Photo Voice, which seeks “to create participatory photography programs that achieve meaningful improvements in the lives of participants,” defines public advocacy as:
Seeking to affect a change in public opinion or attitude and through doing so to prompt a change in behavior that will bring benefits for a community or group. Public advocacy can also increase pressure on decision-makers to take action or make policy change.
Over the years I’ve worked with any number of organizations involved in public advocacy, helping them create and implement a communications strategy and a message to further their causes.
I enjoy working with public advocacy groups. I’m often humbled by their dedication.
Because leaders speak — or should speak — primarily to influence audiences and to inspire them to take action, leaders can learn a lot from public advocates.
Three Public Speaking Lessons for Leaders from Public Advocates:
1. Speak about what matters to you.
Social advocates and real leaders speak about issues that they themselves deeply believe and care about.
Conviction and caring are the foundation of any compelling speech.
How can you convince others to care unless you first care…and care deeply. You don’t have to cry or shout or beat your chest, but you do need to let your passion show.
2. Tell stories.
Stories engage an audience’s imaginations and emotions. They make a cause personal and real and specific. They have the power to change people’s mindsets and, more importantly, to move them to action.
Find a story that illustrates the problem you’re addressing and the cause you’re advocating. Refine that story. And tell it again and again and again.
3. Take a stand.
As an advocate — whether you’re speaking for a cause or for a business — it’s not your role to be impartial. Yes, you have to be fair and factual and honest. But your job is stake out a position and to defend and promote it in every way you can.
Don’t be timid or shy. Leave no doubt in your audience’s minds what you want of them and why.
Real leaders, like public advocates, address issues that matter both to themselves and to a wider world. They seek to benefit that wider world. And they throw themselves heart and mind and soul into that effort.
Try it and see how it works for you.