Publicity. If you’re writing something important, you might want to publicize it. To get your media on, I suggest you start with a local appearance on a television station or magazine profile interview. In either case, you are the expert on the subject, therefore, you must be prepared. What follows here is an example of how I prepared for a segment that aired on Hilton Head News recently. Our local station charges $15 for a link to their recording on YouTube, or $20 for an MP4 recording that I can download and edit to my liking. Although it wasn’t widely seen, I can use the MP4 (edited) in my media kit.
I provided the interviewer with 5 questions with answers.
1. How did you become interested in volunteering in a prison?
An opportunity was presented at our local Toastmasters club to mentor a new club at Ridgeland Correctional. I thought that sounded interesting. I didn’t realize at the time how much I would enjoy it. That was 3 years ago.
2. Besides Toastmasters, you also teach other classes at Ridgeland Correctional Institution. Who pays for the programming materials?
I’ve taught mindfulness and stress management in a class called Coloring Therapy for the Soul. I’ve also facilitated book clubs, and taught social and emotional literacy in a course called WhyTry for Corrections. I raise funds through my gofundme.com/prisonvolunteer campaign. I’m able to pay membership dues for those who can’t afford it. When I receive donations for book club, I search for multiple copies of the book at thrift stores, or from online booksellers. Sometimes it’s about just about filling the gas tank, or buying more coloring supplies, or journals for WhyTry.
3. How do inmates benefit from educational programming such as Toastmasters and WhyTry?
Frankly, there’s no telling how much the inmates benefited until they are released. 95% of them are going to re-enter society. Any type of educational programming gives them a leg up when that time comes. A class offers hope for a better future, whether it’s public speaking, leadership, decision-making, anger management, sewing crafts, or whatever. Any consistent compassionate connection offered to an inmate is always received with gratitude. Everything a volunteer does contributes to their well-being during their time-out from society.
4. What does it take to become a prison volunteer? Are there certain requirements or qualifications?
First of all, it is not as scary as it sounds, going behind bars, that is. To insure personal safety, each volunteer goes thorough orientation. Volunteers can teach any kind of class they feel would benefit our inmates. SC Dept of Corrections in Columbia then approves or disapproves the application. Because of my strong conviction regarding the value of education as a means of rehabilitation, I’m always looking to recruit more volunteer educators.
5. What do you like most about being a prison volunteer?
The appreciation, no doubt. “Thank you for believing in me.” That doesn’t begin to cover it. But more than that, it’s being a front row witness to lives being transformed from hopeless to hopeful. One inmate discovered his depression was related to shame. We discussed the difference between shame and guilt in book club—I am a mistake versus I made a mistake, and he was literally set free from harmful emotions.
Practice in front of a mirror noting the exact time it takes to answer each question.
Be prepared to cut your answers down in case your time (or print space) is decreased due to circumstance out of your control. Know the most important talking points so you will be sure to cover the essentials.
If you need media coaching, contact me. I’m available.