Berkeley Media Studies Group

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BMSG is dedicated to expanding advocates’ ability to improve the systems and structures that determine health and accelerate movement toward racial and health equity. BMSG has extensive experience in research, training, and technical assistance related to communicating about challenging social, political, and economic issues, that shape health.


Active Projects

Preparing a Comprehensive Guide for Advocates in Making the Case for Park and Green Space Equity

The goal of this project is to build narrative power among park equity advocates and organizers. One outcome will be a comprehensive guide for changing the narrative on park equity, a BMSG Yellow Book. BMSG's goal for the long term is that the new narratives emerging from this process will shape understanding among advocates from local or national organizations, organizers, residents, researchers, park agencies, decision makers, and others interested in parks and green space. The Yellow Book will provide guidance for communicating about the policies and procedures for creating parks and green space that are inclusive and responsive to community needs.

Completed Projects

Expanding the Narrative on Gun Violence

The polarized conversation on gun violence elevates mass shootings, while everyday gun violence—including domestic violence, suicide and community violence—is left in the dark. With the Hope and Heal Fund, BMSG is analyzing the current narrative on gun violence in California so we can widen the frame to highlight community-based solutions and demonstrate how we can work together to address this epidemic, rather than leaving people feeling helpless and, therefore, unwilling to engage and act.

Advancing Health Equity Through Housing

BMSG is honored to work with The Kresge Foundation’s Advancing Health Equity Through Housing Initiative which will identify community-driven practices that connect the housing and health sectors to preserve and increase the supply of stable housing to improve the health and well-being of families and communities around the country. BMSG is conducting media analysis and providing strategic communication trainings and tools that will support grantees in advancing equity-focused solutions.

Strategic Communication to Support Young Men of Color Who Are Survivors of Violence

BMSG provides strategic communication support to the national Healing Justice Alliance, which is committed to helping communities address violence as a public health issue and provide culturally appropriate services to young men of color who are survivors of violence. BMSG conducts media advocacy training, TA, and convenes a public education committee to help HJA build the capacity it needs to change the narrative around violence to ensure that all survivors receive the care they need.

Strengthening Racial and Health Equity Communications and Organizational Capacity in California

Through funding from The California Endowment and the Blue Shield Foundation of California, BMSG is working with the Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative, the Public Health Alliance of Southern California, and the San Joaquin Valley Public Health Consortium to support local health departments and their partners communicate more effectively about racial and health inequities and build their organizational capacity to advance equity in communities across the state.

Message Development for Sexual Violence Prevention Advocates

BMSG worked with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and RALIANCE, a national partnership dedicated to ending sexual violence in one generation, to find effective ways to include prevention in the narrative about sexual violence. We developed message and framing guides that combine an analysis of media coverage of sexual violence with direction about which messages can withstand opposition and support prevention policy. BMSG now conducts trainings for advocates based on these guides.

Changing the Dialogue on Abortion

With the Sea Change Program, BMSG examined media coverage of abortion through a new lens — stigma. Our research found coverage perpetuates stigma with inflammatory language; few firsthand stories from people who have had abortions; and the near absence of unbiased, scientifically accurate information about the safety and prevalence of abortion. Our study provides guidance to advocates on building relationships with journalists, honing storytelling and effectively monitoring the news media.

Rhode Island Department of Health: Building Social Justice and Health Equity Communications Capacity

With funding from The Kresge Foundation, The Praxis Project and BMSG supported the Rhode Island Department of Health to find ways to achieve health justice and racial equity by being more intentional about integrating a deep social justice lens into the department’s internal and external work. Praxis and BMSG provided in-person trainings and long-term technical assistance focused on communicating effectively internally with staff and externally with partners, the media, and residents.

Addressing Digital and Targeted Marketing To Support Equity and Foster A Culture of Health

With support from RWJF, BMSG, the Center for Digital Democracy, Color Of Change, and UnidosUS are coordinating action and advocacy to reduce—and eventually eliminate—junk food marketing targeted at low-income children and youth of color. We are monitoring industry tactics, engaging industry in dialogue, developing best practices for talking about the issue using a health equity lens, and creating advocacy campaigns to move the needle on both self-regulation and state and local policy change.

Bay Area Soda Tax Debates: Media Analysis and Lessons for Advocates

With support from the Global Obesity Prevention Center at Johns Hopkins University, the Voices for Healthy Kids program, a joint initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Heart Association, and the UC Berkeley Food Institute, Berkeley Media Studies Group examined Bay Area soda tax debates and the use of social media by the Berkeley vs. Big Soda campaign, which helped create momentum for Berkeley’s success in passing the nation’s first soda tax.

Sustaining a Collaboration to Challenge Digital Marketing

Low-income communities and communities of color have higher rates of diabetes and other nutrition-related diseases than their higher income and white counterparts. Despite this, food and beverage companies target these populations, especially youth of color, more aggressively with marketing for sugary drinks and junk food, further increasing their risk of health issues. In collaboration with partners at the Center for Digital Democracy, Color of Change, and UnidosUS, Berkeley Media Studies Group is working to stem the tide of targeted marketing not only by addressing food company practices but by urging media and technology groups like Google to ensure that the platform abides by its promise not to target children with food or other data-driven marketing on YouTube. Additionally, BMSG and partners are striving to ensure that the USDA addresses and mitigates the disparate impacts that its online SNAP program—which lacks adequate privacy and ecommerce protections—is having on families of color and low-income communities.

Media Strategy Consulting Services

Berkeley Media Studies Group (BMSG) will help the Public Advocates Office (Cal Advocates) plan, develop and execute media strategies to more effectively influence policymakers and decision makers toward adopting policies and actions that ensure utility services are accessible, affordable, safe, and reliable, consistent with the state’s environmental goals, and to ensure no customer is left behind.

Communicating about domestic violence and homelessness: A project to support the HOME cohort in shifting the narrative about homelessness and domestic violence in California

Berkeley Media Studies Group will work with the HOME Cohort to identify and clarify message themes, articulate a strategy and develop tools for delivering them to key audiences

Building Momentum for Park and Green Space Equity

Berkeley Media Studies Group will provide the Prevention Institute expert guidance to inform development of the national initiative's key grantmaking tools; provide expert facilitation with a subset of subject matter experts who have participated in the planning phase thus far and provide input on the development of media advocacy/framing and messaging strategy for the national funding initiative.

Talking about homelessness

Berkeley Media Studies Group (BMSG) will work in collaboration with the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness and others working in Sacramento to eliminate homelessness to accelerate its work to institute a new narrative about homelessness that can support its policy goals. The outcome of the project will be a shared understanding among Coalition members of the narrative they want to see and a plan for how to cultivate that narrative to address the underlying cases of homelessness, such as structural racism, and to support policy to improve conditions for everyone in Sacramento.

Narrative Change - Topos Partnership

Berkeley Media Studies Group (BMSG) will engage in the following activities with Topos Research Partnership: 1) Produce a detailed media analysis regarding topics and narratives related to creating the conditions for well-being and equity in communities; 2) Participate in planning of all elements; 3) Contribute to written deliverables for the project; 4) Help with recruiting and outreach to relevant organizations whose input is sought for the project and 5) Participate in analysis at all stages of the project.

People, Parks and Power (P3) Technical Assistance

BMSG will serve as a core technical assistance provider to the P3 initiative, guiding media advocacy and strategic communications for the initiative as a whole and providing direct support to the 14 Local Partners (grantees).

BMSG director Lori Dorfman speaking in front of a podium

BMSG’s director Lori Dorfman delivers the keynote address for the 2008 True Spin Conference in Denver, in which she explains BMSG’s approach to media advocacy, why message is never first, and what public health advocates need to know about framing.

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