Every other month, there’s a special day to commemorate. Many times, people are not sure what to do with all the awareness campaigns. Those working on a cause want the general public to be as passionate about their cause as they are. Awareness comes before action, the major reason why the public is often skeptical about new information is because of a lack of knowledge. If the goal is just to increase the public’s knowledge on an issue, then awareness campaigns suffice but if the goal is to get the public to take action, more is required.
An increase in the amount of information provided doesn’t necessarily lead to a change in beliefs or behaviors. Thus, investing further in awareness campaigns if the ultimate goal is public action would be a waste of time, energy, and resources. The use of behavioral science in crafting messages is the way to go. This involves taking into account the existing thoughts, feelings, and actions of the target audience. Public awareness is no doubt important, it’s particularly useful if it’s part of a grand strategy to bring about social change. Awareness campaigns can have a negative effect as there are risks of leading to inaction, reaching the wrong audience, creating harm, and/or causing a backlash.
Humor is a great way of gaining attention and driving engagement but there are no guarantees it would drive action compared to a non-humorous campaign message. An awareness campaign may also reach the wrong audience, that is, one that’s unsympathetic to the goals of the campaign or already convinced about it. If the goal of a campaign is to bring about behavioral change, then it’s important to have an insight into the behavioral patterns of the audience through behavioral science, if not, considerable damage can be caused.
The media, whether social or traditional, have a great impact on influencing social behaviors. The media has the capacity of normalizing what’s not meant to be, as frequent exposure to certain information creates what is called a “new normal”. Awareness campaigns that are developed around controversial issues such as politics are likely to generate backlash which might result in the halting or slowing down of progress on the issue. People easily believe information that aligns with their cultural and political values. The more the buzz on a side of the controversial issue, the deeper the polarization between parties.
To make people take action, a practical and achievable call to action must be defined. To identify the appropriate call to action, place focus on what needed to be changed. A successful communications campaign must have a target and narrow audience, must have a compelling message and an effective call to action, must develop a theory of change, and must employ the right messenger. In targeting your audience, identify individuals or groups that wield strong influence on the audience, they’ll be instrumental in driving the message. Understand the audience and craft messages and calls to action that don’t threaten the self-perception and values of the people.
Developing a theory of change means creating a clear-cut approach to how to achieve the change. This ensures that there’s no disconnect between the communication strategies and the set goals. To develop a theory of change, there must be a clear goal, an understanding of the step that’ll be taken that’ll make the difference, and an understanding of what will influence public action. People trust members of the community who have authority and credibility, make use of these influencers as the right messengers for communication. What effective and strategic communication does is that it amplifies any message, whether good or bad, so use it wisely to your advantage. Raising awareness is not enough to inspire public action, employing behavioral science in the formulation of communication strategies is the methodology to achieve results.