Creative Media Strategies & Techniques

Parent Voices: Powerful Influences for Powerful Outcomes

When the goal is positive, growth-promoting outcomes for families, it only makes sense (in my mind, anyhow) to talk to families about their experiences, their hopes, dreams and fears. Where are things working well? How can that be capitalized? Where are things feeling stuck? What needs some WD-40 to make ’em go more smoothly?

These are critical conversations to have up front, long before programs and curriculum are designed. Long before laws, administrative codes and policies are written. And they need to continue. In a variety of formats and ways that support the widest array of voices being heard. One area that I struggled with in a former job was in getting buy-off at the leadership level to support authentic parent engagement. So, when this particular assignment came around, I decided to step up on my soapbox and start speaking my piece . . .

Background Information

Both the public and private sector funders are highly interested but inadequately invested in early learning evidence-based programs and approaches which claim high return on investments (ROI).  This all too frequently translates into programs design being driven by research strategies to prove efficacy; and worse yet, provided limited resources and funding when moving from pilot to replication phase. Scarcity models rely on a “one-size-fits-all” philosophy which leaves no room for the variety of interests, needs, strengths and challenges individual parents, families and communities bring to the table. However, research points to the value and importance of supporting parent participation in designing and implementing strong, effective programs and policies that support healthy, successful families and children.

Some research-based tidbits on the why this is important . . .  

Including Parents in Evaluation of a Child Development Program: Relevance of Parental Involvement, Hamida Amirali Jinnah & Lynda Henley Walters, University of Georgia, 2008.

“Parents have the major responsibility and control of a child’s development, and their decisions concerning success and failure should be considered important,” (Bernheimer, Gallimore, & Weisner, 1990; Guralnick, 1989).

“Understanding parent views (positive and negative) can be used to develop more responsive services and prevent program rejection,” (Upshur, 1991; Grela & Illerbrun, 1998).

“We also can learn more about the intended and unintended effects of a program from parents,” (Zigler & Balla, 1982).

“Finally, consumer satisfaction data collection from parents can be used to convince other audiences (e.g., funding agencies, administrators) of the usefulness of a program,” (Scheirer, 1978).

Some research on how parent voice informs program development and continuous quality improvement . . .  

NATURALISTIC EVALUATION OF PROGRAMS. PARENTS’ VOICE IN PARENT EDUCATION PROGRAMS (Based on the grounded theory strategy, this study explores the participants’ subjective representations, being a useful source of information for future development of similar programs. Ştefan COJOCARU, Daniela COJOCARU. Alexandru Ioan Cuza University, Iaşi, Romania, 2011.)

“The importance of program responsiveness to parents’ interests, concerns, preoccupations is mentioned very often in literature, alongside the concern that these programs do not disseminate the specialists’ preconceived (meaning “previously established”) opinions as to what the contents and the appropriate manner of delivery should be, but instead to illustrate the philosophy of parent participation in shaping the contents and the training process, as a guarantee of the final aim of the program . . .”

Additionally (same study): “. . . naturalistic evaluation is characterized by a high capacity of adaptation and flexibility in the entire process, from data collection to the negotiation of conclusions and recommendations. This flexibility of data collection process makes naturalistic evaluation preferable especially during formative evaluations because “the naturalistic paradigm is ideal especially in formative evaluations due to the possibility of changing its design in response to the new information necessary for the progress of evaluation and for improving the program,” (Williams, 1986, p. 87).

Target audience State agency directors, affiliated legislators, Governor’s office staff, mid-level executive management.
Anticipated setting In-person, conference room, as part of a packed agenda. Limited capacity for cutting-edge media and technology.
Presentation title Parent Voices: Powerful Influences for Powerful Outcomes
Purpose of proposal and presentation To get legislative and top executive funding and resource support for required legislative agenda of parent participation in agency rule-making (WACs), program development and program funding decisions.
Climate or current state Parent participation has been tokenized or seen as adequately addressed by legislators and agency staff as “parents themselves.” The reality is that the agency does not adequately involve “consumer” parents – and especially consumer parents in low-income situations – in developing rules, programs, and making funding decisions.
Problem you wish to solve The general problem is that state agencies don’t engage citizens in a meaningful way to develop policies, programs and make funding decisions. The specific problem is that the agency that is required to involve parents in program and policy simply does not – partly because they are inadequately funded by the legislature and partly because there is not agency leadership buy-in of this strategy. Consequently, programs and policies meet with resistance and lack of support. This would improve with parent participation in every aspect of the agency’s work through a variety of mechanisms and methods with feedback loops and implementation reflective of the wisdom and experience that parents have to share regarding their interests, needs and desires for strong, successful families and children.
Statement on the solution Families come in all shapes and sizes, with different interests, strengths and challenges. Effective and meaningful parent participation requires not only funding and resource support, but leadership that drives agency action. It’s not enough to say that parent participation is important – top level leaders must live that promise, as well.
Desired outcomes An economic, geographic, educational, occupational, political and religious diversity of parent participation in determining policies, programs and funding which ultimately more closely match the needs and interests of parents.
Background info RCW 43.215 finds that parents are their children’s first and most important teachers and decision makers and that parents and legal guardians should be involved in the development of policies, programs and budget decisions affecting their children.
Value statement – why is this important Setting the stage for a healthy, successful adult life has its start in the earliest years. Citizen-paid (both through taxes and private dollars) programs and services should be designed in a way that respects and preserves the ability of parents and legal guardians to direct the education, development, and upbringing of their children; and that recognizes and honors cultural and linguistic diversity.



The Roller Rink of Advertising

skatesI’ve never been much of a team sports fan, so this project challenged me to tackle it seriously. After all — we can’t always focus on only those things that interest us. After musing on well-known sports teams, I decided I wanted a team with a strong social justice bent or that did “really cool things” in the world. So, where does a savvy girl go for help parsing that puzzle? Facebook, of course. My friends had some groovy ideas:

The Oly Rollers a women’s flat track roller derby league in Olympia WA

Special Olympics Unified Sports teams promoting social inclusion for people with disabilities

Boise Bombers competitive quad rugby team in Boise, ID

Ascend Afghanistan an all-female, all-Afghan team climbing Afghanistan’s highest mountain

Stars of David co-ed Jewish softball team in Olympia WA

What a tough decision! Each team had compelling human interest and certainly a tie to social justice. And while I certainly resonated with the Boise Bomber’s choice of music on the website, have always wanted to summit a pinnacle in the clouds, have fond memories of church league softball (until I killed my knee) and treasure my school experiences volunteering with the Special Olympics, I went with the Oly Rollers. Their support of a young girl’s desire to make a difference raising money for Relay for Life in loving support of her friend grabbed me, but there are many other things to recommend the team, as well:

Sports team name The Oly Rollers
Type of sport Women’s flat track roller derby league
Background and historyHow long they have been in existence, value and relevance to the community Established in 2006, the Oly Rollers are a skater-owned and operated 501(c)3. Team members range in age from 14 – 50 and are students, teachers, mothers, soldiers, engineers, fire fighters — in a nutshell, energetic women who not only devote time to the “betterment of the league” and “promotion of the sport” but also give actively back to the community.
Mascot:What is the name of their mascot? What does it represent? (animal, warrior, etc.) The team doesn’t have a mascot, per se — however, they have a favorite cause, inspired by one team member’s 11-year-old daughter. The cause is Race for the Cure. This young girl has a classmate battling cancer and wanted to help. She was too young to participate in the race — so the Oly Rollers stepped in to help raise funds.
Relevance:What makes this sports team special and unique? Why would fans want to go to their games? The Oly Rollers actively work as a team within the sport and in the wider community to “grow as a stable organization of inspiring, self-confident athletes and positive female role models.” They also have a reputation for “providing quality, eye-catching, high adrenaline entertainment” that captivates audiences. They took the WFTDA national championship title in 2009, and have placed at least second in subsequent years. They truly provide positive and strong role models for cross-generations of women and girls.
Website url
Facebook url

The first part of the assignment was to outline (using the Prof’s template) all the details about the sports group. I have to say (again) that I appreciate Professor Risenmay’s approach to prep work. It’s familiar and helpful. The next part was to develop an advertising message across different mediums: a 5×7″ print ad for a newspaper or other publication, a Google Adwords ad, and a Facebook Ad.

Since my advertising creation experience is a bit limited, I dug a wee bit on the internet to make sure I had some “rules of thumb” to follow. I found How to Write a Good Ad for the Newspaper with some quick guideposts to consider. Ads should include:

  • Bold, well-worded, attention-grabbing headline
  • Easy-to-read and clear font
  • 2-3 sentences explaining the good or service
  • Clear language — avoid jargon
  • A relevant picture (or two)
  • Contact information

With those ideas in mind, I did a quick, fast design using a Microsoft Word to create the 5″x7″ ad, plugging for the Oly Rollers upcoming fundraiser to support their participation in the national bouts:

draft advertising for 5x7" news print

draft advertising for 5×7″ news print

Google Adwords was another portion, for which I came up with this:





and creating a simple Facebook advertisement:

fb oly rollers








I don’t know about you, but I’m hungry for pancakes right about now . . .

A summer semester exploring creative media strategies

Let Your Voice Be Heard. Photo and poem (c) S.Blood, 2015.

Let Your Voice Be Heard. Photo and poem (c) S.Blood, 2015.

Social and economic justice are critical elements in any healthy, functioning society.

Sadly, these elements are often not as present as they should be, to the detriment of a community. When people have less access to policy-and-decision-makers than others with more money and influence, the community is unbalanced.

As part of my summer semester class COMSTRAT 562 Creative Media Strategies & Techniques, I am exploring ways to bolster the messaging, impact and influence of POWER (Parents Organizing for Welfare and Economic Rights)  a local non-profit organization. POWER  supports low-income community members in speaking out about the importance of a strong social safety net, and in advocating for political, social and economic change.

Setting the stage to tell the story is a critical first step. 

Consistent, vivid storytelling and strong messaging about POWER’s work and impact should increase membership and participation. As a member-driven organization, participation is key to POWER’s success.

Using an inverted pyramid structure can help tell POWER’s story far more effectively, capturing the critical information and unique qualities, such as:

  • POWER is the only low-income member-led organization in Washington state fighting for economic justice.
  • POWER members are multi-racial and cut across social and economic classes.
  • POWER’s advocacy efforts are informed and developed by its low-income member’s experiences living in poverty.

Making sense of the details to develop the organization’s message profile is a very worthwhile exercise. I have particularly appreciated the templates provided which help organize the information. A clear understanding of POWER’s assets, products and the core audience who can help meet the goals and objectives determined by the membership will strengthen outreach, messaging and ultimately, POWER’s outcomes. The organization defines itself and its activities as “member-driven and member-led” with the majority of the members being low-income persons “struggling with an economic and social system that perpetuates poverty.” These are the people whose voices are so often not listened to by policy makers.

The main message of POWER revolves around the work they do to “support and strengthen the capacity of people to develop their own style of effective leadership, and to collaborate with other people and organizations to make effective social change.” The question is — how can the goals and work of POWER be effectively shared to increase membership, participation, and donations?

Online newsrooms are a key tool in outreach and messaging strategies. Using the instructor-provided template, I worked on developing an online newsroom specifically dedicated to POWER’s Annual MLK Day March. This annual event is POWER’s call to action. Members, allies and the wider community are invited to join POWER in the on-going struggle for economic and social justice by taking part in a community march and rally in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Supporting low-income citizen engagement and leadership, POWER and its membership organizes actions, projects and initiatives that strengthen the social safety net. POWER believes those most affected by an issue are the most qualified to lead the movement to change it. POWER members know their stories are a powerful tool for change and we help low-income community members develop the skills to use those stories effectively.

Lessons learned in COMSTRAT 562 Creative Media Strategies & Techniques can help tell these valuable stories that help low-income individuals and allies advocate for a world with a strong social safety net, where children and caregiving are valued, and the devastation of poverty is eradicated.