Communicators across the world are working to keep their audiences informed and united, especially in these challenging times. To do this, we must understand diversity, be flexible with our communication styles, and ensure that our information is understandable and valuable.
Here are some lessons learned from communicating impact in culturally diverse contexts.
Be flexible with your communication methods
Where is your audience located? Do they access information on a computer or a phone? Do they check WhatsApp or emails? Do they have reliable internet access? Consider all these limitations when communicating your impact. In some areas, emails are checked only once a day because of low connectivity, so if you send an urgent email at the end of the day it will probably be overlooked. Sometimes, it could be more effective to use WhatsApp or other more immediate tools. This may seem unprofessional in an urban setting, but it will probably get you better results in rural contexts. I have used WhatsApp to share meeting details, receive feedback on project results and even edit donor reports.
Personalize your message and language
People tend to consume content they can relate to, so try to be personal with your language. I recently moved to Spain from Colombia, both countries speak Spanish, but the way they communicate their ideas is completely different. One key difference is that in Spain people use ‘vosotros’ and in Colombia, we use ‘tu’. This changes how we structure phrases and how informal/formal we are with others. If I want to reach Spanish audiences, I need to transform my language and use words and phrases that are common here. The same thing happens when addressing communities that speak a different language than yours, or that prefer communicating in less formal ways.
Ask first and communicate later
Not all communities have the same priorities. Your organization’s priority might be climate change, but your audience can be more concerned about urban violence. If you frame climate change as an issue of global importance, the community might not be able to relate as they face more pressing issues daily. In this case, you could create alliances with local organizations, find ways of merging both issues or show how tackling climate change can immediately impact people’s lives. In the opposite situation, you might find that a specific topic has already been heavily discussed at international levels, but not at local levels. I once organized a workshop on women’s role in Amazon conservation in Colombia, I had heard this topic being discussed in international conferences, but it was the first event directly dealing with this issue at a local level.
There are hundreds of ways to view the world
An interconnected world can sometimes give the impression that everyone shares similar values and goals. Especially when our digital world shows us people that are similar to us. But hundreds of different worldviews, religions, languages, and traditions do not align with our established ideas. As communicators, we cannot impose our biases on other communities and portray ourselves as the only source of knowledge. We can use our platforms to raise other people’s voices and share different solutions to global problems.
Recognizing diversity can improve communication efforts and create informed communities. We need to listen, be flexible, and think about others if we want to keep creating a long-lasting impact.