“Any student of American history in the last half-century will profit from this inside account—and anyone trying to make change now will profit from grappling with these hard-earned lessons.”
—BILL McKIBBEN, author and activist
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David Fenton, named “one of the 100 most influential P.R. people” by PR Week and “the Robin Hood of public relations” by The National Journal, founded Fenton in 1982 to create communications campaigns for the environment, public health and human rights. For more than five decades he has pioneered the use of PR, social media and advertising techniques for social change. Fenton started his career as a photojournalist in the late 1960s. He was formerly director of public relations at Rolling Stone magazine and co-producer of the No-Nukes concerts in 1979 at Madison Square Garden with Bruce Springsteen and other artists.
About The Activist’s Media Handbook
In an extraordinary career David Fenton has learned first-hand what to do—and not to do—to propel progressive causes into the public eye and create real, impactful, lasting change.
Part rollercoaster memoir, part practical guide, The Activist's Media Handbook provides an essential toolkit for today’s activists for organizing to win: how to tell your story, captivate audiences, and inspire them to join the cause.
Praise for David Fenton
“David Fenton has helped progressive activists reach the media and public since the late 1960s. In the struggles against apartheid, the nuclear arms race, unjust wars, racist drug laws, to stop climate and toxic pollution, his work has helped movements advance justice.”
“The service rendered to the African National Congress by Fenton Communications during the difficult years, has been of great value to us. The technical skill of your company, as well as your company’s commitment to worthy causes, is beyond doubt.”
—Nelson Mandela, June 28, 1994, in a letter to the author
“David is the dean of progressive communications. As his memoir shows, there is no one who has done more to help the progressive community build public support for its causes through powerful and effective messaging.”
—Ken Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch
“Activists need to be communicators and story-tellers. David Fenton knows this at his core and has helped the environmental and climate movement reach the public for decades.”
—Mark Ruffalo, actor and activist
“I met David in 1970 when we were both teenagers in the movement. I had a clenched fist as a Black Panther. David had a camera that captured my fire and innocence. His memoir is a guide for activists who need to be good storytellers to win.”
—Jamal Joseph, Writer, Director, author of Panther Baby
Professor of Film, Columbia University
“David is the progressive world’s chief evangelist on the importance of communications and language in social movements.”
—Wes Boyd and Joan Blades, co-founders of MoveOn.org
Watch & Listen
Watch the trailer for The Activist's Media Handbook
Listen to David on a prominent environmental podcast
Communication Rules for Activists
Craft simple messages everyone can understand.
Speak to the heart first, the mind second.
Stories need good and bad characters.
Repeat, repeat, repeat your messages.
Practice framing issues your way.
Tell the truth.
Ensure you are reaching people by using advertising.
Recruit celebrities, influencers, and cultural figures.
Fight falsehood and disinformation immediately.
It’s who you know.
The Fenton Forecast
You can’t win a war unless people know they’re under attack. In the war to defeat climate change, the American public is still not sufficiently knowledgeable or aroused to act. Research from Yale shows that only 35% of the public are alarmed about global warming — the most alarming threat ever faced by humanity. Only 23% know all the climate scientists agree we are heating the earth at our peril. Current climate communications is a bit like the Tower of Babel – activists all talk…Read More