When Mark Dessauer, Director of Communications at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, attended the annual frank gathering for social change communicators in Gainesville, Fla. this past February, the discussion around how to motivate people to take action made an impression.
Here, in his words, are three effective ways to communicate with your audiences so they are motivated to take concrete steps to help advance your cause. — frank team
How do we shape our communications to engage audiences TO ACT for change?
- Humor: The most reliable way to folks’ hearts and minds is through laughter. Satire has played a critical role in bringing Millennials into the news via the The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and similar programs. If you want to make an impact, you have to change how people think. Engaging critical thinking via satire (and humor) is an effective way to start.
- Hope: Brains work on stories, and humorous stories activate altruism and hopefulness. If you shout awful news to people, they will give up. Take the environmental movement: We need a new narrative focused on us people, rather than the planet—one about hope and a future that doesn’t suck, with reasons to hope and fight for.
- Relevance: Relevance rules, and is the only path to empathy. Believe it or not, effective change is being motivated by Hollywood. If you’ve seen any of these films from Participant Media—The Cove, Contagion, The Help, Food Inc. and An Inconvenient Truth—you see what I mean. The Participant Media team believes a story well told can change the world. To measure that it’s “well told” they use a narrative involvement scale to measure the impact of their movies. Their findings highlight two “must do’s”:
1) Generate empathy in your audience members
2) Highlight issues and wants that are relevant to their daily lives, which is the only path to creating empathy. Otherwise, your communications are a wasted “who cares.”
The better your communications do on these fronts, the more likely your audience is to act. I wouldn’t waste a moment!