Advocacy: The Power of Words to Motivate Action
Becoming an advocate is easier than you might think. It can be as simple as using your words or actions to demonstrate support for a particular cause, ideology, or group of people. Advocates often educate and inform, make recommendations, and support, defend, or plead on behalf of others.
At the heart of advocacy is a desire to influence thoughts, behavior, and policy. Skilled advocates are able to motivate others to take a desired action. They can also help to dispel myths and fight stigma, both of which are important for the chronic illness community. To be an advocate, you don’t have to be an expert in public policy or become a motivational speaker. You just need to be willing to speak out.
The most successful advocates become masters of persuasion. They use opinion, fact, and convincing arguments to change behavior and mindsets, influence public policy, educate people, and build support for specific ideas. Writing can be an effective tool for advocacy, but it is important to make sure that your message will grab the reader’s attention.
Who are you writing for?
Identify who you are trying to persuade or inform. Consider their values, needs, and perspective. What questions or objections will they have to your call to action? What is their experience and do they share your perspective and concerns? Once you know your audience, you can tailor your message accordingly.
If you’re advocating for better understanding of the issues related to living with RA and your target audience includes people living with RA, friends or family members, or healthcare professionals, you may not need to include detailed explanations of the disease. But members of the general public, government officials, newspapers or magazines may need more background or supportive information to provide context and significance for your appeal.
After you know who you are writing for, it is important to make sure that they read what you have written. And if they read it, will they understand it? And if they understand it, will they do what you want them to do?
Create a powerful message
When writing as an advocate, your message needs to focus clearly on the action you want the audience to take and should appeal to the hearts and minds of readers. An effective message tells a good story, is compelling, and creates a sense of urgency or an “a-ha” moment. However, it should be concise, flow logically, and avoid sensationalism. Be sure to maintain a clear voice in your writing, stick to the facts, and end your message on a strong note.
What is your key take-away?
Focus the points in your story or appeal. It can be helpful to answer the following question before you begin writing: If your audience only remembers one thing, what do you want that to be? Then support your main idea with key details such as evidence, explanations, and examples. You can also include other points of view to help you address any questions or objections your audience may have.
What do you want people to do?
As an advocate, you want to inspire people to take action. That action may be as internal as changing how you think or feel about a certain situation. Perhaps you want to change public policy or get people to change their behaviors. Whatever it is that you wish to accomplish by sharing your story, it is important to clearly express your “call to action.”
In some of my advocacy work on behalf of patients living with chronic disease, I have called upon the pharmaceutical industry to focus less on “selling” us products and to turn their marketing attention to improving services for patients. Most of the time, we may never know if people are listening to and understanding our message. But on occasion, individuals may let us know that our words influenced the policies or actions of at least one person, a community of people, or even a large corporation. That is truly gratifying.
Where can you share your story?
There are many ways to distribute your message. Many of our members share their stories on blogs and social media. A number of us have spoken at conferences. You may want to share your message in news outlets, such as local or national papers, magazines, radio, or TV. Write to your congressmen or other lawmakers to advocate for specific public policies.
You can also use your story to fight stigma and have a change to win up to $500 at the same time. Today is the final day for submissions to the HealthCentral LiveBold Anti-stigma Photo Contest. Here’s what you need to do to enter:
- Submit a photo that shows how you Live Bold accompanied by a 250-word description of your story.
- Enter on the contest page here on HealthCentral or on the #LiveBold Facebook page by Friday, July 11, 2014.
- Share your story on social media using the hashtag #LiveBold.
- Voting for the contest begins July 15 and continues through August 8. The entries with the most votes will be selected to win $500 (1st place), $250 (2nd place), or $100 (3rd place).
- You must be 18 years of age or older to enter.