Using Communication Skills to Enact Change

Two communication skills that I consider important when leading policy change are these:

  • Writing skills—the ability to capture someone’s attention through the written word is vitally important when working for change. The written word has the capacity to reach a broad audience and to offer compelling, in-depth information about an issue. Effective writing can bring an issue to life and stir people’s emotions. It can present current research to back up an issue and persuade people to support the cause.
  • Social marketing skills—We live in a media-driven (led) society. The potential of social media reaching a wide audience is huge. Social media can be an exceptional tool for rallying support and getting out information. Social media has the potential to make the average person feel involved. Most people find it simple to complete an online survey or to participate in an online poll on a given topic. Similarly, the average person might find it more convenient to type out a quick “post” to discuss an issue than to take the time and trouble to write a “letter to the editor” of a print newspaper. Social media has the added impact of graphics and video to help present an issue. One wishing to create change could tailor social marketing to include a wide audience in an effort to garner support and create momentum to attract the attention of policy-makers. The ability to communicate through social media is a tremendous asset for one who wishes to create change.

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As I reflect on my own association with these skills, I can see both strengths and opportunities for improvement. A personal strength I can easily identify is my love of writing. I have always enjoyed writing and I find it easy to collect my thoughts and put them on paper—I love the feeling I get when I am writing about something that I feel passionate about. To be truthful, there are times when I don’t even recall writing something—it just appears like magic—from my heart to the page. My kids call it “zoning out”.

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 As comfortable as I am with writing, I am decidedly not so comfortable with social media. I think most of my discomfort comes from inexperience. I am clueless about things like Twitter and MySpace. I have a nodding acquaintance with Facebook, but I confess I find it a little creepy and invasive. I enjoy YouTube, but have no idea how to post something there. I did create my first website which was gratifying and almost empowering. When all is said and done, I know that I need to move with the times and embrace social media as a tool for getting my message out and raising support for my issue. Social marketing skills are vital in this day and age. It’s time for me to move into the 21st century—at least where policy issues are concerned.

 

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Social Media’s Influence on Policy Issues

 

The Issue

My policy issue concerns the lack of adequate salary, benefits, and professional recognition for teachers in independent preschool programs. Although there is increasing pressure for preschool teachers to hold college degrees, there is little attention given to the fact that most independent (non-profit, faith-based, and private) programs simply cannot afford to hire and retain highly qualified/degreed teachers. The result of this inequity is high teacher turnover rates and low staff morale leading to instability in the early childhood workforce and possible poor child outcomes—including lack of attachment, lack of resilience, and delays in social/emotional and cognitive development (Commodari, 2013). As I reviewed the various social media venues in this week’s resources (Laureate Education, 2013a), I think these two would communicate my policy issue the best:

  •  A website—I believe that a website would be a remarkably effective way to display my policy issue. It would allow me to write about the issue with references to current research and links to relevant support organizations, for example The Worthy Wage Campaign (Center for the Childcare Workforce, 2015) or the Alliance for Childhood (http://www.alliance for childhood.org). The website could include testimonials from teachers in the field and data to support the policy issue, as well as current related news. I could envision a section of the website devoted to “real” stories—profiles of teachers who are working at poverty-level wages and/or those who found it necessary to leave the field in search of a living wage. A message board could be included where discussions could take place about the issue that (hopefully) would empower people to act. There could even be a PayPal button for contributions to the cause.
  • The second social medium I would choose would be Playback (Laureate Education, 2013a). I was not familiar with this medium before, but I think it would communicate the issue very well through video clips. Clips could include footage of effective teachers in practice and how they create a quality-learning environment for young children. Other potentially valuable clips could focus on interviews with teachers, scholars, and business leaders as they discuss the issue. Worthy Wage rallies could also be shown to rouse people into action.

Who Would Visit?

The potential audience for the website would include early childhood professionals who would be interested in the possibility of a living wage. Families connected to those teachers/programs profiled in the website would have a natural curiosity to see their program on the website. Community activists might be drawn by the worthy cause. Administrators would visit to keep informed of the climate of potential change if the issue provoked people into action. I could even envision political representatives having a look if the activity level began to heat up and was seen as a budding influence to their concerns.

The Playback presentation would appeal to anyone interested in early childhood and/or the issue of quality preschool and a healthy EC workforce. Certainly, families and staff associated with those displayed in the video clips would watch. I also think it would be a good tool for colleges to use in early childhood classes as a revelation to students choosing the EC field.

Benefits and Challenges

Website Benefit: Flexible formatting includes a potential for using text, images, graphs, message board, links to relevant websites, and interactive polls. Visitors to the website could easily become involved.

Website Challenge: The site would need constant monitoring for feedback and updating information. This could be time-consuming. There is also the chance that it would not reach a wide audience unless the campaign became widely known. Apart from those involved, how would people know it was there?

Playback Benefit: Most people enjoy watching videos. It would reach a wider audience than written text. The videos would also present the information in a compelling way—watching an actual preschool teacher in action or watching baccalaureate-degreed teachers describe the bleakness of earning a poverty wage after years of preparing to work in their chosen field would present a persuasive statement for the issue.

Playback Challenge: This medium would require a lot of legwork. Unlike the website which could be maintained from one’s home computer and with resources close to hand, developing and updating a Playback site means having the time and the tools to make compelling videos—presumably traveling to various locations after connecting with people and programs who would be willing to be included in the video clips. After the initial taping, the clips would need editing and posting. Although a useful medium, it would take much time and energy to keep it fresh and stimulating.

References

Alliance for Childhood. (2015, April 1). Retrieved from http://www.allianceforchildhood.org

Center for the Childcare Workforce (2015, April 1). Retrieved from http://www.ccw.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=24&Itemid=53

Commodari, E. (2013). Preschool teacher attachment, school readiness, and risk of learning difficulties. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28(1), 123-133.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2013a). Maria’s social media adventure [Interactive media]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu