Do you ever struggle with selecting the most effective language or images to use in your animal advocacy materials? You’re not alone – we get this question often at the Humane Research Council, which I think is a great sign that advocates are being more thoughtful in their approach. HRC is here to help.
We’re taking a close look at what makes for effective messaging and materials. Our Readability Study was just the beginning, but it set the tone by showing that vegetarian/vegan outreach materials are written at 3-4 grade levels higher than the average person can comprehend. Readability matters, and our advocacy materials are failing to reach a majority of people.
Of course, written materials are just one form of advocacy. HRC is also working with clients to evaluate the effectiveness of different advocacy videos, and we’re launching a new independent study of the impact of using graphic images in video outreach. As videos become a more common tool of advocates, we need to study their effectiveness.
See below to read more about each of these projects. If you’re short on time, here are three principles you should always think about when advocating for animals.
1) Create materials with a specific audience in mind. If you try to reach everybody, you’ll end up reaching nobody. The most effective materials will appeal to the aspirations and barriers of a specific group of people. The more targeted the better.
2) The KISS Principle – Keep it Short and Simple. Unless your target audience is rocket scientists (hint: it isn’t), you need to keep both the concepts and the language of your materials as simple and comprehensible as possible. It’s not about “dumbing down” the message, but finding the simplest possible way to convey it.
3) Tell stories that relate rather than overwhelm. Because of issues like cognitive dissonance (see below), many people resist thinking about mass suffering. It’s best to avoid referring to “billions” or “millions” of victims and tell the story of a single victim, then contextualize that story with judicious use of facts.
HRC’s current projects represent just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to researching effective advocacy materials and tactics. Stay tuned for more such research covering a diverse array of animal protection issues.
P.S. No other animal organization has the mission of empowering advocates with essential research and information. Please support HRC’s work with a donation so that we can continue to help advocates be as effective as possible for animals.
Study of Current and Ex-Vegetarians
HRC is currently seeking potential sponsors for a landmark study of current and ex-vegetarians. Unlike past studies that have been limited by small sample sizes, the proposed survey will ensure a large and representative sample of both current and ex-vegetarians, allowing us to deeply understand the motivations for becoming vegetarian/vegan as well as the barriers to maintaining plant-based diets. Contact HRC to learn more about the study.
Study of Graphic Images
Are graphic images of animal suffering more or less effective than images of animals in natural settings? This is the question posed by HRC’s latest independent study, which will explore the use of graphic images when arguing against animal testing. Coupled with our recent readability report, this study will help advocates choose the right visual components and language for their advocacy materials. The graphic images project is just getting started, but we will keep you posted on our progress later in the year.
Simplifying Advocacy Materials: Understanding Decision Fatigue
Decision fatigue is a type of the phenomenon labeled “ego fatigue.” Ego fatigue refers to the finding that people have a limited amount of self-control. In simple terms, this means if someone on a diet is offered too many treats in one day, he will eventually break down and go for the cookie or skip the gym. Similarly, people have a finite amount of mental energy for making good decisions. READ MORE
Cognitive Dissonance: Why the Truth Sets Nobody Free
The truth, it seems, often reinforces misperceptions and irrational behavior rather than overcoming innate beliefs and leading to positive behavior change. To put it another way, by exposing people to the reality of animal suffering – often using “shock tactics” – advocates might be causing people to become even more resistant to change. READ MORE
Readability of Vegan Outreach Literature
HRC partnered with VegFund and FARM to test a selection of outreach materials that are commonly used by vegan advocates. The average readability scores placed these materials in the range of the 11th grade reading level or higher, which is three to four grade levels higher than the average U.S. adult. READ MORE