There are a lot of reasons to go to conferences. We recently sponsored SwitchPoint, but I would have attended anyhow if only to hang out with this illustrious group of communicators working in global health and international development. It was energizing, inspiring and informative to share ideas with these fine folks.
One of my favorite panels addressed finding new ways to tell global health and development stories and new audiences for them, led by Aaron Sherinian, vice president of communications PR for the UN Foundation, and Mary Slosson, a freelance journalist and global health and development curator at GOOD Magazine. Here are some take-aways that are applicable to anyone communicating anything to anybody:
1. Increase Engagement
Sherinian said the age of download is over; it's all about uploads now.
Action step: Brainstorm ways to give your audience a way to contribute content, whether it's an animate GIF or Vine video, guest posts/comments, etc.; or to curate and share their own collections.
2. Attract Attention
Slosson noted that global health and development aren't sexy, but we can attract new people with art, culture, music and other entry points.
Action Step: If you're charged with conveying something "unsexy", uncover authentic connections to things with broader appeal like art, music, film, travel, etc.
3. Be Accessible
Both speakers agreed that attracting new audiences requires a departure from "wonky", highly technical and jargon-laden content.
Action Step: Talk like a real person. Simplify the language you use to tell your stories and get lay people involved to help you make the connection and get support.
4. Combat Overload
Sherinian suggested that the best way to avoid message/donor fatigue is to talk about what you're actually doing. Example: the retail industry's involvement in Giving Tuesday.
Action Step: Take a break periodically from appeals and sales pitches and focus on service or program delivery. Changing the message can get or reset attention.
5. Share Failure
Sherinian encouraged non-profits and NGOs to follow the trend toward sharing failures as a way to illustrate learning, report course corrections and contribute to the community. Example: Engineers Without Borders.
Action Step: Develop a strategy for sharing failures in a constructive way that show how you're getting closer to success. Visit BethKanter.org for ideas on how to measure and quantify failure/success.
Slosson encouraged us to use all these techniques and technologies to redefine trust through what she calls "radical transparency". By sharing successes and failures more openly, making our content more accessible and involving our audience in creating and curating, we can build new and better trusting relationships with stakeholders, funders/investors and customers/beneficiaries.
Action Step: Open your communications strategy to tell success and failure stories more clearly, increase accessibility and engagement with different entry points, and involve customers/stakeholders in creating and sharing your stories.