Useful tips for creating an alternative narrative campaign: a LOUD webinar

ddddParis, France, May 2020 – The LOUD (Young Leaders for Inclusion) project delivered on 22 April its second webinar on alternative narrative campaigns as a prevention tool that local and regional authorities can use to tackle discrimination with a presentation by expert Maria Lozano on the key steps to follow to ensure the campaign is impactful and reaches the target audience(s). The webinar was followed by 47 attendees.

A member of the steering committee of the EU’s Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) and an expert with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Maria Lozano is an expert for the LOUD project. She previously worked as an expert for the Efus-led Local Voices (“Local Communication Strategies to Prevent Extremism”) project.

> Promoting positive messages and role models

Maria Lozano started by explaining that there are different ways to counter intolerant, discriminatory or extremist speeches: by preparing the public, notably by enhancing its critical thinking abilities; by disrupting the propaganda, for example by removing it from online media; by challenging extremist narratives through counternarratives, exposing the lies and flaws of extremist organisations, and by empowering the public, notably through alternative narratives that promote positive messages, universal values and role models. The webinar was particularly focused on that last theme.
The following “must-dos” listed by Maria Lozano are applicable to all types of campaign, whether factual, humorous, emotional or other.

> Think locally

Any alternative narrative campaign should be based on the local context. Extremists often use local contents for their propaganda, making it all the more powerful as it addresses concrete concerns or grievances people have in a given locality or neighbourhood. In response, local authorities wanting to promote alternative messages must also draw on the specific situation, concerns and/or aspirations of local residents.

> Know your local audience

Knowing your audience before, during and after a campaign is crucial, a point on which Maria Lozano insisted several times. This means in particular getting accurate information about the social, economic and cultural profile of the target audience before designing a campaign.
Another important aspect Maria Lozano insisted on is the need to involve members of the target audience at all stages of the campaign, which can be done by working collaboratively with local civil society organisations, associations or other representative groups.

> Using credible messenger(s)

To maximize the impact of a campaign, it is a good idea to use credible messengers the audience can relate to, notably because they have similar cultural references and speak the same language. These can be for example victims of hate crime/speech, or former ‘haters’, or celebrities/influencers, or community leaders/members, or else respected organisations/charities.

> Make a call for action

A campaign should result in a call for action expressed in strong, simple command verbs: Act now! Help us and donate! Volunteer! The campaign should directly address audiences with words that trigger an emotional response.
Not only does this deliver a strong, simple message that audiences can easily relate to, but it also gives the campaign promoters a useful tool to measure its impact. Indeed, they can measure on- and offline whether the call for action has been heeded by the target audience(s).

> Regularly test the campaign

Maria Lozano recommends to regularly test the campaign at all stages, from the design to the dissemination and post-campaign evaluation. She also recommends involving members of the target audience in this process.

> Take your time

Last but not least, don’t rush and take your time! It’s better to spend more time preparing the campaign by thoroughly investigating the local context, identifying the target audience, contacting local civil society organisations, identifying the right media for broadcasting and so on than doing a rushed job that might result in a weak, ineffective campaign.

> More information on LOUD
> Watch the (recorded) webinar (coming soon)
> During the presentation, Maria Lozano presented several examples of counter-narrative campaigns, which you can watch on the following links:

  • The Doll Test on the impact of prejudice, discrimination and racial segregation on children
  • The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) “That Little Voice” campaign on speaking up against racism and discrimination
  • Exit Deutschland’s powerful and innovative Trojan T-Shirt campaign against the extreme right

> LOUD’s two next webinars will be broadcast on 20 May and on 24 June. To register (free of charge) see the LOUD web page (same as above).