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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Keep it local

In a previous entry I discussed some ideas on how to get your audience to not only pay attention to what you are saying but actually care as well.  The takeaway lesson was using  themes and priorities that your audience is likely to care about and connecting them to your ideas which they probably don't care about yet.

Often times, when people are presented with an issue, their first reaction is assuming that what you're talking about doesn't affect them.  Even if you appeal to topics and people they care about, you might still not make the connection because they will consider the issue or problem relevant for others and not them.

For instance, you are tasked with giving a persuasive presentation on traffic congestion reduction strategies to city planners and engineers from cities across California.  Your goal is to push these professionals towards adopting pre-emptive measures to ward off potential traffic increases in the near future.  However, the problem is that a lot of these planners work in cities that do not have traffic issues and they believe that the problem is only present in dense and congested areas such as Los Angeles.  You strategy in this case should focus on making the problem relevant and local.  You need to clearly show that congestion problems are guaranteed to arrive after certain population and car ownership thresholds are reached and surpassed.  To drive (pun, although unintentional at first, is now intended ; )  ) the point home even further, show population growth projections for the less urban areas and clearly show that they are headed in the same direction as the dense urban areas.

Now, let's consider the case of a non-profit group fighting for clean water rights in California.  The main barrier that such a group faces is showing that contaminated water issues aren't just relevant in Northern California's farming communities where nitrate contamination is a serious problem.  Whenever this group wants to spread its message in a new community, it has to connect the problem to the local area.  For instance, there are many contaminated wells in Southern California as well.  The problem actually isn't just a problem for the north.  By showing that even local water supplies have been contaminated and need remediation, the group has a much higher chance of making their message relevant which can lead to greater support.  Another option is to show the clear progression of water contamination in the north to major urban areas in the south.  Southern population centers do get a majority of their water from the Northern California after all.  If the source of water becomes contaminated, it doesn't matter where the water travels, it has already been contaminated.

Whatever strategy you ultimately decide to take, just remember that if the issue isn't local or relevant, your ideas are going to have a difficult time gaining traction.


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