Communicating advocacy strategies for global issues like the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) and environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues requires more than just passion and dedication. Beyond lip service and greenwashing, we need communicators who are knowledgeable, critical, and insightful.
Advocacy requires communicators who prioritise purpose with balance and long-sightedness, when push comes to shove.
Today, the world is at a critical threshold for SDGs. We’re only 15% of the way there, with some progress halted and even reversed. It’s a depressing statistic, but we must still believe that there is hope.
If you’re still adding ‘increase or raise awareness’ as a key objective in your communication strategies, it is time to stop. To move beyond awareness into action, advocacy initiatives demand our strategic counsel as communicators, to amplify the message, engage multiple stakeholders, and mobilise actual change in individual behaviours and policies alike.
Today we explore three key must-haves for strategic communications in advocacy efforts, with case studies that exemplify its impact.
Takeaway 1: Be Realistic
One of the most compelling ways to convey the importance of the SDGs today and galvanise support is by presenting hard data through honest storytelling. Stories have a unique ability to humanise complex issues, making them relatable and emotionally resonant.
Case Study 1: Water.org’s “WaterCredit” Campaign
Water.org, co-founded by Matt Damon and Gary White, is a prime example of effective storytelling in advocacy for SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation. Their “WaterCredit” campaign reframed the global water crisis as a personal, human issue. By sharing stories of individuals and communities affected by the lack of access to clean water, they connected with audiences on a visceral level.
Through compelling and realistic narratives, Water.org showcased the transformative power of providing access to water and sanitation, emphasising how it could change lives and communities. Their storytelling strategy not only raised awareness but also drove fundraising efforts, resulting in sustainable solutions to water scarcity issues around the world.
Takeaway 2: Build Purposeful Collaborations To Amplify Impact
The complexity of the SDGs necessitates collaboration across sectors and industries. Strategic communications play a vital role in fostering partnerships, amplifying messages, and ensuring that collective efforts are more effective than isolated actions.
Case Study 2: The Business Avengers
In 2019, the Business Avengers is a coalition of the world’s largest and most influential companies that are committed to advocating for all 17 SDGs. This initiative underscores the importance of collaboration in achieving the ambitious targets set by the United Nations. By using their internal and external influences, these organisations bring together diverse stakeholders, including governments, nonprofits, and the private sector, in an attempt to create a unified voice for the SDGs.
Throughout the year, the Business Avengers amplified and actively worked on the Global Goals. Some notable examples include collaborations between organisations and Project Everyone (that uses communications to drive the Global Goals) to launch various projects, initiatives and campaigns targeted at addressing the SDGs. These collaboration efforts effectively mobilised millions of people worldwide to take action on the global goals in their own way. It demonstrated that strategic communications can bridge divides and unite a global community behind a common cause.
Takeaway 3: Leveraging Data-Driven Advocacy for Policy Change
While stories and collaboration are vital, data-driven advocacy is equally crucial. Strategic communications should incorporate compelling data to bolster arguments, influence policy making, and hold stakeholders accountable.
Case Study 3: The Global Findex Database and Financial Inclusion
The World Bank’s Global Findex Database, which measures global financial inclusion, illustrates the power of data-driven advocacy. With comprehensive data on how individuals access and use financial services worldwide, it identifies gaps in financial inclusion, particularly in developing countries.
This database enabled strategic communications efforts to advocate for policies that promote financial inclusion (SDG 1: No Poverty). By presenting concrete evidence of the economic and social benefits of greater financial access, advocates were able to engage with governments, financial institutions, and international organisations to drive policy changes. As a result, millions of previously unbanked individuals gained access to formal financial services.
Strategic communications is the linchpin of advocacy for causes that champion the SDGs and ESG initiatives alike. Through honest and impact-focused storytelling, meaningful collaborations, and data-driven approaches, advocates can not only raise awareness, but also affect meaningful change. The case studies provided underscore the impact of these strategies in diverse contexts.
Ultimately, strategic communications can play a crucial role as a catalyst for transformation, turning ambitious global goals into actionable initiatives for a better world.