‘how to make content to promote messages for peace’
October 2, 2014 | Nick Taylor
Breakthrough – digital capacity building project – ‘how to make content to promote messages for peace’
Effective communications – getting peace messages out and about
This is the transcript of a speech given by the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace Chief Executive Nick Taylor to an audience of community organisations and peace practitioners based in Yorkshire. The event was hosted by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and Breakthrough Media and held in Leeds on Thursday 2nd October 2014.
My name is Nick Taylor and I am the Chief Executive of the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace.
I’m not a peace practitioner – my specialism is in two areas. First, helping complex organisations unlock their intellectual capital. Sounds complicated but what I mean is unlocking the ’softer’ elements of what makes an organisation successful – how they manage their stakeholders from their customers to their investors to the media to their people. Aspects such as ethics and risk and quality as opposed to the harder elements such as assets and finance. The second thing I do is in advising organisations on corporate, environmental and social governance and impact.
I work across all sectors. With bodies like district and city councils and the NHS in the public sector on anything from internal restructures through to hospital reconfiguration to health literacy campaigns. With the private sector, with energy companies undertaking national infrastructure projects through to utilities undertaking large capital projects or operating in sensitive environments. And in the third sector with social enterprise and charities with experience in the arts, health, heritage and most recently peace building and conflict resolution.
I tell you all this because most of those organisations, whilst wildly diverse and different, actually share very similar challenges and therefore similar solutions. Most commonly how they communicate and these days in unlocking their digital capacity.
Today I am going to talk a little bit about that, but I want to do that in a practical way aligned to the way we develop, produce and disseminate communications at the Foundation for Peace and give some examples of social media use and film content that we’ve planned recently. So what better way to introduce this by showing a film we have produced. Let’s take a look
So now you have seen the film let me talk for a few minutes and you listen (this time without the moving images) let me try and give you a narrative version of what you have just seen – in other words what I say about the Foundation and then see if you think the five minute film effectively presented what I will now describe and perhaps the gaps between the pitch and how we presented the film.
Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace
is a charity that works nationally and internationally FOR PEACE and non-violent conflict resolution
In 1993 the IRA exploded two bombs without warning in a shopping street in the town of Warrington. It was the day before Mothering Sunday and very busy. The bombs in bins created shrapnel that killed three-year-old Johnathan Ball and five days later 12-years-old Tim Parry lost his life. 54 others were seriously injured. The incident shocked the nation and gained worldwide publicity.
The Parents of Tim Parry, supported by Johnathan’s parents (Johnathan’s parents have passed away) wanted to gain an understanding of why they lost their children. Colin and Wendy Parry were taken by BBC Panorama to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland the USA – during that visit they saw some of the work going on to create peace. They came back inspired, like many there victims, to try and make sure nobody ever experienced what they had gone through.
They formed a charitable trust with many of the donations that had come in after the bombing and they wrote a best selling book about their experience. A scholarship commenced in Tims’ name bringing together young people from different sides of the conflict to try to understand their differences and also share their commonalities.
Wendy Parry had the idea to create a location to house the scholarship and they set a vision to build a centre as a living memorial to the boys so nobody would forget them and that peace could be created. The project became a millennium goal and grew substantially with the involvement of Government and national charity the NSPCC. Opened in 2000, the Centre is a multi-purpose building on a large scale with incredible facilities from residential quarters to cafe to sport to art to special spaces for conferences and project work.
Early work started developing projects in line with new citizenship agendas in schools and by undertaking a huge and diverse number of projects and activities ranging from community youth clubs to residential programmes. In 2001 the Foundation undertook a study looking at the specific needs of GB domiciled victims of the Northern Ireland conflict and from this report work began to provide a series of activities to assist those victims. At the same time, conflict was changing with the likes of 9/11, 7/7 and a gradual move to peace in Northern Ireland. The Foundation began to develop its capabilities working not only with young people but communities generally in building peace and conflict resolution skills.
The Foundation has developed over a further 14 years and is independent and funded as a charity. We do not take sides, we are not aligned to any conflict, we are not faith or political based and we do not pursue causes such as justice or truth. There is no other organisation that takes such a stance. This ‘unique’ positioning is enhanced that we also believe to tackle serious violent conflict (terrorism, political violence, war) you have to deal with the prevention, resolution and response – the before, during and after – it is this combination of skills alongside our position that makes us unique.
We campaign only for one thing…For Peace…that is conflict is inevitable but using violence is not.
We deliver a unique programme made up of numerous projects that continue to develop to match contemporary challenges. Our work still focuses on young people, from offering general leadership development to working with those who may be vulnerable or at risk of using violence or being influenced by extremism. We develop skills with people including working with women to enhance their conflict resolution skills and recognise their unique ability to influence within families and the community. We assist GB citizens and other people domiciled here that may have been a victim, survivor or affected by serious violent conflict
The Foundation continues to grow by reputation and undertakes many projects internationally working with other Non Governmental Organisations. We Chair the European Union’s Radicalisation Awareness Network. We employ a highly skilled in-house team with an extended professional associate network. We provide consultancy including preparedness for humanitarian incidents, facilitation of dialogue and specialist input into the likes of educational resources and new media. In addition our Centre is home to many community organisations and privately hired by many other charities through to businesses for its use as a ‘safe and inspiring and adaptable space’.
What we do?
In essence when asked what we do it is probably one of the hardest questions to answer in a brief and simple manner. Peace is not an easy concept to get a handle on. What we realised very early on in our journey is that conflict is inevitable but the use of violence to further one’s aims and as part of conflict is not a given. In fact the way to resolve any conflict is through dialogue – effective communication. That means on one level it is about listening and hearing and acknowledging other people’s positions on another level it is about influencing behaviours and attitudes. So our projects and overall programme all follow a similar pattern. We create a safe space in which conversations, some of them very difficult, can take place. A space in which we can apply experiential learning and share tools and techniques to enable people to communicate effectively thus helping in conflict resolution and peace building.
The challenges we face
So what are the challenges we face in making the leap from the words I just delivered and the film.
First, challenge for us is we are complex, overly complex and at time impenetrable.
Second, is we are balancing many stakeholders and that film has to speak on many levels – setting our context and history, educating and informing, showing how we deliver, telling our story and acting as a ‘call to action’ – in this case a direct appeal for funding.
Third, how we balance sensitivities with a hard hitting subject area.
So let me throw out some of the techniques we used and that hopefully you spotted in use:
First – the film was relatively short (five minutes) but kept refreshing, staring with high impact of the bombing using actual footage and a powerful narration from our Founder – we used the mother’s voice and news footage of the the father setting the call to action for our Foundation in his son’s name.
Second – we didn’t linger or shock but we sought empathy and engagement before sounding a complete change to building and providing hope. Then we totally changed coming up to date and using a combination of our own people and third party voices to describe the work and our impact.
Third, we allowed people to see our key asset the Peace Centre but occupied and doing work people may not expect or have seen before e.g. survivors of London 7/7 from around the country – people from Palestine and Israel together.
Our final shot left a much changed father sounding the call for action and reminding us of where we came from with images of the boys.
This film has been seen by thousands from showing at a gala ball to showing in private to the Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer. It works best in the Peace Centre – our visual checkpoint.
The main challenge is that we are communicating on many levels and the film is but a tool and it requires someone to embellish it and interpret it.
Of course the challenge of using a film as a tool for us to pitch ourselves is just one communication challenge but this is actually something we face across all our communications.
Defining your brand
So, let me share some of our learning about communication. We are a relatively mature organisation stemming from an incident 21 years ago and with a 19 year operating track record. But, our communication journey is one that is developing, somewhat embryonic and open to change. We are novices and the reason I say that is our organisation exists in a rapidly changing environment. The first thing we have done is to find our brand essence.
Understanding what our brand stands for is not only essential for helping us focus our work it is the key for helping us simplify our communications. That does not mean we have simplified down to a very narrow offering as that would not reflect the world we operate in but we have looked for what defines us, what makes us unique.
In our case there is the Parrys and what they give us. Having active founders can be a challenge but it is also a huge asset as their declared positions gives us an ethos – so they do not pursue justice, they express a common view of not wanting their experience to happen to others, they inspire others – it gives us a real legitimacy to what we do and enables us to do quite brave things.
The position that has developed through our evolution is powerful for us. Not taking sides, not campaigining and not being aligned is powerful although from a communication perspective it could be seen to be weak and anodyne – we position it as a strength.
The asset we have, the Peace Centre, and track record is powerful.
Hide your complexities
Many of the most successful brands, such as Amazon, Apple and Google, have truly complex underpinnings, while providing a simple experience. We are the same – we are off the scale complex and operating in hugely complex environments and yet we stand behind one proposition – we stand FOR PEACE – two words.
Simplify your communications
Organisations that make their communications too complicated, have inconsistencies between their message and experience.
What you have to define is what is the promise you are making aligned with what is the reality people experience.
What any stakeholder wants and demands is a clear link between the value a brand says it provides and what it actually does provide.
Content to promote message for peace
So from our perspective before we tackle content three things to consider:
how we hide our complexities
how we simplify your messages
Perhaps I can share the three rules we use that guides us into content creation.
First the rule of three or pattern recognition – we humans look for patterns in everything. The rule of three is a hugely powerful tool – listen to any politician, view an advertising campaign or look at brands and the rule of three will reveal itself: A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play – Beanz, Meanz Heinz – Stop Look and Listen, Education, Education, Education. Watch performers such as comedians who set up a joke, reinforce it, then deliver a punchline. Even literature – Friends, Romans, Countrymen. And what is the specialsism of the Foundation for Peace – prevention, resolution and response OR before, during, after.
Even during this presentation I am using the rule: I just used three: brand essence, hide your complexities, simplify your message.
When we are shaping content we try to use the rule of three so it resonates and sticks with our stakeholders.
Rule of two – life is dominated about opposites so: stop/go, black/white, good/bad. Of course real life isn’t like that but it communicating you are often trying to take a position and present an opposite. Peace/War Conflict/Resolution. In other words taking a pain and replacing it with a pleasure. So again in shaping content we often are looking to influence stakeholders through a simple either/or message
Rule of one – simple really actions speak louder than words. Remember what I said about what a brand provides and what it delivers. In shaping content we have to make sure our promise lives up to reality and we try and show actions.
The challenges and methods adopted
Our journey is adapting. Ten years ago much of our delivery was face-to-face but the world moves at a pace and the way we communicate changes almost by the second. It is that fast. We have adapted to look at our whole sensory package and to start to develop new media tools, hence why we are working with leading companies like Breakthrough. Our digital presence is no longer about a linear website, it is about blogs, visual and auditory content, it is not about a Twitter or Facebook account – it is about multiple platforms and additional tools such as Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Yammer, You Tube – about using management tools such as Hootsuite, Evernote and Dropbox – having smart devices in use.
And yet we are a very small team and charity and so it is challenging. We don’t have the ability to have dedicated communications professionals or teams – so we view it is everyone’s responsibility. We don’t necessarily have the ability to ‘train’ people but rather we are seeing communications as a naturalised skill to be developed and we have to constantly look to enhance all our capabilities. An example is we recently invited a skilled social media thinker to be at our team meeting and talk about the analytics and algorithms that drive social media effectiveness. Often its a case of just looking else where for best practice e.g. at the moment our team is watching the approach taken by a retail brand – Lidl and looking at how they are communicating and lifting the ideas for application in our are oaf expertise. It is a cut and paste society and we will adopt best practice in this way.
From recent discussions we have learnt how to schedule content and pre-planning it as well as responding and building up our digital profile. We have a long way to go – all the time we are using the three rules and working to an overarching campaign around essence, complexities and simplification.
Hopefully this has given you a flavour of how in forwarding the cause of peace we have to get ever more sophisticated in our communications – we have to do this as the enemies of peace are accelerating and adopting very professional communications. We have to change that and so or content has to be more compelling that theirs and more thought and action provoking.
At the beginning I described how I worked across many sectors. Best practice exists – you just have to look for it. Look outside and around you and in the most unusual of places. Look at how top brands who you admire or who get it right do it. We are a ‘cut and paste’ society so, and I finish with this rule of three and use the words cautiously but not be afraid to beg, borrow and steal – of course all for peace.
Join me…For Peace
(Facebook) Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace
(Phone) 01925 581xxx
(Address) Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Peace Centre, Peace Drive, Warrington, WA5 1HQ