After months on the road prepping communications teams in 10 states and managing a media blitz on election day with the League of Young Voters, Merv Marcano arrives back in New York City tired but victorious. The House and Senate, along with multiple statehouses, have gone blue, and the young people he worked to mobilize were a critical part of the historic sweep.
All this, from a guy who started off throwing parties.
According to Marcano, when he started the Ministry of Communications, a private PR firm that merges New York’s vibrant nightlife with political flavor, his ambitions were simple, if not modest: “The Ministry is about politicizing our social moments and engaging our politics in a social scene that we love,” says Marcano, a native and current resident of Brooklyn. “It’s more than a party for a cause. We look at what moves people in their lives, what makes them happy, and we turn a concert, an installation, a film into a strategy for political mobilization.”
Though only 21, Marcano is already a seasoned communications pro. As the former communications director for Right to Vote, the successful national campaign to restore voting rights for ex-felons, cofounder of The Rashawn Brazell Memorial Fund (created to challenge the media’s response to hate crimes against queer Black youth) and briefly a crisis communicator for a global PR firm, the experience he brings to the Ministry is broad and tested. In the next year, he says, these experiences will move new progressive organizing strategies that bridge the gap between politics and entertainment, creating a new model for that ever-changing set of activities we call “activism”.
“In an era of Web 2.0 and design-forward entertainment, our political marketing has to be just as savvy, but driven by our progressive values,” Marcano reflects when asked what makes his strategy unique in a crowded political scene. “There is a misconception that young people will respond to a message just because it’s been crafted with them in mind. That’s terribly wrong. The secret is to work peer-to-peer, to know instinctively what moves your people. When we bring the elements together, good politics, a sense of humor, and sleek design with a home-grown edge, it works.”
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