Immigration attorneys learn how to become media savvy in UHLC training seminar

Belle Woods, AILA communications manager, offers tips to immigration attorneys on how to prepare for media interviews.

Belle Woods, AILA communications manager, offers tips to immigration attorneys on how to prepare for media interviews.

Dec. 22, 2015 – Immigration attorneys gathered at the University of Houston Law Center recently to learn how to deal effectively with news and social media and how to improve their advocacy skills in support of legislative reform.

The three-hour, two-part seminar was sponsored by the UH Law Center Immigration Clinic, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and the Ruby L. Powers law firm.

Belle Woods, AILA communications manager at the national office in Washington, D.C., offered advice on how to prepare for reaching out to the media: “Identify the right immigration reporter, respond in a timely manner, be confident because this is your stuff and you know it more than they do, and be cautious with off the record.”

Woods gave an example in which media coverage played a major role in resolving a problem: Volunteers were not allowed to enter the migrant detention center in Dilley, Texas, to interview detainees, she said.  After the story was reported in the media, the facility relented and allowed volunteers in.

Ellie Rutledge Silver, AILA new media associate, discussed the different social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus.

“Social media is important,” said Silver. “It can help build a positive reputation, because you can become an advocate by educating and learning from others, and you can get exposure, which gives you or your organization free marketing.”

"This was a valuable opportunity for immigration advocates to learn a lot about media and technology,” said Geoffrey Hoffman, a clinical associate professor and director of the Immigration Clinic. “I was happy we were able to host at UHLC and I applaud AILA national for all their great work."

The seminar was invaluable for Leslie Crow, a UHLC alumna who is starting a refugee support group at Neighborhood Centers Inc., a non-profit, community service agency. “What I learned here today is going to help me promote my support group, free marketing; everything I learned here today will help me grow my group.”

The speakers also mentioned the resources that are available to AILA members through AILA.org and reminded the attorneys not to hesitate to reach out for help. Attorneys also had the opportunity to practice on-camera interviews and learned how to become a better advocate with tips on how to deal with members of Congress.

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