Beyond woke: The important difference between awareness and action

What’s better than a ‘woke’ stakeholder? One that takes action.

By Lauren Murphy PR360

APPARENTLY, WE ARE all meant to be woke. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, to be woke means that you have an active awareness of the major issues of the day, you’re ‘awake’ to all of society’s troubles and injustices.

For me, awareness is only half the story. It’s what we do with this new or renewed awareness that makes the real difference.

How easy is it to be aware when we have so much information thrown at us on the daily? There are many things that we are told we should be ‘aware of’ these days.

A quick Google of ‘awareness raising’ produces a multitude of different campaigns and initiatives such as water consumption, energy efficiency, heart disease in women, construction safety and whiskey tourism.

As a communications agency, we work with clients across multiple industries and sectors on their communication strategies.

When we work with brands and organisations on public awareness or education campaigns, we challenge them on the motivation behind them.

Are they looking for people to ‘know’ or are they looking for people to ‘engage’? If it’s the latter, then it’s less about awareness building and more about a campaign for behavioural change.

As consumers, we are presented with two choices: we can take the information given to us and move on or we can take the information and make a small step towards change.

In our experience, awareness campaigns can only be effective if the output or outcome is action. It’s an iterative process that doesn’t, and absolutely shouldn’t, end after campaign launch.

We often have this conversation with our clients; it’s about the tricky balance of getting a point across while also making an impact. It’s about giving people something to participate in or act on.

What are we meant to do with our newfound awareness?

A few months ago, while listening to an interview on Newstalk Breakfast about a report into childhood obesity, I heard Shane Coleman ask his interviewee: “So, what is it you’re looking to achieve with this new campaign?” She confidently responded: “Well, it’s really about raising awareness of the issue.”

That’s great, I thought. But what do you want me to do with this information now? What will make me actively conscious of it? If I were a parent trying to keep a check on my fussy-eating children, how are you helping me find a solution?

It struck me that raising awareness is the default response to an issue. We educate people without ever really turning this new information into action.

Irish Water was recently called out by media after it reportedly spent over €800,000 on a TV documentary, The Story of Water, as part of a multi-annual public information campaign.

Budget and production aside, from a communications perspective, what the documentary seemed to miss was its ultimate goal of getting the public more conscious of more efficient water consumption.

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In its 45-minute running time, what consumers only needed to see was the two minutes that told them how much water they were consuming, what the impact of this consumption was, and how they could make a positive change.

Are you aware now?

Awareness-raising is all well and good, but without a clear action or result, how can we truly evaluate its success?

How do you define success and achievements in a meaningful and considered way? It’s not easy, but starting your campaign with a clear objective, audience, and ‘ask’ will give you a strong basis for measurement.

Without establishing these aims and indicators, awareness-raising risks falling into the vacuum of public information—or not falling anywhere at all.

Sticking to the goals and message is paramount if your campaign is to resonate with your audience and drive action.

Lauren Murphy is a senior client manager at PR360.

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