Unit 1: Why Do Social Workers Need to Be Media Savvy?


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BPD Conference 2015

Why Media Savvy Social Work

“If you do not tell your story, someone else will and they will tell it wrong.” That is what Spoken Word poet, Kane Smego, stated during his opening presentation at the 2014 National Association of Social Workers conference. He was referring to his work with adolescents, but that same message could also be translated to the social work profession as a whole.

There is often a misunderstanding by those not in the social work profession as to what it is social workers actually do. The media coverage of social workers usually only occurs when there are negative reports about performance of those in the profession. Although a select few in the field put themselves in front of the media to advocate and raise awareness, many social workers avoid the media or focus so much on their daily practice that they do not feel as if they have the time to take on yet another task.

As social workers, we have the skills to be successful in the media. The basic social work skills include empathy, connection, and advocacy. If we look at the public as our client, we can reach countless more individuals by putting our voice out there and using our social work skills to inspire others, show them that they are not alone, and share resources.

Please watch this short video segment about how the media is impacting life today. Social Media Revolution 3

The Public is the Client

As social workers, we have interest in many of the social issues that are occurring in society. Bullying, aging, health care, depression, and LGBT issues are just a few. As social workers, we are able to ask questions and contribute to the interview through the perspective of a social worker. We are able to see the public as a client and provide them with information and resources regarding the topics. As social workers, we can use the media to discuss those issues we are passionate about and expand the amount of people who now have knowledge about those matters.

Social Workers are Experts

Students in the first version of this course were asked what their fears were regarding being a social worker in the media. There were answers such as anxiety about speaking publicly and not feeling as if they had the skills to navigate the media. However, one answer stood out. It was that they did not feel as if they were the experts. Psychologists and Psychiatrists tend to be in the media, answering questions and giving expert opinions on issues that social workers encounter each day. Social workers need to realize that they are experts and also have the skills to communicate that information to a larger audience.

You are an expert, even though you may not think that you are. Professional expertise means that you have knowledge and skills in a certain area and/or about a certain topic. It does not mean that you know absolutely everything about the topic or your field. No one does! Expertise has a way of sneaking up on us. We start with a little knowledge and little by little we have acquired much knowledge and know-how in a certain area. Take the time to reflect on how much you know about what you do, how long it has taken you to learn it, and how helpful it is to others. That is an accomplishment. That is 'professional expertise'.

Show that you are an expert. Share your knowledge and establish your expertise by giving it away!


  • Write articles
  • Give talks/demonstrations
  • Start a blog or website
  • Participate in a Conference Panel
  • Volunteer your services to show your expertise
  • Contact local mainstream media sources, especially when your issue is a hot topic
  • Create a podcast, radio show

Be persistent! Publicity is a cumulative process that is built on continued efforts. Do not let rejections, lack of interest, competition, and even rudeness discourage you from continuing to raise awareness and share your expertise.

Develop Your Brand

Dr. Seuss

How do you want others to see YOU? When we think about creating a brand, we think entrepreneurs. Creating our own brand that is unique to our work and the issues we are passionate about can have a positive impact. As social workers, branding ourselves well can change the way others view our profession and can create a better understanding about the breadth of our work.

Something as simple as the image we use in our bio can influence how others see us. For example, a more serious photo or a photo of you with your dog can lead people to create this idea of who you are based only on that one image. Choose a photo that is in alignment with how you want a larger audience to see you.

Please refer to this article titled, “Authenticity and Your Brand”, which explains how authenticity can play a large role in creating our brand and representing ourselves in a way that we want others to see us.

Meet Your Audience

Activity: Use this Google Slide Show to introduce yourself and your brand. Choose an photo of yourself that reflects how you want others to see you. Include content for your bio that is also related to the brand you wish to represent. " (Link removed)


Link to the Discussion tab at the top left hand side of the page to participate in the learning activity.

Discuss: Why is it important to see the public as the client and to use the media for advocacy?


Proceed to Unit 2 Unit_2:_A_Look_to_the_Past:_History_of_Social_Movements_and_Media_Advocacy

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