taking the knowledge, tools, and mentorship available to them and creating their own way forward. We must encourage frameworks that are adaptable in order to promote people’s creativity.XT
Stories live in our bodies and understanding and celebrating the intersection of human experience and social justice is also a fully-body process. Working from a deep empathy orientation, we can do more to make sense of our networked lives, of the intersections of humanity embedded in news and media stories, and of how we can increase thriving for all.
Strategic communications is three things:
1. A blueprint that details the strategy for creating visibility for your work.
2. A manifestation of your individual, project, or organizational goals and expressed mission and/or vision statement.
3. It is, in part, your approach to influencing your audience to take action.
A strong, comprehensive communications strategy is vital for every healthy organization, candidate, campaign, and company. A democratic and data-driven communications philosophy can thrust you toward success in meeting developmental, policy advocacy, organizing, civic engagement, movement building, base building, culture shift, and brand recognition goals. It can also increase visibility that leads to opportunities like additional revenue streams, an increased volunteer base, and most importantly an opportunity to successfully communicate with your base of supporters as a conduit to realizing your mission.
Sustainable, strategic communications is more than a capacity building project; it should constitute institutional memory, encourage brand democracy, and maximize resources.