Equity in America – or the lack thereof – is emerging as the challenge of our time. As changemakers, it’s important to be strategic and to frame issues of inequality in ways that drive positive impact and engagement.
Today’s 5 on Mission shares tips on how to successfully structure a conversation about economic inequality. Coming soon you’ll hear from foundation and non-profit leaders who are learning in real time what’s most effective in talking about what divides and unites us.
1.Start with Values
Despite our polarized political climate, Americans share some common values. For example, a 2015 New Times/CBS poll found that 66% of Americans think wealth should be more evenly distributed, and 65% felt the gap between rich and poor needs to be urgently addressed. Find the universal values tied to your issue and lead with them, engaging your audience from the start.
2.Create A Shared Narrative
The Opportunity Agenda stresses the importance of reminding your audience how interconnected we all are. Inequality harms everyone – it hurts the economy and holds back the entire country. To preempt narratives that blame poverty and discrimination on “personal responsibility” or “bad decisions,” focus on stories, images, and data that explain the structural barriers to equality, and highlight interdependence.
3.Open-Source & Share It
Sometimes the best way to deliver your message is to give it away. When the Reflective Democracy Campaign and PR & Company set out to show America that her elected officials are disproportionately white and male, we didn’t stop when our media blitz got the message out coast to coast. Instead, we built the wholeads.us website, featuring open-source data and customized infographics, so that advocates, scholars and journalists could use the Campaign’s findings to advance their own work. In the 21st century, sharing what you’ve got with others can be a powerful tool for building your movement.
4.Talk About It
If you have personal experience that speaks to equity issues, share it! PR & Company client Laura Mather created software to disrupt unconscious bias. To build it, she became an expert in how assumptions and stereotypes get triggered in the brain. Today, Laura’s not just the founder of a revolutionary business: she’s a prominent authority on diversifying the Fortune 1000. She’s spoken at major conferences like Techonomy and the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit and been featured in The Atlantic, National Public Radio, The New Yorker and elsewhere.
In an interview earlier this year, President Obama said,
“If you had to choose a moment in human history to live — even if you didn’t know what gender or race, what nationality or sexual orientation you’d be — you’d choose now… the fact is the world is wealthier, healthier, better educated, less violent, more tolerant, more socially conscious and more attentive to the vulnerable than it has ever been.”
You may or may not agree, but from a communications standpoint, this is a powerful message. To successfully engage your audience and get them on board with your message, start your communications like President Obama. First acknowledge progress, then frame the issue you’re addressing in the context of the work we still have left to do.