Participants of the workshop.

12 Bulgarian Advocacy Leaders Visit Cox Center in February

Twelve leaders of non-governmental organizations from Bulgaria explored various techniques of advocacy in a one-day workshop in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia in February.

The workshop was part of a two-week training program offered by the International Center for Democratic Governance (ICDG), a unit of the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia as part of a project supported through a grant from World Learning.

The full-day program on public relations, organized by the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, a unit of the Grady College, included a discussion of the relationship between media and non-governmental organizations in Eastern and Central Europe and discussions of public opinion surveys and public relations campaigns.

Cox Center Director Dr. Lee B. Becker, and Assistant Director Dr. Tudor Vlad described the challenges that media are facing in emerging democracies and provided a comparative analysis of the relationship between non-governmental organizations and media in the United States and Central Europe.

"Sometimes I have the feeling that some journalists don't know what independent media stand for," said workshop participant Gueorgui Guentchev, executive director of the Parliamentary Center for European Law Foundation. "We should try to make media aware that there are not only negative things going on in our society."

Dr. Jeffrey Springston, professor in the Advertising and Public Relations Department of the Grady College, presented a model of a public relations campaign and discussed with the Bulgarian guests the specifics of their activities as NGO leaders. He emphasized the importance of research for in successful public relations campaigns and provided examples of how to conduct public opinion surveys.

"In many cases, public relations professionals have the feeling that they know exactly what the people in the community think about an issue and tend to make decisions based on these assumptions," said Dr. Springston. "The results of the research show in many cases that they are wrong."

Ms. Myra Blackmon, president of the PR firm M. Blackmon Public Relations in Athens, Georgia, and Dr. Vlad worked together with the Bulgarian participants to develop a coherent public relations campaign strategy to have impact on audiences in their country. "You want to make sure at the beginning that you know exactly what is your goal and who is your audience," said Ms. Blackmon. "There is no such thing as 'the general public.' The more carefully you define the public, the better off you'll be."

All the sessions were interactive. "I am glad I had today the opportunity to present the needs and the goals of my organization and to get specific answers to my questions," said Lyubomir Lazarov, advocacy and lobbying coordinator, Creating Effective Grassroots Alternatives.

The visitors were selected NGO leaders who have been involved with the DemNet Advocacy training program sponsored by USAID. Participants represented community, youths and minority associations, health and legal organizations, and philanthropy foundations.

While at the Grady College, the group toured College facilities, paying particular attention to classrooms used for teaching public relations classes, to new media laboratories, and to the TV studios.