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.



5 thoughts on “Using Communication Skills to Enact Change

  1. Hello Julia,
    Thank you for an excellent Blog on using communication skills to enact change. I like the two images you used to illustrate your points. It caught my attention! Thank you for explaining the two communication skills, writing and social marketing skills. Thank you for sharing your experiences with these two communication skills. I can relate to you about being comfortable with writing skills but uncomfortable with social media. Until this class, I was not interested or noticed anything about social media, such as Facebook. Being in this class has stretched and challenged me to consider social media.
    Thank you,

    • Hi MyTra,
      Thank you for your response and encouragement! Like you, this class has opened my eyes about the power of social media–I’m not sure if it’s a good thing, but it definitely has a strong hold on our society. I guess I know that I probably need to move into the 21st century, but it is not a comfortable fit!
      Thank you again,

  2. Julie,
    I love the comic you posted about “old school” social media! Although it alludes to some of the dangers of social media (like YouTube replacing real experience right outside our window!), I think it also highlights something that’s important to remember: that social media truly has the same functions as other ways of communicating and organizing information, but uses technology to do so.
    I began my exploration of social media a number of years ago, when I attended a workshop about using Facebook to reach college students. My (college student) daughter set up a Facebook page for me, and I was on my way! While there are ways that social media can be intrusive, I have found that, for me, the benefits have far outweighed the risks.
    Certainly chief among those benefits is the feeling of community which you allude to when you mention that social media has the power of helping regular people feeling involved with bigger issues, or with groups. I have experienced how this positively impacts my community college students: not only do many of them communicate more frequently with me because they can do it on Facebook, but they also communicate more readily with each other, always an issue in a non-residential community college setting. They share ideas, questions, links about early childhood, and even conduct study groups for tests…all through a Facebook group I set up for our early ed majors.
    I definitely have seen Facebook, and other forms of social media, become strong platforms for advocacy and education, although, of course, they can also be used for sharing trivia, and, sadly, less positive forms of communication, such as bullying (the same as our face to face “platforms” for communication…).
    I commend you for branching out and exploring new ways of communicating!

    • Hi Stephanie,
      I was glad to come across that cartoon of vintage social media–it really “spoke” to me. I appreciate all you’ve said about Facebook and I thank you. I have been reluctant to use it, but now am beginning to realize its potential for good. I am intrigued by the way your community college class is using it to collaborate–that is a marvelous use of it!
      In my rural area there are still many who do not have high speed access (including me). Those of us who live “out of town” either rely on expensive and limited access via the sole satellite provider in the area or we travel to the nearest library to go online. I have sat outside the closed library on many a night trying to upload a paper that was due. I am sure that the lack of access adds to my discomfort with social media–I’d hate to waste my download time on Facebook–but then, maybe it would be fun…
      Thanks for your response!

      • Hi Julie,
        Lack of internet access is certainly an issue that would make many of these ideas a challenge! And I do have students who don’t have home internet access, which limits them in many ways. Facebook seems to be less of an issue than other technologies because “there’s an app for that,” which they use on their smart phones. Still, I do try to be aware of the digital divide which impacts many of my students, especially those who are older, and those who are economically disadvantaged. Your perspective (i.e. rural) makes me wonder how I’d be thinking of social media if I still lived in NW PA, my rural home for many years.
        Such an important perspective to keep in mind! Thank you for that!

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