4 ways to master communications in social change

Earlier this month the Hong Kong PR Network convened a panel of speakers to address the importance of communications in gaining public support for a social cause.

The discussion panel included Joshua Wong, political activist and Time magazine Person of the Year, along with Tom Sims, Asia Business Editor of The New York Times, Ashley Hegland, regional director of corporate social responsibility at Edelman PR and Tony Verb, marketer, producer and documentarian.

The main question from the discussion was whether strategic communication could aid social change. For the communication professionals who attended, the event left them with several important takeaways:

1: Know your audience

If you want a specific group’s support, know how to properly use the communication channels they frequent.

“The world is now digital," says Tom Sims. "You cannot expect to gain public support, especially with rapid turnaround, without using digital. But what’s more important is how you use digital. It isn’t enough to just spread a message and expect an audience to appear.”

2: Be clear, Be simple

Make sure your message is relatable and easy to understand to everyone.

“Relevance should always be a concern in communication efforts," explained Tony Verb. "If you’re trying to share a message across the world, you need to make sure the message is just as relevant for person in Hong Kong as it for someone in the US.”

3: Have a purpose and stick to it

As your key strategy, your purpose should define all of your communication efforts. People might forget a product, but will always remember a purpose.

“Having a clearly defined and passionately communicated purpose to what you do is key component to consumers today," argues Ashley Hegland. "They want to know where your ingredients come from; how sustainable is the packaging of your product; does your company support fare wages for all workers. These factors make today’s businesses stand out.”

4: Master social media

Social and new media are now just as important as traditional channels. Know what’s available, and master how to apply them.

“Without Facebook there would be no Occupy Central, without Facebook there would be no Joshua Wong. It really was that simple," explained Joshua Wong.

"We set up hash tags and encouraged people to share images such as themselves wearing black t-shirts or carrying yellow umbrellas. Within just a week we had 30,000+ followers on Instagram.”