A person's influence on society is heavily dependent on his ability to communicate with the general public. If we wish to improve our ability to communicate with the public, we can increase our effectiveness in producing media, distributing media, or consuming media. Below are a number of ideas and resources intended to help a regular person produce media--starting from the development of an idea until it is ready for public consumption.
Ideas and information can be packaged into several forms of media: speech, writing, music, drawings, and any number of combinations or derivative forms. As you may have guessed, my favorite medium is the written word, so I'll focus the most on that, but try to provide whatever information I can on those other media.
The Internet provides all types of resources to help individuals improve their writing. At the most basic level, one can get free word-processing software, such as Open Office. Also, before writing, it is good to consider tips that can help in writing, such as Fifty (50!) Tools which can help you in Writing.
Once the first draft has been written, an editor can do wonders for improving it. Not only do editors improve the particular piece of writing that they are evaluating, but they also improve an author's writing skills. The Internet should make it easier for authors to work with editors, but I'm not aware of any system that matches amateur authors with editors. At the very least, an author can recruit someone with a shared interest to edit his work, and they can easily exchange material by email. A writer can also evaluate his work using automated readability tests.
The Online Writing Lab at Purdue has a number of resources for writing, including tips for editing and proofreading. As a final note, I think that the most important thing for a writer to do is keep his goals in mind, and put his ego aside and do what is necessary to accomplish those goals.
Cartoons are a great way to communicate to a large audience, especially if the message is simple or emotional, or the audience is not very literate. Cartoons also tend to be more fun than written works, which can encourage readers to show the cartoons to their friends.
I'm not an artist, so I can't recommend tips for making cartoons. All I can do is point to an example of how cartoons are being used to promote economic reform.
Even better than cartoons (sometimes) are animated cartoons. I've never made an animated cartoon, but I've seen some cool stuff and it apparently isn't too difficult to produce animations in Flash. We've seen what has been done by JibJab(This land), NoMediaKings (Time management for Anarchists), and some egg lover.
Unfortunately, it seems that the official software that produces Flash animations costs a few hundred dollars, but free alternatives are available: OpenOffice can export its "slide-show" presentations in Flash formats; Open Source Flash maintains information about open-source Flash projects, which seems to focus upon Eclipse (tutorial); there's also the proprietary but free, PowerBullet.
I'm no musician, but I have edited some audio files using Audacity, and am pretty impressed with it. You can see a list of items that have been produced with Audacity. The rather new practise of podcasting has made it a lot easier to distribute audio to your audience.
Finally, once you've put together your content, you have to make it available to the public. The traditional way to do this is to publish flyers and newsletters. Publishing in these formats is easier than ever, but it is even easier to send out an email or set up a web-page.
Probably the easiest way to web publish is to use a blog. I've been happy with the free service provided by Blogger, and have found that their help files are rather comprehensive. Here are some tips on designing a weblog.
Once you've produced your media, you have to get it into the hands of the consumer. I'll address that in a future post. Stay tuned!
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Note: if this topic is interesting, you may be interested in my previous post on Thinking for Ourselves.