I’ve been thinking a lot about the gap between feeling strongly about something, and actually doing something about it.
This is partly born out of recent personal experiences, but also thinking about the way people behave online.
At home I’ve been thinking a lot about Parkinson’s disease and road safety (separately, for different reasons!), and yet I haven’t found the time to contribute anything to either of these causes yet, despite the fact that I have found time to jot down this post.
At work we often see a lot of people and organisations re-tweet, write or in some way help to promote our policy engagement projects, but the numbers are rarely proportionate to the number of responses we receive or, if I’m honest, meaningful engagement. In the time it takes people to help promote a project, they could have contributed directly themselves, which would probably be more beneficial all round.
Maybe these are unfair comparisons to draw, but the fact remains in both cases that, on the face of it, people are interested in a cause, but in reality many (including me) do little beyond that. This is in spite of the fact that in both these examples there are usually pretty easy ways to get involved.
I could sponsor a Parkinson’s project in a few mouse clicks, which I think would deliver some tangible, or I could add weight to a road safety petition online by signing something and sharing a link.
Likewise, we offer up easy ways for people to comment on projects online, through several social media channels, a good ‘ol email address, or a more detailed response form.
The hard truth I am arriving at is, even when you know you are personally affected, or motivated by something, you still need multiple and well timed nudges to actually do anything about it. Simply claiming a cause or interest is a long, long way from getting involved.
This post highlights the importance of motivators: people or secondary, independent, messages, to ensure we complete a task. But these have to appear in the right place, at the right time. And perhaps that’s where we are getting to in the work-related scenario: identifying our audiences and the channels they prefer, to communicate with them.
This is good, in as much as we know where some conversations are happening and may be able to join in. But our call to action, the way in which we really want them to respond (completing a questionnaire, sharing a view etc.) isn’t quite right.
Another equally important motivator is the promise that by doing something, you will feel good about it. This is where the language of our policy engagement might struggle. ‘have a whinge and change what the Government is doing!’ is a much more appealing sell than ‘have your say’ – about as far as we go at the moment.
Maybe I’m mixing too many different things here, but I am really interested (motivated, even) to hear from others about what they think causes the gap between feeling and action. Please make the time for a comment below.