Breaking Out of Our Echo Chamber

Breakout Session 3: Breaking Out of Our Echo Chamber

This session was led by digital campaigner, Jess Day, who is a client manager with digital mobilisation agency more onion, a facilitator for the annual Campaigning Forum (ECF) in Oxford and Berlin and a campaigner with the volunteer-run Let Toys Be Toys campaign.

She had some really fascinating insights into how we can tell our stories more effectively and reach audiences we may not usually reach.

Here are some key highlights from the session:

  • Storytelling is a current buzzword, but are we doing it right?

  • It is really difficult to see things the way other people see them. Every piece of information we received is affected by assumptions. It’s not what you say – it’s what people hear.

  • People think tribally – what do people like me think about this issue? We all use this as a shortcut instead of research all the time. So we need to find the right messengers for our issues.

  • Facts don’t persuade people. But in our sector we keep pretending that they do – but in fact, facts make things worse. Myth-busting is proven to backfire – every time the Brexit Remain campaign debunked the “£350 million a week to the EU” bus slogan, it just served to spread the message that the UK sends a lot of money to the EU. It doesn’t matter if the figure was wrong – it was still a lot of money.

  • It is painful for us to challenge our own beliefs – people will go to amazing lengths to avoid it. Anti-vaxxers who have been presented with facts and research have been shown to be even less likely to vaccinate. Their position became further entrenched.

  • Change minds with a story – and then use facts to shore it up.

  • Start with the things people care about and work outwards. Use this as an entry point into your issue to connect with people. For example, the green cause found a way to connect with people by helping them to save money on their bills. A climate change campaign in the UK asked people what they loved – and used the answers (parks, tea, London) and showed them how climate change would affect these things. It was more immediate than a far-away symbol like a polar bear. Once you have their attention, you can bring them on a deeper journey.

  • Naysayers – it’s easy to spend all your time talking to your supporters and countering your opponents, while neglecting the persuadable middle, who may be listening to your naysayers. When issues become polarised, that is when the persuadable middle become alienated. Don’t simply dismiss naysayers as trolls – they are doing you a favour by outlining the objections to your position. Listen to your opponents.

  • Test your messages.

  • Use positive stories - start a conversation that people want to be in, rather than criticising them for not caring or not taking action.

  • Listen better. This will help you to identify your barriers. The “This Girl Can” campaign was based on insights from social media listening – they found out what barriers stopped women from participating in sport, and addressed them in the campaign.

Links and recommended reading: Storify.com/day_jess/reclaim-the-story-links-and-references