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For context: I'm an Army Officer and I spent most of my time in Civil Affairs, the international relations arm of the military. I'm doing a series of lessons learned and how they can apply broadly to EA. The views expressed in this article are my own.

I usually do a post mortem on missions or an after action review. Right now I am fresh off a giant exercise where I had to give 10-20 briefs a day to interested Public Affairs Officers and Combat Camera. Part of my job is "selling the mission to a higher command" as well as "painting a picture".


EAs would benefit from adopting some of the media norms that other organizations use.

  • As an Exercise director, I and my small red team got a lot of value out of communicating our mission well to interested parties. Having a person who can speak to not only the "what" but also the "so what" is key in getting your message across.
  • You should make an effort to build a bit of rapport with someone who will be pointing a camera at you.

(1) In my experience, it's tough to sell something that you don't understand.

  • For my mission overall, I spent the time to explain why we did things a certain way mostly for training value). I broke the missions down into their core elements and gave my training participants real world training.
  • In order to understand how to communicate EA, you must be able to explain it. I like this to the analogy of the Drowning Girl. That story is a succinct way to explain our principles, in fact I used it in my book, Sect Leader.
  • It's not enough just to understand EA, you have to be able to ELI5 it to a media person off the top of your head.

(2) What is rapport building? Because it's so much easier when they already want you to succeed...

Well when a rapper and a port love each other very much...

  • Rapport Building is when you are able to understand another person and build a meaningful trust together. That might not be a technical term but as I understand it, think about turning a stranger into your friend.
  • A lot of what we do in civil affairs relies on being able to be approachable and empathetic. Results really drive some of our key tasks. I'm not asking my people to interrogate someone, but perhaps over two or three meetings, they can get the relevant information. 
  • As an EA you need to be able to explain the "what" of your organizations messaging, as well as the "so what" Example.
  1. The What: I'm looking to form an EA consultancy that deals with Red Teaming/PR and Operations Issues. We would primarily focus on fixing issues that EA Orgs cannot fix internally.
  2. The so What: So, it might benefit your organization to look at what they actually need but can't source, or don't do often enough to require a full time role for. 
  • So in other words, I want you to understand me- understand that "Red Cell CA/EA " could be an asset for your organization.

(3) An easy exercise to see if you're ready to meet with someone from the media

Situation: You've arrived to meet with a media person and they're genuinely ready to ask you questions about EA. Whether it's a hardball or softball question, you're going to get asked a lot of stuff. Their first question to you-

"What the heck is Effective Altruism anyway?"

You have thirty seconds to explain it before they get bored. Go and write your response in the comments. Actually do this out loud and record yourself if you can, with a timer. If you are feeling bold, put the recording up on you tube or link it here. Think that you're making an elevator pitch and you have from the time that the doors close to when they open to work on a captive audience.


  1. No notes.
  2. No Do overs, do it all in one take. 
  3. Do it right now, if possible before you look up anything. Seriously.
  4. When you're done, write the transcript into a note and don't correct it, just leave it as a comment.
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