By Olive Ancell
Communicating social, cultural, environmental, and political issues is an obstacle in itself, but addressing these issues among populations of hidden diversity and across cultural boundaries is an entirely different ball game.
Midy Aponte, Vice President of Spitfire Strategies and a communication strategist, facilitated a workshop in recent years called “Raising Our Voices Through Strategic Communication and Artivism” that addressed these issues at the Americans Latino Eco Festival. She outlined that some of the most prevalent issues faced when addressing Latinx populations about societal concerns include not only lingual, but cultural translation, poverty, relevance, understanding and providing adequate materials for action. Through various strategies in her presentation, Aponte outlined ways communications strategists can relate more effectively and efficiently with the Latinx community about societal and environmental issues.
Know the target audience
The first and most effective strategy in general communications is to know the target audience. This is not unique to communications, but is essentially important when addressing excluded communities within the societal sphere. To deliver a message that not only informs the audience but also elicits them to take action, one must consider the target audiences’ knowledge on the topic, what language they speak, what their daily lives are like and how they typically get their information. It is also important to consider who the decision maker is on the topic overall, know what the audience can influence, and know how close they are to the decision maker.
Commitment to the target audience is key when developing relations among the audience. Listen and understand their culture from their perspective, and not just what research or stereotypes say. Also know their boundaries and what they expect from you as a communications strategist. This must be demonstrated within interaction among the population, and not just written down on paper. Be active and intentional.
One of the most challenging steps of a communications strategy on a specific targeted community is being able to provide substantial materials for individuals in poverty. Excluding funding logistics, the main details to consider when providing resources is to be realistic and provide the target population with stepping stones. If not guided along the right path with small, manageable steps, efforts are diminished because a giant leap of social justice is too much to ask from a poverty-stricken community.
Best way to reach the target audience
In a world of endless online and offline communication avenues, knowing the best way to reach your audience can be considered almost of equal importance. The best way to deliver information varies greatly among demographics, as younger generations mainly absorb information through online sources and social media, whereas older generations still gather a great amount of information from television and radio outlets. These categories then split into a variety of subcategories within themselves. There’s a whole different problem if the target audience doesn’t have access to either a TV or the internet.
So how can the gap be bridged? Aponte suggested that centralizing Latino-based organizations who provide accurate information and materials to target all audiences from various outlets is the most ideal way.
When audience members are considered, understood, respected and befriended, applying relevancy to a communication strategy must be addressed by changing the narrative, according to Aponte. Start with a strategy that states the purpose rather than leading with tactics. A broad overall goal can help create an overall statement of the movement trying to be created. This goal should follow SMART rule guidelines, or are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound goals. Next is to create a mission that aligns with the goal, which is a statement of why and how the communication strategy is used to pursue a vision. A mission is defined even more with a clear objective, or an “element of incremental progress used to advance the mission.”
Outlining the specifics
When outlining the specifics, it is not only important to be clear in how the topic will be taken among the target audience, but audiences not included should also be considered when producing content. It is inevitable that communications across different platforms will reach a variety of people not among the targeted audience, and it is important to not portray an opposing message to these populations.
Accurately conveying the message is the meat of the strategy where the action comes to play. Make the message valuable by making an emotional connection and personal narrative between the audience and the issue. Once that is conveyed successfully, often times a barrier is reached when the audience thinks: “There is nothing I can do to impact this issue”. The best way to address this internal turmoil is to ask a simple question addressing one simple action that could possibly help, and if they could commit to that small action. By wording this as a question, the audience member has full control of their decision, which creates a more empowered choice rather than just being told what to do.
Finally, when the question is connected to the vision, the individual being spoken to might relate on a personal and emotional level, leading to action. However, it is important in the final push to not repeat the barrier. Reinforcing the barrier may be emphasizing the issue instead of the solution. Instead of focusing on what to be against, it is essential to keep the spotlight on the solution in order to elevate solutions and change.
Anyone can become a part of social justice, community activism and political engagement. Most populations just need a small push in the right direction, tailored to their specific lifestyles and cultures.
(With passion for Journalism and Media Communications, Olive Ancell is a Third Culture Adult and content creator who is passionate about social and cultural differences that have the potential to bring the world’s people together. She has traveled to nine countries, which has influenced her love of travel and the desire to share unique world perspectives that can offer unlimited opportunities to connect people in different ways. Her talents in content creating include photography, videography, writing, and multiple art mediums. Ancell believes the power of media is one of the most powerful tools for international awareness and communication, which can be utilized or abused. Olive is determined to be a part of a larger picture, in which the use of media for coverage ranging from hyper-local to international is encouraged to celebrate and elevate diversity and all of the Earth’s spectacular cultures.)