Context is a difficult in meme-based communication. Modern advocates know that they need to get their point across fast, they need visual stimuli (be it a video, a photo, or a nicely designed quote), and the goal is quick spread of that information in a social media post. It works, too.
But utilizing the tools of traditional media can help advocates raise their efficacy and provide oft-missing context from posts. Here are a few tips from the world of newswriting that can be helpful for advocates who want to spread information about an event, a rallying cry, an animal in need of aid, or general information about a cause:
Create Context With Datelines
The reason journalists can get away with (but don’t always use) statements like, “Last Saturday” or “Next Tuesday” is because there’s a dateline with the article – that’s when it was published. While some advocates assume their publishing date will journey with their graphic or information, it quite simply doesn’t, particularly across platforms. Individuals may download and re-post or privacy settings may restrict this information. But even when the date does show up, it doesn’t have the context of original publishing date (as traditional media does); it simply means when you the advocate posted it, not when it was made. Additionally, if advocates are successful in having memes go viral (or exponentially grow) the information may be present far beyond its original functionality and become wildly confusing. Add a dateline or be specific in dates and times to be sure your message has the impact in the timeframe it needs to.
Citations Or It Didn’t Happen
During a Defender Radio podcast interview with Charlotte Dawe of Wilderness Committee regarding endangered caribou protection plans, host Michael Howie stumbled across a CBC article which stated, “wolf culls are effective.” First, it should be noted that the only thing wolf culls are effective at is killing wolves. Second, the statement floats without context or evidence – this is poor journalism and communication. Good journalism means showing your work: linking to other articles, studies, providing visual evidence, or explanations from experts. The same is true in advocacy. Not only is it a good practice that can build educated advocates for a cause, it makes it more difficult for opponents to tear down.
The Five ‘W’s
It may be a long reach back to grade school to remember the last time someone asked you for the Five ‘W’s but they remain a core of good communication. In a single sentence (or two) good communicators or reporters can tell a reader Who the story is about, What is going on, When it happened, Where it happened, Why it matters or why it happened, and How (there’s still a ‘W‘ in it so it counts) it happened. The inclusion of this information will give a reader the full picture. And if you don’t have room or time, provide a link (we often use URL redirects like TheFurBearers.com/savebeavers so they’re both memorable and short, but not a complicated series of randomized letters and figures). That way advocates or people who want to support you have a way to learn more about the issue(s).
We can always learn to do better for our causes, be it rescuing pets, standing up for human rights, or defending wildlife. We will do better by learning from each other – and that’s the way forward: together.
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