Communicators can help socialize productive actions at the scale necessary to beat the pandemic, by equipping and engaging every individual in your organization, on your lists, and in your social networks to spread messages and stories about productive action. Below are ideas for creating a steady stream of accurate information and motivating content that promotes specific, productive actions.
If there’s a time when good ideas can catch on, this is it: Tens of millions of people are tuned into the same topic, feel a personal stake in it, and have a genuine mutual interest in taking actions that benefit themselves, their loved ones, and their society. This is where communicators can have an important part to play — helping beat the virus by sharing accurate information and productive action.
Because of the power of “social proof” — our tendency to follow the crowd and do things we see others doing — sharing examples of people taking productive action is a powerful way to encourage others to follow suit. You can mobilize your leaders and influencers in your networks to take specific action, document it, share the content, and ask others to pass it on.
There’s a lot that needs to be done to address the pandemic and its myriad effects. As inspiration for content to share or initiatives to replicate in your community, below are a few examples of productive action for protecting public health and helping people who are losing income.
Stop the spread of the virus. The CDC encourages everyone to send people to its COVID-19 page, Know How To Protect Yourself. The title speaks to an insight for motivating people to take action: They must see themselves reflected in the message. Communications for a general audience that begin with a focus on the most at-risk groups does not accomplish this — and may actually encourage those who aren’t in those groups to believe “it’s not my problem.”
Get Personal Protective Equipment to medical professionals. #GetUsPPE is an effort by people on the front lines of the COVID pandemic to address the critical shortage of masks, gloves, and other protective clothing that keeps them safe. The website keeps it simple by offering four straightforward actions: Request PPE. Give PPE. Make PPE. Donate Money. To be motivated to act, people must first believe they are capable of taking the action. Keeping it simple is key: If you confuse them, you lose them.
Help people cope with social isolation. Creative efforts are underway to help people cope with the stress of social isolation. A good example of making action easy and fun is the #stayinthegame challenge created by Seattle Storm point guard Sue Bird and a basketball training app called Home Court AI. Like the famously viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, it encourages people to challenge each other to a dribbling contest to “#stayinthegame and #stopthespread.” Gamifying an action in this way is a powerful path to socializing it.
Support small businesses. @smallbusinessbigonfluence is an Instagram account that makes it easy for influencers with a following on the network to promote small businesses hurting during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their followers can buy items online or purchase gift cards to use later. This approach can be replicated across many different industries — nationally and locally — in which influencers shape purchasing decisions and behaviors.
Send money to people who are laid off. People in many cities have launched “virtual tip jars,” which are simply Google Sheets listing the names of bartenders, servers, hair stylists, and other service workers, along with their personal Venmo, CashApp, or PayPal accounts. Crucially, this makes it easy for people to search for their favorite restaurants, salons, and shops, and immediately send cash directly via their existing financial apps. At a global level, GiveDirectly is a nonprofit that enables people to send cash directly to people living in extreme poverty around the world, as well as those impacted by the pandemic in the U.S.