I came across a delightful video of local musicians from Portland, Maine that was made in honor of Playing for Change Day, a global initiative promoting music education. In it, local artists and music students are filmed (by local filmmakers!) in different locations around the city, singing a beautiful and, if I do say so myself, terribly catchy tune. [the video is embedded at the end of the post]
Why am I writing about a music video on an advocacy communications blog?
Because it made me think about the power of emotions in forming impressions, something I spend a lot of time helping advocates sort out how to do effectively in their communications materials and campaigns.
A typical strategy in social issue communications is to “hook” people or get them to “emotionally connect” with an issue by telling a personal story of someone affected by, e.g., poverty, lack of health insurance, etc . As I’ve written before, this strategy tends to backfire because drawing a portrait obscures the landscape of situational and structural factors at play.
It struck me that this video has no problem with making an emotional connection, but it doesn’t depend on the portrait strategy. It certainly could have – it was crafted to honor a day of social action to bring music into the lives of children. One can imagine the creators opting for a personal story of a child who benefited from a particular music education program.
But the creators opted instead to characterize a landscape. The video emotionally connects by evoking values of creativity, collaboration, of mentoring young people. Further, by connecting these values quite explicitly to place, not just Portland writ large but its specific neighborhoods, parks, schools and local businesses, it communicates that these are the values we share, this is who we are. This is the landscape here.
Advocates often tell me they worry that widening the lens to show context will sacrifice emotional appeal. But landscapes aren’t impersonal, they can reflect culture. And culture is deeply felt.
I hope this video helps advocates think about other creative ways to frame the landscape – who we are as citizens and how we want to envision ourselves. Because that is really at the heart of effective issue communications.
Oh, and get this – this video was posted just a few days ago and has received over 11,000 views!
Shout out to the Maine Academy of Modern Music and its partners for this terrific work.