You remember in the federal election, when Jagmeet Singh had that amazing viral video on TikTok?
A lot of people had three reactions:
One, good for him!
Two, what the heck is a TikTok?
And three, do I really have to learn another frigging app?
We’re all busy people. And there’s so much to keep track of. New tools constantly coming. And the tools we already use? They keep changing.
For those of us in communications and advertising, the pace is even faster.
But whether you’re an ubergeek or a confirmed Luddite, or somewhere in between, progressive organizers and communicators have to keep learning how to make the most of these ever-changing capabilities.
Our movements, unions, and non-profits have powerful and well-resourced adversaries. And we need to get better at taking them on.
It’s up to us to design smart campaigns that marry ever-growing digital potential with the power of offline action. And to do that, we have to pay attention to three big lessons that today’s most successful campaigns are getting right.
Tip #1: Message matters.
No matter what medium you’re in – TikTok, Instagram, or Morse code – one thing’s still true.
The right message can succeed even on a shoestring. The wrong message will fail no matter how much money you spend – or what whiz-bang tech you throw at it.
It needs to connect with people emotionally, contrast with the alternative, and offer hope for a solution. And that helps put your campaign on the winning track.
Tip #2: Whenever possible, our digital tools should lead people to action.
One of the most seductive things about the digital realm is how measurable it is. You can track shares, and likes, and views, and follows. You can plot them against demographic information. You can make charts. Charts!
But there’s a mistake in thinking that the fact we can count it… means that it counts. If it’s just the same people liking and sharing over and over again, we haven’t reached outside of our social media bubble. We haven’t persuaded anybody. And we haven’t built a community.
But the click, the like, the share… they can be useful if they connect to action that has an impact. That is, if we translate online action to offline action.
There are three key ingredients to the most powerful connections to action:
The first is urgency. People need to understand why it’s important to act right now. The second ingredient is meaning. Our audience needs to see a connection between the action we’re asking for, and the outcome they want. And the third ingredient is impact. Show your audience how this action is already changing things. And show that they, too, can be a part of the change.
Tip #3: Understand what tool does what job best.
You can get away without knowing the ins and outs of every social app. But you do need to know what each of the channels available to us is good for, when to use it, and where it falls short.
That applies to traditional tools, like TV and radio, as well as the latest and greatest. (More on what-tool-to-use-when in a blog post coming soon!)
With every channel, though – from radio and print to Instagram and TikTok – think about the communications fundamentals. What’s your message? Who’s your audience? What’s your call to action?
Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your content and channels is the first step. Understanding how they can connect and amplify each other, though: that’s your superpower.
Together, let’s do some good!
It’s up to progressive organizers and communicators to put these tools to work for working people, not against them. We can use these tools to push back against the forces that are trying to cut public services, keep working people down, and make life harder. We can motivate and mobilize like never before.
And when we do that, we’re doing more than just building audience share. We’re building a community – and building our movement.
Heather Fraser is President and CEO of The NOW Group. This blog post is a condensed version of Heather’s speech to the Manitoba Federation of Labour.