When shouting from the rooftops doesn’t seem to work, how do you make your voice heard?
You might have noticed that there’s been a little bit of activity in Glasgow in the last few days. City streets that only recently had more tumbleweed than pedestrians have been populated by boisterous protestors; venues that hosted the NHS have now platformed the speeches of the global great and good; and event spaces across the city have been relatively rammed with audiences hearing stories and solutions. A silenced city has now resonated with the clamour of voices that want to – that need to – be heard.
Yet there will be people who have shouted until they were hoarse who will leave Glasgow wondering why they bothered. Why didn’t they hear me, they will ask? What difference has all that screaming made?
And that’s not unusual. Many within the third sector will recognise the deflating feeling that comes after you have shouted from the rooftops about a cause in which you know you are right but still everyone keeps on walking on by, hardly lifting their head to notice.
What’s the answer? To give up, go home, not bother? Of course not. Instead, we need to remember that getting a message across depends on using a range of different means and measures to ensure our audience hears and remembers us. We need to plan, strategise and use the range of resources available to us.When someone sings a solo in a beautiful voice, some people will stop and listen. Yet when that song is sung by a choir in harmony, accompanied by an orchestra, it will be heard and remembered by more. Some of the audience may even hum the tune to others once they have left the concert.
Planning a communications campaign isn’t easy. To be successful, your audience needs to hear your message, remember it and then do something about it. It’s not just about scoring a ‘viral’ social media campaign (please expect your comms officer to eye-roll if you ever suggest that); or delivering an acclaimed speech; or a taking part in a protest which gives you wall-to-wall news coverage. It could require you to do all these things, some of these things or none – it could even need you to shout from some carefully selected rooftops. It requires you to think about how you use all the means you have at your disposal in an effective, planned and mutually supportive way.
Whatever the outcome of COP26 is, it will be the blend of Greta’s singing, people’s protesting, Attenborough’s speaking and negotiators’ listening which may permit the messages to be heard so that change happens.
How are you blending your resources so that people can hear what you need them to know – and what changes are your messages making?