Creating a communication plan for an advocacy campaign is a lot harder than it looks. 

A good one will have elements like key messages, channels, exposure values, engagement points, reach, level of traction, adoption indicators, budget, etc. A really good one will project a relationship between budget and the other elements. 

The first, key messages — a tag line or lines or catchphrases that  communicate what the campaign is generally about — will sound the simplest to produce. And fun. 

No; not really. The task of reducing and distilling several dozen pages of technical concepts into something twitter-worthy is not generally regarded as fun. No; not at all.

Take gender equality, for example. 

How do you reduce that concept into a few marketable words for a Filipino audience? Does ‘gender equality is a human right, not a female fight’ work? How about ‘join the majority, vote equality’; still no?

Buzz kill 

The lines may somewhat communicate the content of the campaign, but it stops there. At least it does for me, and I suspect it does for you too. The reason will in part be because the key message does not consider our context.

A 2017 Nielsen study explored how women’s attitudes and beliefs are evolving vis-a-vis the wider global discussion about gender equality. Amongst the findings, that women feel more positive about their futures — their work, finances, and personal lives.

The same study says traditional gender roles within households are also changing, particularly in childcare and/or caring for the ill or elderly family members. The respondents felt there is now more collaboration with their partners and that this is now a shared responsibility.

Obviously, there remains a lot of work needing done to make gender equality real around the world. But the optimism women — particularly younger women — have, and the men too, suggest that gender equality can be a reality sooner rather than later. 

Soft touch

With the foregoing serving as our context, should key messaging on gender equality and/or gender sensitivity still be so hard-sell?

In a place where information on gender, gender equality, gender sensitivity, gender inclusiveness, is pretty much mainstream, hard-selling it runs the risk of turning people off. 

In a situation where a lot of people are saying the same thing, speaking louder does not make one better heard. One has to say something else and in some other way.

Lets work with a concrete example. 

In preparation for International Women’s Day, I posted this in one of my social media accounts.

(c) Mary Fe Salera

I posted it with a question: “If I say ‘sharing to tickle the funny bones, hindi ito seryoso’, how would my photographers/camerapersons/lenspeople react?” 

I then tagged everybody I knew who had a relationship with a camera — hobbyists, journalists, people doing photography for advertising firms, people doing photography as part of documentation work for non-government organizations, etc. 

The post earned  three ‘likes’, four ‘hearts’, twenty-two ‘laughs’ and seventeen comments, two of which were quite revealing. 

The first came from a forty-something gentleman from southern Cebu. His response, “PM lang.” 

The second was from a twenty-something lady from Luzon; an NGO-worker. Her response: “I refuse to engage in conversations with obvious sexual innuendos.”

And referencing the post from the photojournalist, she added: “I hope you exchanged PMs already about how this kind of posts doesn’t help our fellow photojournalists (or photographers in general) na maiangat yung antas ng professionalism and how we are perceived sa public.”

Which of the two delivered the better key message?

Taking into account their own contexts, these two individuals conveyed the very same thing, with one glaring difference. 

The elder gentleman took context into account: the varying degree of engagements people have on photography — that some see it as a hobby to de-stress and think no more, while some others see it as a craft that needs to be elevated into formal practice, following a certain code, etc.

Saying less, he conveyed more by welcoming further discussions, perhaps including photography ethics, from all people, regardless of the level of awareness they have on gender issues, in a sphere where whatever correction will not be public nor confrontative.

“PM lang.”

The younger lady, on the other hand, shot down whatever further discussion could happen, and with it any further opportunity to change hearts and minds.