Part of the challenge of creating a vegan or animal-friendly world is that people aren’t easily persuaded to adopt a plant-based lifestyle. When we blog, leaflet, or do any other form of vegan education, we almost need to become expert sales-people to “sell” our compassionate vegan message.
Mark Hawthorne describes some ways to sell compassion in “Framing the Animal Rights Message.”
I agree with most of these “Ten Rules” listed below. Do you?
Ten Rules of Effective Language (by Luntz):
1. Simplicity — Use small words. Avoid words that might force someone to reach for the dictionary (because most people won’t).
2. Brevity — Use short sentences. Never use a sentence when a phrase will do, and never use four words when three can say as much.
3. Credibility is as important as philosophy — People have to believe it to buy it.
4. Consistency matters — Repetition, repetition, repetition. Finding a good message and then sticking with it takes extraordinary discipline, but it pays off tenfold in the end. You may be making yourself sick saying something over and over, but many in your audience will be hearing it for the first time. (During the Prop 2 initiative battle in California, supporters of the measure to ban intensive confinement have constantly said Prop 2 would allow animals “to stand up, turn around, lie down and fully extend their limbs” — often several times in the same interview or debate).
5. Novelty — Offer something new. Words that work often involve a new definition of an old idea (such as when author Ruth Harrison used the term “factory farms” in 1964 to describe what the ag industry calls “concentrated animal feeding operations”).
6. Sound and texture matter — A string of words that have the same first letter, the same sound or the same syllabic cadence is more memorable than a random collection of sounds (see #5).
7. Speak Aspirationally — Messages need to say what people want to hear. Think of Martin Luther King, Jr., and his “I have a dream” speech. (This can be difficult when addressing the plight of animals. I often speak about rescued animals living on sanctuaries, free from pain and fear. Getting people to visit a sanctuary so they can meet these animals themselves is even better.)
8. Visualize — Plant a vivid image. There is one word in the English language that automatically triggers the process of visualization: imagine. (Asking people to imagine their dog or cat being forced to undergo painful medical tests or to be locked in a wire battery cage for two years and then slaughtered can be a way to help people see things differently.)
9. Ask a question. Luntz cites the dairy industry’s “Got Milk?” as perhaps the most memorable print-ad campaign of the past decade.
10. Provide Context and Explain Relevance. You must give people the “why” of your message before giving them the “therefore” and the “so that.” Some people call this framing, but Luntz prefers the word context.
Sadly, many activists don’t use these “rules.” In fact, they often speak in an abstract, noninspirational, long, academic way. We all do it sometimes, but we’ll never get better unless we realize our mistakes.
Consider how effective this video is. It’s simple, straightforward, honest. It gets the message across: Animals have feelings and interests and they deserve rights and respect.
Here are a few things I do in vegan blogs that seem to help “sell” veganism:
- Visualize: I use images and videos often. If there is one single thing every vegan blogger could improve upon, it’s the use of videos. We MUST use videos as much as possible, because they are extremely compelling.
- Consistency: I link back to older blog posts and repeat the same message in a new post.
- Credibility: I stay honest. If I make a mistake and someone calls me on it, I admit the mistake and then fix it.
- Simplicity: I try to imagine a child or teenager reader. If I think it would make sense to them, then I’ve done a good job.
- Brevity: There is a place for long blog posts, but I try to say the important stuff up front so if someone’s attention span is short, they still get the gist.
- Novelty: I scan the news for vegan and vegetarian tidbits. This keeps things fresh.
(Crossposted at Selling Compassion)