The power of quiet

What’s the biggest communications innovation you can think of? How about Quiet. I doubt that’s the answer you were expecting. And it’s just one possible answer.

Quiet Room - Photo by Miranda Lichtenstein in Hirshhorn Museum
Quiet Room – Photo by Miranda Lichtenstein in Hirshhorn Museum

But ponder for a moment (if you have a moment to ponder, that is, amidst the likely crush of catching up, calls, meetings and emails this new year) the possibility that your constituents, readers and visitors (and colleagues) might enjoy some calm quiet to gather their thoughts. Quiet, solitude, focus, intention. Call it what you will but the ability for one to be present with a single thought is a rare gift.

Quiet, in fact, is something that many thinkers, innovators and (we suspect but can’t confirm as we haven’t polled for this on Facebook – ha) are proactively seeking. Soren Gordhammer and friends behind Wisdom 2.0 have created an event and community at the heart of Silicon Valley focused on “awareness, wisdom and compassion in the technology age.” Granted, this doesn’t specify quiet but is about the need for mindfulness in the face of changes wrought by new media and technology.

Books such as The Filter Bubble and The Information Diet (to name just a couple) touch on how people are buried in media and only seeing certain stories at Google, Facebook and other sources based on their browsing history and other actions. Basically, people are being overwhelmed. Whether this is by choice or incidental it makes our jobs as advocates, campaigners and nonprofit fundraisers more difficult.

So we ask you to think about quiet as an innovation. This doesn’t mean go away, stop writing, stop emailing, stop asking for help and support. Hardly. But it does mean communicating with real intention to make every word, post and request count for the reader.

Our sense is that the rise of “storytelling” in advocacy is indicative of an increased desire to focus on fewer and more important issues, to dive in, to be engaged and not just entertained, informed or talked to online. Test ongoing narratives in your campaigns. Focus on good stories, well told, that share values with your readers and relate directly to your cause. This gives people a place to put focused attention. Pay more attention to giving people email that relates to their interests and behaviors (and not just yours).

Admittedly, Quiet seems counterintuitive. After all, we need to get content out there, post to Facebook and Twitter, cover a wide range of issues, ask people repeatedly for donations, actions, and involvement. There is a lot to do. But we think the wisdom of quiet, kept at hand in planning your communications strategy, will come in handy this year.

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