In the barnyard, it’s the matter of who is loudest, and the rooster wins out. In the human barnyard, more than volume is at issue. Our audiences’ attention is engaged via a mix of message, tone, channel, timing, connection, graphics and more — and is extremely challenging to grab hold of.
Actor and activist Don Cheadle provides a great model of ascending the throne in the issue/advocacy barnyard in his promotional tour for his new book, here) of Cheadle and Prendergast on NPR’s Morning Edition. Cheadle took the reins (wish we all knew how to direct the journalists this way) to title the segment "6 Clear, Simple Ways to End Genocide in Darfur."
Doing so grabbed my attention, despite toddler distractions. First of all, Cheadle (who’s not the traditional professional communicator) quickly and clearly articulated the focus and value of his topic. Secondly, he made accessible key issues this on issue that remains abstract to many, simply because of its geographic distance from the U.S., and the enormity of genocide (and this genocide in particular). And, finally, in putting advocacy (most citizens don’t even really understand this word) in concrete, easy-to-understand terms, he opened the door to first-time, lapsed or other-issue advocates.
Cheadle and Prendergast explain advocacy like this — when citizens make an issue political by telling their representatives how they feel about it, that’s advocacy. And advocacy creates an imperative for government action. They focus their book introduction around "Six Strategies for Effective Change that you as an individual can employ to influence public policy and help save hundreds of thousands of lives:
- Raise awareness
- Raise funds
- Write letters
- Call for divestment
- Join an organization
- Lobby the government."
How refreshing to see authors use a communications style (clear, succinct, direct) that’s gotten a bad rap as "marketing speak." How effective. And what a great way to become king of the barnyard.
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