Communications Strategy: Turning “What do people need to know?” into ACTION (Summary of Mtg #3)

The following summarizes Creating the Future’s 3rd meeting to design a strategy for our communications and engagement efforts. To watch or listen to the meeting itself, head to this post. And to read about this process from the beginning, head to this post.

During our first meeting, we talked a lot about the purpose of our developing this strategy, as well as defining what the communications themselves could make possible for the people who hear those messages. During our second meeting, we identified the conditions our messages would need to create, to lead to that ultimate success.

In both those meetings, as in this third meeting, we followed the Catalytic Thinking framework, to ensure we were as inclusive as possible, and reaching for the highest potential outcomes.

During this third meeting, we began by reviewing the conditions our messages must create for people. For each of those conditions we asked…
     • What would lead to that?
     • What will people need to see / hear / experience?
     • What would lead them to be excited, or feel invited, or etc. (the list above)?

Here are the answers the group came up with.

People need to hear / see messages that are about THEM.
People need to identify with the message. They need to see themselves in a new way, see themselves in that high potential future result. They need to see a picture of themselves in what they read / see / hear. They may need help in identifying what they want change, because it is about THEIR change. They may need to see people who reflect their own experience, sharing how they created change. Whatever it is that will reflect them back to themselves, this conversation needs to be sparked in their own minds.

People need to feel safe as they try something new.
Not everyone will feel excitement at reaching for what is possible and creating systems change; some may feel nervous or afraid. One piece of what those individuals will need is to find ways to invite new ways of thinking and new actions / habits into their existing comfort zone. As Creating the Future fellow Trae Ashlie-Garen speaks of it, learning and growing is about linking the new to the known. 

People need to hear / see messages in ways that fit with how their brains most easily process information.
Do the people who will be exposed to our messages learn best by audio? By video? By words on a page? Do they relate best to stories, or do they process through a lens of science, or do they relate to the theoretical prospect of what is possible? Do they tend to think in linear ways, where they must see that X will lead directly to Y? Or do they best respond if they can see the whole interconnected context into which X fits? Our messages need to be inclusive of all these ways of processing information.

People need to know they are not alone as they try something new, that they have support.
People need to see their own circles of connectivity, whether related directly to the issue they are seeking to change or are “unlikely allies.” People need to know there are others walking the path with them, that there is a safety net as they try something new.

People need to have small things they can try.
Whether it is a question they can ask or some other small step they can take in their current situation, people may need to try something small and innocuous before they will tackle something bigger and more important. 

People need to feel inspired, energized to take steps in a new direction.
During the meeting, as Roxanne went from video to phone, she told us that she was not leaving entirely because “this is too compelling to miss.” For people to take steps to connect with us or others, to re-imagine the systems they find themselves in, that is what they need to feel when they hear / see our messages – compelled, engaged, inspired to know more, to see how the story ends.

People need language for what they are stepping into.
People all come to the table with different definitions of what “change” and “systems” and “new” means to them. People need to have common language, and a place to go to find common definitions, to be sure we are all speaking the same language.

People need stories and examples, to see that their own change is possible because someone has proven that.
People need real life examples of people creating changes both big and small. Because we humans are visual creatures, people need to SEE what is possible without having to imagine it themselves. Those examples do not have to be from Creating the Future’s work, or the work of our fellows and partners and students. They can be examples like the one Magali tweeted to us during the meeting: “The Gross National Happiness from Bhutan gives an idea to everyone that happiness is possible and reachable for everyone.”

Towards the end of the meeting, as our answers began repeating themselves, it became clear that we had completed this portion of the Catalytic Thinking framework, and are ready to begin determining what action steps will create these conditions for success. What first steps can we take that will lead those dominoes to all fall towards the goal?

During our time together today, some possible actions already started to bubble up.

• A campaign that engages people in conversation, asking questions such as, “What does change mean to you?” and “What ways of doing things do you encounter in your daily life, that you would like to change?”
• A survey to ask people what actions they are taking from the communications we currently employ.
• Calls to action that may include ways to measure effectiveness of the communications (are they taking action?)

We will be adding these topics into the conversation tomorrow, where we will take the big steps of both brainstorming possible tactics and prioritizing which actions make the most sense for this plan.

We hope you will all join us for that conversation. Details for joining us are here. We look forward to seeing you there!

UPDATE: A summary of the final meeting in this journey can be found at this link. 

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